Judge halts political ‘inquisition’ aimed at intimidating candidates, attacking Roselle Democrats’ right to free speech

A judge has stopped lawyers who are trying to scare voters and candidates in Roselle that were promoted by a progressive Democratic strategist in a mailing that announced Democratic support for Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez, France Cortez, the candidates for Board of Education on Column 1.

Judge Alan Lesnewich told progressive Democratic strategist James J. Devine, “What I am prepared to do is issue a supplemental order which will grant you what you are seeking.”

Devine was challenged in court after he distributed a mailer in Roselle stating that candidates for school board are supported by current and former Democratic elected officials. Lawyers for the political establishment are sowing controversy but Devine insists that he is simply exercising his right to free speech, the mailing identified who paid for it and reports were properly filed with the state.

A copy of the mailing appears above.

Lesnewich is a superior court judge for Vicinage 12 in Union County, New Jersey, who was nominated by Gov. Chris Christie in February of 2013 and took office on April 19, 2013. He was reappointed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2020 and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is headed by Senator Nick Scutari, who is also the county political boss who allegedly robbed taxpayers by failing to show up for work while he was the municipal prosecurot in Linden.

Devine asked the judge to “quash” subpoenas issued demanding that people unconnected to the creation or distribution of his mailing advocating support for the candidates, which is constitutionally protected free speech, appear for an inquisition five days before the election.

“The last thing that I want to do is… interrupt or annoy any of the folks the were subpoenaed,” said the judge, who had asked the plaintiff’s counsel to “slow down” discovery after Devine pointed out that even innocent people might be scared by being subjected to legal action in the closing days of a political campaign.

Lesnewich scheduled the telephone hearing for today at 11 a.m. in response to a request by the progressive Democratic strategist after attorney Raj Parikh sent intimidating demands for documents and information to candidates for the Roselle Board of Education and various current and former Democratic Roselle officials.

Devine owns the domain NJDEMS.COM while the official Democratic state committee owns NJDEMS.ORG.

“I tend to view this as standard operating procedure,” said another Democratic political consultant. “It’s the first thing I do when I start a campaign, I buy up all the similar website names.”

The briefing schedule and the return date for the underlying court case was also delayed by the judge.

Essentially, some of the state’s most powerful political bosses are gunning for Devine, who has beena key operative in the progressive movement since the party was “Subjected to a hostile Wall Street takeover.”

Powerful political bosses are trying to intimidate Roselle school board candidates Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez, and France Cortez after failing to silence the progressive Democratic Party strategist who highlighted broad public support for the Column 1 contenders.

Power brokers who want to corrupt the Roselle Board of Education think they can scare Bond, Chavez, and Cortez with ridiculous claims about some imaginary conspiracy by demanding answers from them on the weekend prior to election day.

Devine, a Democratic Party strategist who highlighted broad public support for the Column 1 contenders in a mailing after he came to believe they deserved to win, informed residents that the same leaders who endorsed Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, and other state and local candidates in Column A on next Tuesday’s ballot are also supporting the Roselle school board candidates —Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez, and France Cortez —whose names appear in Column 1.

Among those endorsing Bond, Chavez, and Cortez for Roselle school board are such progressive Democratic leaders as Assemblyman Jamel Holley, former Mayor Garrett Smith, plus numerous past and present members of the borough council and the Roselle Board of Education.

“These corrupt political bosses want voters to believe that they alone speak for the Democratic Party, which is a large and inclusive organization that believes diversity is our strength,” said Devine, a former political director at the Democratic State Committee and campaign advisor for some of New Jersey’s most successful progressive Democrats, including Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, 2018 US Senate candidate Lisa McCormick and Roselle Democrats dating back to Tony Amalfe and Joe Picaro.

Roselle Democrats are expected to support Governor Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver in large numbers whether they vote by mail, use new early voting options or cast their ballot on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The prominent local Democratic leaders who want those voters to be sure to also vote for Bond, Chavez & Cortez on the part of the ballot reserved for Roselle Board of Education were listed as Assemblyman Jamel Holley, former Mayor Garrett Smith, Councilman Richard Villeda, Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson, former Councilwomen Hazel Walker, Sylvia Turnage and Carla Walker as well as former Councilman Sam Bishop.

Former Mayor Christine Dansereau was mistakenly included on the list but she did not authorize her name to be used in an endorsement. Devine—who has known Dansereau since the time around her first election and last spoke to her shortly before the primary election—said he got the wrong impression from a Facebook post that appeared to include the former mayor’s name.

Underscoring Devine’s belief that Dansereau was supporting the Roselle school board candidates —Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez, and France Cortez —whose names appear in Column 1, was a mailing that said the opposing candidates are supported by Reginald Atkins, a former Roselle school board member, councilman and mayor who is a candidate for Assembly.

Democratic Committee member Anthony Esposito asked the Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie to strip Atkins of his title after the Roselle politician made public statements refusing to support Dansereau when she became the Democratic nominee for re-election in 2019.

“Atkins, who was fined $2,581 by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission and is now under federal investigation for stealing unemployment benefits, was listed as an endorser of the Ciattarelli team in Column 2,” said Devine. “I made an assumption and I have expressed my regret to Mayor Dansereau for that mistake, but I know the real Democrats in Roselle are supporting the Democrats in Column A and the Democratic school board candidates in Column 1.”

Devine said that Atkins endorsed the Republican slate, which includes incumbent Board of Education member Delia Ware-Tibbs, the subject of an investigation for allegedly collecting federal housing subsidies for a home that she rented to her brother, and Stephanie Falana, who was fired from a job at Essex County College during an FBI probe into politically connected corruption and claims of financial irregularities.

Devine said it is not unusual for the political establishment to try intimidating people who stand up to those in power.

“People in the progressive movement must be prepared for cheating and unsavory tactics,” said Devine, a progressive strategist who served as political director at the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in 1992-93. “I have often said that Republicans will do anything to win, except earn more votes. Roselle Democrats know that the people in power cheat, so that is why it is important to fight the power.”

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