Booker’s watershed corruption in the news as Brick City in senator’s rearview

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals last month affirmed the convictions and sentence of a former Newark police offer who paid kickbacks to the executive director of the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corporation (NWCDC), an agency turned rife with corruption during Cory Booker’s tenure as Mayor of Newark.

Janell Robinson, 46, of Newark, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton on Jan. 7, 2021, to 108 months in prison, three years of supervised release and forfeiture of $288,950.

Before the crooked cop’s fall from grace, “Celebrity mayor Cory Booker even stopped by from time to time” at the Rita’s Ice parlor Robinson opened with $200,000 in assistance arranged from the Brick City Development Corporation.

Robinson was convicted at trial of one count of conspiracy to defraud the NWCDC facilitated by use of mails and wire transmissions, two counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right affecting interstate commerce, following a jury trial before Wigenton.

The jury convicted of using an LLC she controlled to direct roughly $50,000 to former NWCDC Executive Director Linda Watkins Brashear, who was put in charge at the water agency after she had made large contributions to Booker’s campaign.

In exchange, the agency paid Robinson’s firm roughly $289,000 over a period of just over three years.

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said Robinson appealed her conviction and sentence, arguing that exculpatory evidence would have shown there could not have been any extortion under color of official right because the NWCDC was neither a government agency nor a department of the City of Newark.

The Third Circuit rejected that argument, pointing out that under New Jersey law, entities like the NWCDC are deemed to provide essential governmental functions on behalf of a city and exercise the powers and responsibilities of the city with respect to the provision of water supply services.

Linda Watkins Brashear and Cory Booker ushered in an era of rampant corruption at the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corporation, but while she lost her job and went to prison, he was elevated to a seat in the US Senate from which he already mounted one presidential campaign.

The watershed corporation was legally dissolved in 2013 and it was the subject of a scathing 2014 report by the state Comptroller’s Office that found the agency was siphoning millions of public dollars and making illegal payments and sweetheart deals.

Booker put Brashear in charge of the agency from 2007 to 2013. She admitted taking kickbacks after handing out $1 million worth of contracts to her friends and ex-husband, prosecutors said. She also admitted she under-reported her income by $316,000.

Booker oversaw the watershed while serving as mayor and the corruption at the watershed was largely blamed on his negligence while media outlets reported on how he rescued puppies and people in burning buildings, shoveled driveways for snow-bound residents, tackled muggers, or cradled dying gunshot victims in his arms.

Those same news reporters were less excited about Booker’s fire department layoffs, cancellation of city plowing contracts, or his appointment of administrators who encouraged police brutality and ultimately lost control of the department to a federal monitor.

Booker’s former employer, Trenk, DiPasquale, Webster, profited over $200,000 from its work with the watershed while Booker’s former law partner, Elnardo Webster, “had been acting as the watershed’s counsel.”

Booker’s ambition and greed still drive his political career but the fate of city residents who fell for his con artistry appears to be in the lawmaker’s rearview mirror, a distant memory from which fictional tales of woven to enhance another potential presidential campaign, which could be successful in ways that amplify the wealth of power of Wall Street and Silicon Valley moguls who don’t need government help as much as the ordinary working people that Booker betrays.

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