New Jersey

Norcross, others charged in New Jersey racketeering case, plead not guilty

New Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross, and others, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that claim they used coercion and extortion to control and craft legislation for a criminal enterprise

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All of the defendants in a racketeering case brought forward by New Jersey’s Attorney General Matt Platkin last month brought against New Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross, his brother Phillip Norcross and others, pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday.

During the morning hearing, before Judge Peter Warshaw, Norcross and all those he's charged with entered not guilty pleas to the racketeering case.

There are six defendants in this case which, law enforcement officials said, follows a years-long investigation:

In this case, Platkin said six people were charged with racketeering:

  • George E. Norcross, III, 68, of Palm Beach, Florida, the executive chairman of the insurance firm Conner, Strong & Buckelew and chairman of the board of trustees for Cooper Health.
  • Philip A. Norcross, 61, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an attorney and the managing shareholder and CEO of Parker McCay, a New Jersey law firm. He also serves on the board of Cooper Health and is the registered agent for the groups that own buildings in Camden that are the subject of the criminal allegations.
  • William M. Tambussi, 66, of Brigantine, New Jersey, an attorney and partner at the law firm of Brown and Connery. He is the long-time personal attorney to George Norcross, Platkin said. In a statement, Platkin's office noted that, from 1989 to present he also served as counsel to the Camden County Democratic Committee – which George Norcross chaired from 1989 to 1995.
  • Dana L. Redd, 56, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, the CEO of Camden Community Partnership, which was formerly Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. Platkin's office said that she previously served as a member of the Camden City Council, the New Jersey Senate, and from 2010 to 2018 was the Mayor of Camden, and she is alleged to have abused that position to benefit herself and the Norcross Enterprise.
  • Sidney R. Brown, 67, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the CEO of NFI, a trucking and logistics company. He also serves as a member of the board at Cooper Health, and, Platikin's office said he is a partner in the groups that own several of the Camden buildings at the center of the allegations.
  • John J. O’Donnell, 61, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, has been in the executive leadership of The Michaels Organization, a residential development company, in a variety of roles including COO, President, and CEO. Platkin's office also said he's a partner in the groups that own several of the Camden buildings at the center of the allegations. He has also served on the Board of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership at various times since 2018.

Attorneys for Brown were not in the courtroom on Tuesday, though the judge said all defendants entered not guilty pleas. A hearing for Brown has been scheduled for August.

The defendants in this case have been charged in a sweeping criminal conspiracy that Platkin alleged through a 111-page indictment.

In announcing that indictment, Platkin said that those believed to be involved in the alleged scheme used power over government officials in order to craft legislation that would aid the Norcross enterprise in obtaining property and property rights along the Camden waterfront "through coercion, extortion, and other criminal acts."

Platkin said that the state laid out the reasons for the charges alleging that Norcross and others got property rights along the Camden waterfront and collected millions of dollars in state-backed tax credits.

Statements from the defense

In submitting pleas on Tuesday, Michael Critchley, an attorney for George Norcross, shared a statement saying his client "has done nothing wrong."

"Today, George Norcross entered "not guilty" pleas to the charges that have been filed against him by the New Jersey Attorney General's office. He did so because he has done nothing wrong and, as will be shown, everything he and his co-defendants did was for the benefit of the city of Camden and Cooper University Health Care. For more than 50 years, beginning with their father, the Norcross family has been dedicated to Camden and Cooper," read the statement. "Anyone reviewing the indictment will see these are charges in search of a crime. There will be much more to say in the future, but for now, suffice to say that the facts of what actually occurred and why these charges were brought will come out. When they do, we expect a full exoneration."

Phillip Norcross' lawyer, Kevin Marino, also shared a statement on his client's behalf, arguing that his client is being used in a political plot against his brother.

"Phil Norcross is a diligent, ethical lawyer who has worked tirelessly to help make Cooper University Hospital the extraordinary medical center it is today and to facilitate Camden’s transformation from America’s most dangerous city to a renaissance metropolis. Yet he now stands accused of 'racketeering' for engaging in the perfectly appropriate practice of law, a fact that should trouble every lawyer in this state, read a statement from Marino. "As the allegations against him make clear, Phil Norcross is merely a pawn in the misguided political prosecution of his brother. He will not rest until these false charges are defeated and his good name restored."

For former Camden, NJ mayor Dana Redd, the offices of Klingeman Cerimele, Attorneys, shared a statement that said Redd looks forward to fighting the charges in court.

“Dana Redd will be arraigned today and will plead not guilty because she’s done nothing wrong," the statement read. "What she has done is serve the Camden community in public and not-for-profit roles for more than three decades. She has cooperated fully with the grand jury investigation for over a year and is unaware of evidence of wrongdoing by her or others. She looks forward to fighting these false allegations in the courtroom before a judge and jury, so she can reclaim her good name that has now been tarnished by the Attorney General’s unjust and unjustified action.”

And, in a final statement, Jeffrey Chiesa, attorney for William M. Tambussi, said the case against his client should be dropped altogether as, Chiesa claims Tambussi committed no crimes.

"Bill Tambussi is among the most respected and prominent lawyers in the State and a recognized leader of the New Jersey Bar. The Attorney General indicted him for zealously representing his clients; there is no allegation in the indictment that Mr. Tambussi did anything other than effectively represent his clients, as he was obligated to do," the statement reads. "That is not a crime. It is unfortunate that the Attorney General brought this case, and even more unfortunate that Mr. Tambussi first learned he was a target of the investigation just hours before the Attorney General’s press conference. The indictment does not charge a crime, and it should be dismissed."

'A massive undertaking'

During the morning hearing, attorneys for both sides agreed to an interim protective order for documents that prosecutors have in this case -- prosecutors told Judge Warshaw that they had 13,000 pages and 2.5 million documents and audio files to introduce as part of this case -- in order to get this information into the defense attorneys hands to help move the case forward.

"My goal is to get discovery into defendants hands so they start to do the work that they have to do. This is a massive undertaking," Warshaw said.

Also, along with this information, attorneys for the prosecution said they plan to provide additional evidence into the case later in the month. They are just waiting on obtaining information from the U.S. Department of Justice for that information.

The judge permitted a protective order that would last through Sept. 9.

Before the end of the morning's hearing, attorneys for the defendants in this case suggested they may introduce motions to dismiss the charges.

Defendants are next expected to appear in court on Sept. 10.

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