Former councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman’s campaign manager Pedro Rodriguez took to the stand on Thursday morning to testify councilman Shahin Khalique’s campaign moved more than a thousand people from elsewhere into the 2nd Ward prior to the election.
Rodriguez said “in paper” over 1,100 voters were “moved” into the 2nd Ward prior to the election. He said he determined this by comparing two voters lists and the petitions Khalique submitted to the city clerk’s office to qualify to run for office at the beginning of this year.
In some cases, the voters, who were moved on paper into 2nd Ward addresses were unaware, Rodriguez (pictured) told the court. He mentioned the example of Raquel Rodriguez, who was residing in the 1st Ward, but her address was changed to the 2nd Ward.
“Somebody had filed an address change for her,” he said. “I asked her if she moved.” The voter told him she did not move from 423 Crosby Avenue in 1st Ward to 127 Albion Avenue in the 2nd Ward.
Her husband Jose Rodriguez was also moved to the 2nd Ward, said the former councilman’s campaign manager.
There was also Maria Ruiz, who resided in the 5th Ward, but was moved into the 2nd Ward. There was also the three members of the Vega family moved in the same manner. Ruiz signed an affidavit to the Passaic County superintendent of elections’ office making known her situation with assistance from Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said he twice visited the superintendent’s office. First time he provided 26 voters and the second time 70 who did not reside in the 2nd Ward. He also took a campaign flyer in which councilwoman Maritza Davila is featured endorsing Khalique with the tag line that 1,000 voters have already cast their ballot for Khalique a week before election.
The infamous flyer was “surprising” and “alarming” to Rodriguez. How could a campaign know the number of mail-in cast for its candidate? he asked. He said the one thing that shocked him on the flyer was the number 1,000.
Rodriguez listed the names of a number of those voters who voted in the 2nd Ward, but did not live there. He also mentioned the large number of assistors, known Khalique supporters, who “assisted” a large number of people to fill out mail-in ballots. He recollected the names of the individuals — Foyes Ali, Zakaria Ahmed, Rasel Ahmed, Giash Ahmed, Mashuk Ahmed, Harun Miah, and Shah Rukh Khan – who assisted a large number of people.
Ali for example assisted 65 voters.
Khalique’s attorney, John Carbone focused on Rodriguez’s method for cross comparing the voter lists and the paper petitions from the clerk’s office. He spent much of his time asking Rodriguez whether he had typed into a spreadsheet the names of all those voters who signed nominating petitions for Khalique.
Carbone’s re-phrasing of the same questions several times twice left Rodriguez confused. At one point Carbone barked: “So you lied,” pointing to a slight inconsistency when Rodriguez said he had entered the 1,000 voters’ names into an Excel file.
“No,” responded Rodriguez.
Rodriguez mentioned more than one Excel file. For example, he noted creating Excel files from the two voters list. He clarified he had cross checked the names using the Excel and the physical copies of the nominating petition.
Carbone aimed at cracking Rodriguez, but without success. He attempted to suggest Rodriguez’s wife Graciela, who runs a printing business, was responsible for a bogus letter that was sent out to voters urging them to avoid using and discard mail-in ballots.
“She’d never do anything like that,” said Rodriguez. He said he was exposed to the letter when it was distributed in the 2nd Ward. Both sides blamed each other at the time the letter was widely distributed to voters.
Akhtaruzzaman’s attorney Susan Champion objected to Carbone’s line of questioning.
Carbone then tried to get Rodriguez to admit he had challenged Ruiz’s vote on the residency issue at the Board of Election on election night.
Rodriguez responded in the negative several times leaving Carbone, who is known for hounding witnesses, visibly riled. He said her vote was unsuccessfully challenged because “she was deceived into voting for a candidate she did not want to vote for.”
Rodriguez said his wife challenged Ruiz’s vote and not he. Carbone showed a challenge document that stated Rodriguez’s wife challenged Ruiz on residency.
Rodriguez said his wife likely made a “mistake” stating that as the reason for the challenge.
The 2nd Ward election fraud trial has been on-going since September. Akhtaruzzaman’s side continues to call witnesses to the stand. The former councilman’s side has yet to rest its case.
Both Khalique and Akhtaruzzaman were in the audience. The trial will resume on November 14th, 2016 at 1:30 p.m.
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