Jersey City Councilmember Amy DeGise pleaded guilty in a Newark court Tuesday on one charge related to a hit-and-run with a bicyclist last July. DeGise, 37, will lose her driver's license for one year and pay a $5,000 fine after admitting to leaving the scene of an accident.
The license suspension is the mandatory minimum for a hit-and-run that results in bodily injury. A second charge of not reporting an accident was dropped as part of a plea agreement with the Essex County prosecutor's office.
The case was moved from Hudson to Essex County to avoid a conflict of interest, because the councilmember is connected to both Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and the Hudson County executive — her father, Tom DeGise.
The guilty plea represents the first time DeGise has publicly admitted any wrongdoing, although she said at a City Council meeting in August that she felt terrible about what happened.
“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Judge Chandra Cole asked her. “Yes,” DeGise replied.
Then, DeGise was required to answer questions from her attorney about specifically what happened at 8:01 a.m. on July 19.
“At the time that you struck the bicycle, did you at all stop at that location at Forrester and Martin Luther King Drive, or close thereto, to report the accident?” attorney Brian Neary asked. “No,” DeGise replied.
“Or to render assistance to see if there was an injured party?” Neary asked. “No,” DeGise replied.
DeGise left the courtroom without making any comments or answering questions from reporters in attendance. Before Tuesday, she had yet to apologize for the hit-and-run and her attorney said after the hearing that he had advised her not to apologize because she may be sued by the bicyclist in civil court.
But in a statement she issued on Tuesday, DeGise said that last summer she’d “made a mistake that I will regret for the rest of my life,” NJ.com reported.
“I want to offer my heartfelt apology to Andrew Black and I am thankful that he was not hurt,” she said in the statement. “I also want to apologize to the people of Jersey City for not only my actions, but for the negative attention they brought to our wonderful community.”
The hit-and-run and the six-hour delay before DeGise turned herself in have been a political problem for the councilmember. Thousands of Jersey City residents have signed a petition calling for her to resign.
She was elected to the City Council in 2021 on the slate of Mayor Steven Fulop, and her father wields enormous power in Hudson County. He attended the court hearing, as did Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura and Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stevens.
She works at a county high school and was elected to run the party’s county committee in 2018 before stepping down last year amid a power-sharing deal among political factions.
“I am not resigning,” DeGise said at the August council meeting.
Only two members of the City Council have called on her to resign. Mayor Steven Fulop and Gov. Phil Murphy have refused to do so, with both saying the legal process should play out. Neither has committed to calling for her resignation in the event of a guilty verdict.
In a wave of negative attention that followed the hit-and-run, a 2019 video from a police-worn body cam was published by the Hudson County View, showing DeGise trying to stop a Hoboken police officer from towing her illegally parked SUV, which also had a vehicle registration that had expired two years before. In the video, she then tells the officer she’s called the mayor’s office.
In court, her attorney acknowledged that she also had multiple outstanding parking tickets that had not been paid at the time of the accident.
“But there are no [previous] moving violations in her almost 20-year history as a driver,” Neary told the court. “Concededly, she has a number of motor vehicle parking summonses that were not taken care of.”
But he said DeGise had learned her lesson about paying those tickets.
Neary also said DeGise was never issued a ticket for careless or reckless driving related to the hit-and-run, and said that should be a factor the judge considers in handing down the sentence.