The second determination on Monday, May 1st
Bill Brennan is a lawyer, retired firefighter, and Democratic candidate for New Jersey Governor. On Monday of last week, April 24th, 2017, Brennan was found to have no standing in his criminal complaint against David Samson, former chairman of the joint New York-New Jersey Port Authority.
While chairman, Samson extorted United Airlines into creating a custom bi-weekly flight that landed near his vacation home in South Carolina. The flight was provided in exchange for Samson’s approval to construct a new hangar at Newark International Airport, something that had the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars. As a consequence, Samson’s law license was suspended and he was sentenced in March of 2017 to a year of house arrest in his South Carolina vacation home. Brennan called the sentence “no justice” and compared it to the up to eighteen months of jail time (on top of a $15,000 fine) for someone caught with three ounces of marijuana.
The final day of the original determination, April 24th
On the final day of the original determination, Brennan forcefully argued his case. He stated that, regardless of the specific crimes underlying it, all citizens under an official’s jurisdiction are equally injured by an official’s misconduct. (In the case of the Port Authority, this is the entire state of New Jersey.):
I am personally aggrieved by what Mr. Samson did. I am personally offended by it. I have a deep and abiding belief in the rule of law…. I want my kids to grow up in a country where the fact that their dad’s not rich doesn’t put them behind the eight-ball; behind Samson’s kids and grandchildren, who can do whatever they want and never see a day in jail.
That would be like: I walk by and I saw a rape going on, and I chose to do nothing because I have no “standing” to help the rape victim. Guess what? I stand up. Some people in this world are not stand-up guys. Some people in this world don’t get involved. I choose to get involved. That used to be an admirable quality in America.
Slowly clenching his fist, Brennan continued, “We are losing our freedoms in this country,” then, bringing his fist to his chest, “and this is near and dear to me.” He concluded:
We are losing faith in the fair and impartial administration of justice. This would be the first time in the history of the state of New Jersey that standing was used to preclude a valid complaint.
Brennan asserted that neither the official misconduct statute nor the citizen complaint rule (below) provide any limitations on standing or “proximity” to the crime. He also said that the only three conditions of the citizen complaint rule (statute of limitations, territorial jurisdiction, and evidentiary requirements) were clearly met. In spite of this reasoning, the presiding judge, the Honorable Marvin Adames of the Newark Municipal Court, found that Brennan was too far removed from the crime to be sufficiently injured by it. He therefore determined that there was no probable cause.
Brennan re-files and is again denied standing
Late on the night of Friday, April 28, Brennan recalled having purchased a $5,000 bond from the Port Authority in April of 2014: “In the middle of the night, I sat bolt-upright at about 3 o’clock in the morning and I realized, ‘Wait a minute!’…””
On Monday afternoon, May 1st, Brennan filed his criminal complaint once again, providing proof of ownership of the bond. Referring to an analogy used by Judge Adames, Brennan said, “As a bondholder of that ice cream stand called the [Port Authority], I have standing to assert that [David] Samson damaged my company.” Brennan said that, as a bondholder, he also has the right to file a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Almost breaking out into a smile, Brennan concluded, “I am, as a matter of law, undeniably affected by this crime.”
In both this and the previous determination, the discussion centered around the citizen complaint rule (see page four):
7:2-2. Issuance of Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or Summons
(a) Authorization for Process
(1) Citizen Complaint. A Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or a summons charging any offense made by a private citizen may be issued only by a judge or, if authorized by the judge, by a municipal court administrator or deputy court administrator of a court with jurisdiction in the municipality where the offense is alleged to have been committed within the statutory time limitation. The complaint-warrant (CDR-2) or summons may be issued only if it appears to the judicial officer from the complaint, affidavit, certification or testimony that there is probable cause to believe that an offense was committed, the defendant committed it, and a Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or summons can be issued. The judicial officer’s finding of probable cause shall be noted on the face of the summons or warrant and shall be confirmed by the judicial officer’s signature issuing the Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or summons. If, however, the municipal court administrator or deputy court administrator finds that no probable cause exists to issue a Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or summons, or that the applicable statutory time limitation to issue the Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or summons has expired, that finding shall be reviewed by the judge. A judge finding no probable cause to believe that an offense occurred or that the statutory time limitation to issue a Complaint-Warrant (CDR-2) or summons has expired shall dismiss the complaint.
Brennan argued the rule clearly has no provision related to standing. The judge responded by stating there is “a rule at the beginning of the rules that says that these rules going forward can be relaxed.”:
1:1-2. Construction and Relaxation…
(a) The rules in Part I through Part VIII, inclusive, shall be construed to secure a just determination, simplicity in procedure, fairness in administration and the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay. Unless otherwise stated, any rule may be relaxed or dispensed with by the court in which the action is pending if adherence to it would result in an injustice. In the absence of rule, the court may proceed in any manner compatible with these purposes and, in civil cases, consistent with the case management/trial management guidelines set forth in Appendix XX of these rules.
The judge stated that this “super-rule” provides discretion to consider Brennan’s standing. In the original hearing, Adames said that “other judges may not read this into the rule, but I do.” Brennan argued that “relaxing a rule” does not allow for the creation of a new criteria; its purpose is to make the rule less restrictive, therefore making it easier for a complaint to be filed.
Sensing that the judge was leaning towards once again deciding no probable cause, Brennan grew heated.
How are you saying that justice is being served by letting this man go free?
Adames: He didn’t go free…. You told me [in the first hearing], if he had gotten jail time or prison time, on the federal side* [that you would have been satisfied that justice was served]. He’s already been prosecuted. We can agree upon this. He has been prosecuted, but not to your liking.
(*Samson pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court for bribery and extortion. Brennan’s complaint was for a state charge of official misconduct, which carries a mandatory minimum five year jail sentence.)
I am a citizen of the state of New Jersey…. I have a civic duty to report crimes and see that prosecuted. If the prosecutor decides that it’s not in the interest of justice, he will make a motion to that effect…. It is not for you to decide that he shouldn’t be prosecuted. It is for you to decide whether probable cause exists. Not read into the statute something that you don’t like about me.
Adames: Are you telling me that I’m a robot or that I have discretion?
Brennan: You have absolutely no discretion where the elements are met…. This is not justice your honor. This is a rich and powerful white guy getting over on the system, and I’m not having it. So if you want to go along with it, that’s on you….
You told me I needed to [firmer] connection. Okay. [He holds up his bond.] I’m Johnny on the Spot with a firmer connection. I’m a bond holder in the ice cream stand that you brought up. But now you’re going to try and do something different and it’s entirely inappropriate. I don’t know what the motive is, but it’s certainly not in the interest of justice….
Adames: I have no particular motive except to protect the process…. I will suffer the consequences of any decision I make that I believe is appropriate and right.
Adames once again ruled that Brennan had no standing. An additional reason the judge gave for his decision was that the crime occurred three years before the bond was purchased.
Down but not out
Outside the courtroom, Brennan said:
This is Jersey Justice…. This judge isn’t fit to preside over the food court at your local mall, let alone make decisions of this magnitude. In my view, somebody got to him. He took a pay off, he’s been given a job, or some other fashion. In my opinion, this is not a decision based on the law…this is based upon Jersey corruption, pure and simple….
There are people in jail today for having crack cocaine in their possession in the 1980s…. [That person] hurt himself. [David Samson] hurt millions.
Brennan committed to filing a complaint with the Advisory Committee of Judicial Conduct and an action in lieu of prerogative writ. The latter will force probable cause to be determined exclusively on the case’s merits—automatically granting Brennan standing.
By: Jeff Epstein
Edited by: Ben Szioli