TRENTON – The Senate today unanimously approved a bill, S-14, crafted by Senator John H. Adler , to impose mandatory prison terms, fines of up to $200,000 and loss of pensions for all public officials convicted of a wide-ranging list of corruption offenses.
“This vote represents our choice to stand up for taxpayers and against corruption,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “The choice was clear.”
The vote was 38-0 and the bill was forwarded to the Assembly.
Senator Adler, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a longtime advocate of mandatory sentences for elected and non-elected officials, was joined in sponsoring the landmark bill by Senate President Richard J. Codey and Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer.
“This bill sends a clear message that we will have zero tolerance for those who try to profit off the public’s trust,” said Senator Codey. “These penalties will hopefully serve as a powerful deterrent and help eliminate the costs associated with crimes involving waste, fraud and abuse.”
“For too long, corrupt public officials have made a mockery of justice by collecting lucrative pensions and avoiding jail time, ever after being exposed in a court of law,” said Senator Karcher. “This bill will put teeth in the law and ensure that disgraced politicians cannot continue to abuse the public trust after leaving office.”
Under the bill, the loss of pension and mandatory prison clause would be triggered if a public official is convicted of any one of 19 public corruption offenses including criminal coercion, theft by deception, commercial bribery, threats and improper influence in official and political matters, perjury, witness tampering, official misconduct and tampering with public records.
Senator Adler said he welcomed the support for the legislation of State Attorney General Stuart Rabner and noted the bill includes his suggestions to encourage corrupt officials to cooperate in ongoing investigations.
The minimum penalty under the bill would be a one-year jail term and a fine of $10,000. In addition, pension forfeiture and mandatory prison terms will apply to crimes committed after the bill takes effect which would be 30 days after it is signed into law.
For those with multiple public positions, the bill would forfeit the pension for the job where the crime was committed.
“I would prefer that the bill forfeit all pension benefits, but we can’t wait for perfection,” Senator Adler said. “I will continue to seek the strongest possible deterrents for all public corruption.”