Convicted Trenton, NJ, mayor removed from office

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The mayor of New Jersey’s capital city was removed from office by a judge Wednesday, 19 days after a jury found him guilty of corruption as part of a government sting.

Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, 48, had fought to remain in office until his sentencing in May while also seeking to have his conviction thrown out.

But Judge Mary Jacobson rejected his arguments and signed an order removing him from office. Mack is also ineligible to hold public office in the future and has been stripped of his taxpayer-funded pension. He will be allowed to keep the contributions he made to his retirement plan.

City Council President George Muschal is in line to become acting mayor and fill out the remainder of Mack’s term, which ends July 1.  He was expected to be sworn in Wednesday afternoon.  A regular city election is scheduled for May 13 to choose the next mayor and Muschal has said he does not intend to run.

Mack was convicted Feb. 7 of bribery, fraud and extortion in a sting operation involving a bogus land development deal. His brother, Ralphiel Mack, a former high school football coach, was also convicted of participating in a scheme to take bribes in exchange for helping get approvals to develop a downtown parking garage.

Tony Mack’s administration was under a cloud since he took office in 2010 as Trenton’s first new mayor in 20 years.

The state government took a role in city hiring decisions after charges of rampant cronyism. And since deep layoffs in the city police force, crime in the city of 84,000 — one of the nation’s poorest state capitals — has been a major problem. Last year, there were a record 41 homicides, including two men shot by police during confrontations.

Mack’s lawyer, Mark Davis, argued Wednesday that the mayor should not be removed until he is sentenced, saying the conviction is not final until the sentence is imposed.

Public officials convicted of crimes of “dishonesty” in state court can be removed by the judge once their convictions are handed down. But for those like Mack convicted in federal court, the process can be more cumbersome.

“It’s unfair for state officials, and it’s primarily unfair for the people of the city of Trenton where their mayor has been convicted in federal court,” Deputy Attorney General Steven Yomtov told the judge.

Once he’s in office, Muschal can void actions taken by Mack in the time after he was convicted.

City Clerk Richard Kashmar, who sat in the front row of Wednesday’s court hearing, said afterward that Mack only handled routine business and did not sign or veto any ordinances, so there’s nothing that would need to be struck.

Mack joins a string of New Jersey mayors convicted in corruption cases since 2000 that included the leaders of Newark, Camden and Asbury Park.

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Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twtter.com/geoffmulvihill

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