A key political operative for Perth Amboy Mayor Helmin J. Caba and the Middlesex County Democratic Organization has been arrested on charges of aggravated assault on a city police officer.
Jose Espaillat Lozano was arrested after an altercation with police that was captured on video and posted to a social media site.
“A city employee assaulted an officer,” said local Facebook watchdog A.D. Pauro Venguz. “In this video, you will also hear another city employee threatening the officers with losing their jobs, yet neither Lawrence Cattano nor, Helmin Caba have notified the community on this matter.”
Brynn Krause, a spokesperson for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, did not return multiple calls for comment.
In the video, Espaillat Lozano or one of the other people in the crowd can be heard telling officers, “Tomorrow you’re going to be fired.”
“The people that are there are saying in Spanish, ‘What are you doing? He didn’t do anything wrong.’ The cop overcharged because he wanted him sent to the county,” said Daniel Gonzalez, the attorney representing Espaillat Lozano.
Gonzalez said the charges have been downgraded to a municipal offense.
Caba appointed himself as the police director after he was elected in a divided three-way contest with local attorney Joseph Vas Jr. and former Mayor Wilda Diaz, who lost the job she had for 12 years in 2020.
Caba, who also the city’s Democratic chairman, ran for election on a promise “to make new investments in our community with real solutions for our city’s most important issues: Fiscal responsibility, quality-of-life, public safety, infrastructure, and economic vitality.”
Espaillat was implicated in allegations of wrongdoing in the 2015 election for the City Council and Board of Education that were so “pervasive and far reaching,” Judge Heidi Currier tossed out the results and ordered a new election between Sergio Diaz and Councilman Fernando Gonzalez.
“A Superior Court judge ruled that there has been rampant voter fraud committed in last year’s council election at the direction of and with the full participation of (Dominguez Rodriguez),” said Diaz, during the 2015 skirmish, adding, “I am disappointed that this kind of fraud occurred in our city.”
Diaz’s lawyer at that time, William Northgrave, who is now the city attorney for Perth Amboy, claimed that at least 13 of the mail-in ballots were either tampered with or people’s names were on them who did not vote.
Northgrave called witnesses in the trial, including a woman who said she did not know her address and did not recall applying for or voting on a ballot in the election despite records she did apply, receive and vote on one.
“It is undisputed that illegal votes that exceeded the margin of victory were counted in this election,” said Northgrave.
“Perth Amboy is blessed with many wonderful amenities: A great location, tremendous resources, and a solid workforce,” said Caba during his campaign but, “these valuable resources have been underused and undeveloped for too long. Worse, they have been exploited for political agendas and personal gains.”
City Hall “has been plagued for 30 years, first by corruption, and for the past dozen years by divisiveness, turbulence, neglect and instability,” said Caba during his campaign. “Weak leadership has put obstacles in our city’s path to progress. It has diminished our quality-of-life and smeared our great city with a poor reputation.”
Last year, Caba called on his political opponents to drop out of last year’s election after theor supporters were charged with crimes by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, but sources say the administration has not even suspended Espaillat Lozano from his job as a community service aide in the Department of Human Services, Office of Housing & Social Services.
His lawyer insists that Espaillat Lozano did nothing wrong.