Assemblyman Tony Chiappone represents the 31st Legislative District. The district covers the City of Bayonne and Wards “A’ and “F” in Jersey City. He served honorably as a City Councilman for Bayonne until early this year. While a member of the Bayonne City Council, Tony was a fiscal watchdog and whistleblower. The problem with being a whistleblower is that you can make some very powerful enemies.
That’s just what happened when Tony blew the whistle on a very big and very shady land deal. The very big and very shady land deal involved the City of Bayonne and the Military Ocean Terminal. When the mayor of Bayonne made a deal to sell the land to the Port Authority for fifty million dollars, Tony objected because the price offered for the very strategic piece of land was grossly insufficient. Furthermore, the deal was done in violation of the Sunshine Laws. Tony succeeded. The transaction was voided. The land was sold for ninety million dollars not long after the Port Authority contract was canceled.
Ever since, Tony’s powerful enemies have tried to get rid of him politically. First, he was forced out of his seat on the Bayonne City Council this April. Not long thereafter, an investigation surfaced, an investigation of very old and very scurrilous allegations made by Tony’s enemies. Yesterday, those allegations ripened into an indictment.
It has often been said that you can indict a ham sandwich. That is, the proof level for an indictment is so low that it doesn’t take much evidence for a grand jury to return an indictment. A grand jury can indict someone based on hearsay evidence. It can indict someone if there are one or more alternate explanations for each piece of evidence, or even if there is some inconsistency in evidence. A conviction is quite different.
To get a conviction, the State must prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. We have been trying criminal cases at Howes & Howes for seventeen years, and we intend to try this case. We fully expect that the jury will find Mr. Chiappone not guilty.
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