Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced that Joey Torres, the former mayor of Paterson, was charged today with criminal contempt for launching a new mayoral campaign in violation of a court order stemming from his 2017 conviction for conspiracy to commit official misconduct.
Jose “Joey” Torres, 63, of Paterson, was charged today by complaint-summons with fourth-degree criminal contempt by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA).
The charge is the result of an investigation by the OPIA Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau.
Torres pleaded guilty in 2017 to a charge of second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct for directing, while serving as mayor, that city employees perform work at a private warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew while the employees were being paid by the city.
Torres was sentenced to five years in state prison in the case filed by the Attorney General’s Office.
As a result of Torres’ guilty plea, Superior Court Judge Sheila A. Venable entered a forfeiture order on September 25, 2017—signed and consented to by Torres—that forever disqualifies Torres, pursuant to state law, from holding any public office or employment.
The order specifically provides that if Torres makes any application for public employment in violation of the order, he is subject to a fourth-degree charge of criminal contempt.
The complaint against Torres states that on or about February 12, 2022, Torres made a public speech stating that he is running for mayor of the City of Paterson in the 2022 election and requesting that the people in the audience vote to return him to City Hall.
On March 4, Torres went to the Paterson City Clerk’s Office and presented a stack of purported nominating petitions in support of his candidacy.
Upon those petitions being rejected by the clerk, Torres filed a civil action seeking to compel the clerk’s office to accept the petitions.
In that civil action, Torres certified that he submitted the petitions to run for mayor, and if the city clerk continued to refuse to accept his petitions, he would be irreparably harmed by being denied his right to run for office.
It is alleged that by holding himself out as a candidate for mayor, soliciting signatures on nominating petitions, and attempting to submit the petitions at the clerk’s office, Torres purposely and knowingly disobeyed the 2017 forfeiture order that he signed and consented to following his guilty plea.
“State law provides that any person convicted of a crime involving their public office will be forever barred from holding another public position in New Jersey,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin.
“To promote public trust and integrity in government, we must ensure that this law and the court orders issued to implement it are rigorously enforced.”
“Mr. Torres knew that by pleading guilty in 2017 and signing the consent order, he would be forever disqualified from seeking the office of mayor,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher.
“We charge that he has committed a crime by flouting that order.”
Deputy Attorney General Michelle McBrian is prosecuting the case under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.