The lengthy court battle between councilman Shahin Khalique and former councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman over the 2nd Ward council seat has been extended into 2017.
Assignment judge Ernest Caposela scheduled court dates throughout January. The judge has been hearing testimony in the case since September. Akhtaruzzaman is attempting to nullify Khalique’s election victory by alleging there was widespread voter fraud in the May 2016 election that brought Khalique to office.
More than 50 witnesses have testified in the case. Akhtaruzzaman’s attorneys have yet to rest their case. His attorney, Susan Champion, has been having difficulty getting private investigator Steve Olimpio to testify in the case.
Champion called Olimpio to take the stand on Thursday afternoon; however, Khalique’s attorney, John Carbone, reportedly objected to having the private investigator, who assisted the former councilman in building a case, testify.
Caposela and attorneys from all sides spent two hours behind closed-doors on Thursday. Champion said the attorneys and the judge argued and discussed “couple” of issues involving the case.
Champion was reportedly incensed at Carbone’s last minute objection to allowing Olimpio to testify. She had told the attorneys and the judge in the prior session she intended to call the private investigator to the stand.
Carbone successfully blocked the private investigator from testifying as an expert witness on first day of trial.
Olimpio, a longtime former Paterson Police Department detective, was prepared to testify on Thursday. He identified a large number of voters who voted in the 2nd Ward election, but did not live within the ward, according to Akhtaruzzaman’s court filings. His investigation also led to a voter recording Khalique on the telephone telling a voter election fraud and insurance fraud were okay.
Akhtaruzzaman said Olimpio may still be called to testify at a future date. The trial resumes on November 30th, 2016 at 9 a.m. at the Passaic County Courthouse.
The tentative 2017 trial dates are: January 6, 12, 13, 19, and 27.