Former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who was convicted in 2017 for corruption, has been charged with criminal contempt for his alleged violation of a court order.
Torres, 63, is attempting to make a political comeback. He submitted petitions to run for mayor last Friday which resulted in the violation.
He had pleaded guilty in New Jersey Superior Court in 2017 for using city workers to renovate a warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew. Hudson County judge Sheila Venable entered a forfeiture order on September 25, 2017 that barred him from holding any public office or employment.
Torres signed and consented to the order, but is now allegedly violating it. Authorities said the order specifically states Torres would find himself in contempt if he made any application for public employment.
“State law provides that any person convicted of a crime involving their public office will be forever barred from holding another public position in New Jersey,” said New Jersey acting attorney general Matthew Platkin. “To promote public trust and integrity in government, we must ensure that this law and the court orders issued to implement it are rigorously enforced.”
“I was anticipating it,” said Torres on Friday afternoon. He said mayor Andre Sayegh used the law department and utilized the City Clerk’s office to “create this misconduct.”
Sayegh’s law director Aymen Aboushi sent a letter to the clerk directing her to refuse Torres’ petitions. Aboushi previously donated to Sayegh’s campaign.
Sayegh has been in panic mode since Torres began floating his name for a possible mayoral run. Torres was openly trolling Sayegh by hosting competing political events last year.
Torres isn’t the first convict to try to run for public office. Chauncey Brown, who was convicted for taking bribes, was allowed to submit petitions and get himself on the ballot for the 3rd Ward in 2020.
“I’ll see them in court,” said Torres. He has filed a challenge in court against the City Clerk’s decision to refuse his petitions.
But now Torres faces a two front war.
“This is good trouble,” said Torres mentioning civil rights leader John Lewis. “Somebody has to stand up for the rights of the petitioner and those that signed the petitions.”
Torres said he is fighting for his rights, rights of returning citizens, and voters that signed his petitions.
“Mr. Torres knew that by pleading guilty in 2017 and signing the consent order, he would be forever disqualified from seeking the office of mayor,” said Thomas Eicher, director of the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). “We charge that he has committed a crime by flouting that order.”
Torres could face 18 months in prison if convicted and face up to $10,00 in fines.
Torres described the situation as “unfair.” He said there is “no closure” for ex-felons. He pointed out he served 13 months in prison and paid restitution for his past crimes.