TRENTON – Senator John H. Adler today introduced legislation to cancel pension benefits for convicted public officials and to impose mandatory prison terms for their offenses.
“The people of New Jersey don’t want their tax dollars paying pension benefits for convicted felons,” said Senator Adler, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In this climate of rampant public corruption, the message must be clear to those who would betray their public trust – if you do the crime, you’re doing time.”
Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill, said his legislation will focus on mandatory sentences of 10 years for a public official convicted of a crime of the first degree; five years for a crime of the second degree; two years for a crime of the third degree, and one year for a crime of the fourth degree.
“There should be no tolerance whatsoever for public officials cutting deals after they’re caught for their crimes so they can go home instead of doing their time,” Senator Adler said. “It makes me sick to see special deals being cut for elected officials or for those who staff the public bureaucracies.”
The Adler proposal would apply to any crimes public employees or elected officials commit involving their public office or employment. Crimes for which the mandatory prison terms and pension benefits forfeiture would apply include theft by extortion, commercial bribery, money laundering, bribery in official matters, tampering with witnesses, official misconduct, and speculating or wagering on official action or information.
“It’s just wrong to continue retirement benefits for those who abuse their positions as public officials,” Senator Adler said. “This legislation will send a clear warning to those who feel free to betray the public trust that they will pay back by giving up their pension benefits. Maybe now public officials will resist the temptation to take a bribe and to betray the public’s trust.”
Senator Adler said the mandatory minimum penalties are needed to ensure equal justice because those with political connections often have an easier time cutting deals than ordinary people.
“The mandatory provisions in the sentencing simply takes the subjectivity out of the potential relationship involving the judge and the person who betrayed the public trust,” Senator Adler said. “It actually makes it easier for judges to impose the proper sentence.”
The Adler measure will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary panel in the near future, he said.