Posted April 18, 2008 – The deal of a lifetime that New Jersey ’s most flamboyant politician gave his ex-mistress will likely cost him a great deal of his lifetime.
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A jury Wednesday found former Newark , N.J. , Mayor Sharpe James guilty of hooking up his ex-lover with a tract of city property that netted her more than $600,000 in profit.
James, who served five four-year terms as mayor – and was a Democratic state senator from 1999 to January 2008 – is known as much for his lavish lifestyle as he is for his durable political career.
Although federal guidelines for the buy-back scheme – which resulted in guilty verdicts for fraud, conspiracy and three other charges – suggest a seven- to eight-year sentence, a judge could impose as much as 20 years on a number of specific counts when James is sentenced on July 29. He could also loose his six-figure government pension. Calling for the 72-year-old politician to get the maximum penalty, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie reminded that James had used “the power of his office for his own self-gratification."
New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, who joined forces with the feds to bring James down, was even more stinging, lashing out against "the cancerous form of government that Sharpe James presided over."
As for Tamika Riley, James’ ex-girlfriend, the jury found her guilty of the same charges – plus eight others: evading taxes and conning the system to profit off government-subsidized housing. James set up the deals for Riley to purchase nine city properties for less than $5,000 apiece; she then flipped them for a cool $665,000. She didn’t bother to renovate them before she put them back on the market at top dollar, as city law stipulates.
Riley, who was involved in a personal relationship with James for six months … or six years – depending on whether you believe the quick-fling version of Riley’s lawyers’ or the long-time lovers version of federal prosecutors – could get four or five years when she is sentenced along with James.
But James’ troubles don’t necessarily end on July 29. He is still facing charges in a case where he is accused of spending $58,000 on his city-issued credit card for such delicacies as jaunts to Puerto Rico and Rio de Janeiro, casino excursions and meals at extravagant restaurants – often with women in tow other than his wife. But that’s a matter for another day and, presumably, another jury.
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