Former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres was indicted by a New Jersey grand jury on Tuesday for allegedly violating a court order that barred him from public office.
Torres, 64, of Paterson, was indicted on criminal contempt. He allegedly violated a court order that was part of his plea deal in 2017, when Torres pleaded guilty to using public employees to handle construction work at a warehouse owned by his family, that banned him from public office or public employment.
“Under state law and a court order, this defendant was forever disqualified from holding any public office or position of honor or public trust,” said Thomas Eicher, director of the Corruption Bureau of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). “His alleged disregard for that order, and the rule of law, illustrates why he cannot, and should not, hold public office in the future.”
Forfeiture order that was part of Torres’ plea deal stated he was barred from even making application for public employment.
But that did not stop Torres from announcing a run for mayor on February 12, 2022. On March 4, 2022, Torres presented nominating petitions to the City Clerk. His petition was rejected by the clerk, prompting Torres take her to court in an unsuccessful lawsuit.
By holding himself out as a candidate for mayor, soliciting signatures on nominating petitions, and attempting to force the petitions upon the City Clerk, Torres disobeyed the 2017 forfeiture order that followed his guilty plea, authorities said.
“It takes remarkable brashness to flout a state court order and then attempt to strong-arm the city clerk, via civil litigation, into allowing an impermissible campaign to proceed,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “That is bold. And, according to the grand jury, it is also indictable.”
Torres could face a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000 if convicted of the offense.