Mayor Sharpe James endorses Ras Baraka for Newark Mayor

No Comments » Written on March 25th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — On the menu today in Newark was fried whiting, grits, home fries and a whole lot of political juice.

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James and mayoral candidate Ras Baraka walked into Kings Family Restaurant to loud applause as about 200 people packed the South Ward establishment to hear James sing Baraka’s praises and endorse the South Ward councilman’s candidacy for mayor of Newark.

“I remember a young man who ran against me for mayor,” James said, referring to Baraka’s quixotic 1994 run against James, who at the time was a giant in state politics. Ten years later, James was still in office when he hired Baraka as deputy mayor.

“He saw a problem, he worked on the problem, he fixed the problem,” James said. “Ras Baraka did that.”

“Today I join with our extended family of the City of Newark,” James said. “Ras Baraka will bring us in a new direction.”

James ruled Newark from 1986 to 2006, when current U.S. Sen. Cory Booker took over as mayor. James was convicted of fraud and theft of honest services in 2008 and served 18 months in federal prison. The charge “theft of honest services” was significantly weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

His endorsement comes as little surprise since James was among a group of elders who threw their support behind Baraka early in the race. James’ son, John Sharpe James is on Baraka’s slate as the South Ward council candidate.

Baraka, a former teacher and principal of Central High School, noted the historic nature of the endorsement.

“Twenty years ago if you had told me Sharpe James would be endorsing me for mayor, I would think that you were completely crazy,” Baraka said. “There’s nothing like an idea whose time has come.”

Whether Baraka said it knowingly or not, that line, often attributed to the late Rep. Donald Payne Sr., underscored a potential division in the South Ward, Baraka’s home base.

Payne’s brother William Payne and his son, the current 10th District Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. have both endorsed Baraka’s opponent, Shavar Jeffries. The Payne family, too, has a loyal following in the South Ward.

When asked about the potential schism, James said he was not concerned.

“William Payne is working as a deputy to Phil Alagia,” James said, referring to County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo’s chief of staff. “(The Paynes) had to follow orders from the county … their heart is not in it.”

A string of political leaders associated with the Essex County machine have endorsed Jeffries as well. Earlier this week, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin endorsed Jeffries. North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos is also one of Jeffries’ biggest supporters.

“We’re not ready to give our city to the county,” Baraka said to big cheers. “I don’t think there’s anybody left they can bring out to endorse.”

He added,”They’re organizing to protect one man. We’re organizing to protect 300,000 people.”

Newark Mayoral campaign Ads are starting and the first goes hard against Shavar Jeffries

No Comments » Written on March 25th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — The first TV ad to hit cable in the Newark mayor’s race doesn’t come from either Ras Baraka or Shavar Jeffries, but it leaves little doubt about who it is attacking.

“They’d shut down our schools, shut out our voice, turn public schools into private profit factories and they’re all connected to Shavar Jeffries,” the ad says, pegging Jeffries as being in league with Gov. Chris Christie and Newark superintendent Cami Anderson.

The ad, paid for by the Working Families Organization, touches on one of the biggest flashpoints in the campaign: Newark’s schools.

The mayor of Newark has no authority over schools, but Anderson’s ONE Newark plan to co-locate multiple facilities and expand charter schools has drawn criticism from both Baraka and Jeffries.

Baraka is the principal of Central High School. Jeffries is the former Newark School Advisory Board president.

It is unclear from the ad which charter schools are making profits for “Wall Street hedge fund managers,” as the ad alleges.

“It’s no secret that private companies are making millions of dollars off of public education,” said group spokesman Rob Duffey. “What is alarming is how much money those same outside interests are contributing to Jeffries’ campaign.”

One of the biggest financial scandals tied to a charter school in Newark involved Fredrica Bey, a staunch Baraka supporter. The Star-Ledger reported in 2013 that Bey used federal and state money to prop up a real-estate fiefdom, often at the expense of students at the Adelaide Sanford charter school, which was shut down in June 2013.

The 30-second spot will start airing on cable stations this week.

Newark man dies in Jail while awaiting court date

No Comments » Written on March 24th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — A 58-year-old man charged in the slaying of a Madison resident died while being held at the Essex County jail earlier this month, authorities said.

Michael Wilkins of Newark died at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark on March 14, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly confirmed today.

The medical examiner determined that Wilkins’ death was a result of natural causes, Fennelly said.

Wilkins was being held at the county jail pending an arraignment. He was charged in the murder of Jimmy Emporellis, a 34-year-old Madison resident found dead in the back seat of his car near Woodland Cemetery on Feb. 24.

Wilkins was arrested and charged on March 6.

Emporellis, the owner of a Madison-based construction company, had been reported missing earlier in the month. An autopsy indicated that the victim had been strangled and authorities previously said that the killing did “not appear to be a random crime.

14 year old boy stabbed and in serious condition

No Comments » Written on March 24th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — A 14-year-old Newark boy was stabbed in the neck in the city’s South Ward this afternoon, police said.

The victim, who was not identified, was rushed to University Hospital in Newark, where he was listed in critical condition tonight, police said. The attack occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Avon Avenue near Stratford Place, said Sgt. Ronald Glover, a police department spokesman.

A suspect was seen running from the scene, according to Glover, who did not disclose a motive for the attack.

Glover declined to comment further, but asked anyone with information connected to the stabbing to contact the department ‘s anonymous tip line at (877) 695-8477 or (877) 695-4867

Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s campaign worker sentenced to 3 years for Voter Fraud

No Comments » Written on March 21st, 2014 by
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TRENTON — A former campaign worker for state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) was sentenced to three years in prison today for submitting fraudulent ballots in her 2007 election, state authorities said.

Angel Colon, 51, of Newark, pleaded guilty to election fraud in 2011 after submitting absentee ballots for some voters without their knowledge. In January, state Superior Court Judge Thomas Sumners Jr. sentenced Colon to five years probation, saying prison time would be a “serious injustice.”

The Attorney General’s Office sought three years in prison, consistent with a plea bargain that had been struck, and the appellate court agreed in May, saying the crime required Colon to serve prison time. The standard is five to 10 years in prison.

“Justice demanded that Colon serve a state prison sentence, in accordance with his guilty plea,” acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said. “To safeguard fair and honest elections, we need to deliver a clear deterrent message that election tampering is a serious crime. This sentence accomplishes that.”

Man, Shot and killed in Newark’s West Ward

No Comments » Written on March 21st, 2014 by
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NEWARK — A man has been shot and killed in the city’s West Ward tonight, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said.

The man, who was not identified, was shot about 8:30 p.m. on the 200 block of South Sixth Street, off South Orange Avenue, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said.

The man was taken to nearby University Hospital, but was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after the shooting, Fennelly said.

He had no information on a motive or suspects. The prosecutor’s office’s major crimes task force is investigating what might have led to the shooting

Newark man tossed loaded gun out of (bedroom) window as officers rushed into his house

No Comments » Written on February 6th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — A Newark man tossed a loaded semi-automatic handgun out a bedroom window today after Essex County sheriff’s officers burst into his Lake Street apartment building looking for drugs, authorities say.

Angel Castellanos, 29, and his roommate Jossian Tizil, 31, were charged with drug and weapons-related charges after sheriff’s officers forced their way into their second-floor apartment at 915 Lake St., this afternoon, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

After serving a search warrant, detectives from the sheriff’s narcotics bureau found six grams of crack cocaine on a coffee table and 21 grams of marijuana hidden in the false bottom of an aerosol can, Fontoura said.

Also found in the apartment were some 100 North Face jackets with a retail value of $40,000, Fontoura said. Both men were charged with receiving stolen property.

Fontoura said Castellanos ran to the rear of the apartment after officers entered the building and threw a Cobra 380 semi-automatic handgun out a bedroom window. It was found a short time later, he said.

Both men were being held at the Essex County jail awaiting arraignment.

Newark Police seeking one fugitive, arrest another man on weapons charges

No Comments » Written on February 6th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — City detectives searching for a fugitive today arrested another man on weapons charges in an abandoned Scheerer Avenue apartment, a statement from the police department said.

Akeem Paige, 21, was taken into custody about 8 a.m., police said.

Detectives from the fugitive apprehension unit went to the apartment seeking information on the fugitive’s whereabouts.

But detectives found two 9 mm Ruger handguns, a .223-caliber Ruger assault rifle and .223-caliber ammunition in the apartment and arrested Paige, the statement said.

A police spokesman declined to discuss who detectives were looking for when they arrested Paige.

He was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon, unlawful possession of a rifle, possession of a large capacity ammunition magazines, possession of prohibited ammunition and possession of a weapon by certain persons.

Codey endorses Ras Baraka

No Comments » Written on February 6th, 2014 by
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Politicker NJ

NEWARK – Former Governor and current State Senator Richard Codey (D-27) endorsed Newark mayoral candidate and South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka at a rally in front of one of the Seabra’s supermarkets in the city’s Ironbound neighborhood.

“I believe in Newark, and I believe in Ras,” said Codey before a small but boisterous group of Baraka supporters on a frigid Thursday afternoon in front of Seabra’s Supermarket on Lafayette Street, as forklifts carrying fruits and vegetables zoomed by.

Codey quoted statistics he claimed showed improvement at Central High School, where Baraka has taken a leave of absence as principal, as part of his reasons for backing Baraka.

“Tell me if I’m wrong now, councilman – you went from a 50 percent graduation rate to 80 percent?” Codey said. “When you can do that, it tells us a lot about this man.

“Of all of the candidates, what person in this city can get down on the streets and talk to the people that we need to talk to?” Codey, whose 27th Legislative District included parts of the City of Newark, before the 2011 legislative redistricting, added. “Ras Baraka is about doing something about crime in this city that helps helps the county, that helps the state. As we all know, at one point he negotiated a gang truce [in 2004] as a deputy mayor. Think what he could do as your mayor.

“There are these power brokers out there who are going to tell you what to do. [Baraka] is independent,” Codey continued. “We all want somebody who is independent, and he’s that candidate. In this time in Newark’s history, this young man is the best candidate for the City of Newark, and that’s why I’m endorsing him today.”

“The governor talks about me being independent, but I think that he’s incredibly independent,” Baraka said. “Most of the issues that [Codey] fights for in the state are issues surrounding working people, poor people, people who are struggling, people who are on disability, things that affect us right here in the City of Newark. Any day I
would stand with him.”

The endorsement rally took a more overtly political turn when Codey was asked by the press if his endorsement of Baraka was a way to wage a proxy war with Essex County Joseph DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo, a Democrat, endorsed Newark mayoral candidate and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr. in May.

“I don’t know if he endorsed anybody. He said, and I quote, “I just want to win.” It didn’t matter [who was] the candidate. It is what it is.”

“Everyone that’s here has to become a believer in Anibal Ramos because I support him 150 percent,” said DiVincenzo at the May rally, as previously reported by

“I’m happy [Codey] is here with us, and not over there,” Baraka added, smiling after Codey praised his wearing of a green “Irish tie.”

Baraka was asked by why he chose to have the Codey endorsement rally in the Ironbound, a largely Portuguese and Spanish-speaking immigrant neighborhood considered by Newark political observers to be a more likely base of support for Ramos, a Latino.

“When you’re the mayor, you’re the mayor of the entire city,” Baraka said. “We have to get rid of this kind of ward politics that uplifts political bosses and not the people of our community. We just happen to be in the Ironbound today.”

Americo Seabra, one of the Portuguese-born owners of the Seabra’s supermarket chain, explained why he also endorsed Baraka.

“I’ve sat with him many, many times, and he’s real,” Seabra said. “This city needs someone who is going to be there for us, not someone who is going to use us as a trampoline, as other people have used us in the past. I moved here during the years of the riots [of 1967], and we’ve never left. We’re here together.

Read more at At Ironbound rally, Codey endorses Baraka in Newark mayoral race | Politicker NJ
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Man shot and Wounded in Newark’s West Ward

No Comments » Written on February 5th, 2014 by
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NEWARK — The wet snow meant there was no garbage being collected in Newark today but Antwan Belfield wasn’t about to spend the day cooped up inside.

“I’m trying to stay out of trouble,” Belfield joked.

So Belfield, who most days works for a private carting company in Newark, tugged on a pair of ski goggles and a black sweatshirt and headed out with shovel in hand to search for folks who needed help digging out their cars.

He started at 7 a.m and by 1:30 p.m. figured he’d helped around 20 people dig out their cars.

“I’m trying to help some of the older people, trying to do the right thing, being positive,” Belfield, 21, said as he walked through slush that accumulated across from state Superior Court in Newark.

Across the way, workers Angel Ramos, 45, and Dabaniel Vera, 35, were shoveling ice-laden snow that had accumulated on the steps of Essex County College.
“I’m trying to help some of the older people, trying to do the right thing.”

“It’s really heavy,” Ramos said. “He already broke one shovel.”

But Vera wasn’t complaning even if he’d worked 28 hours since Monday and had been up since 5 a.m. “I’ve got seven kids,” said Vera, a construction worker. “I need the money.”

Rashid Harris, a gas pipeline operator, spent nearly an hour digging himself out of the driveway of his Newark home and then helping an elderly neighbor get snow off her car.

For lunch, Harris, 48, decided to stop in at the Crown Fried Chicken near the courthouse for some chicken tenders and banana pudding. While he waited, he stepped outside to test the wet snow to see if the packing was just right for snowballs.

“Pretty good,” Harris declared, before letting fly with a snowball that landed splat in the middle of the street.