Ex-Paterson Mayor Gets Five Years in Prison for Misconduct

Paterson mayor
Former Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres during his sentencing hearing on Tuesday in Jersey City, N.J. (Tariq Zehawi/The Record via AP, Pool)

A tearful former mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, apologized Tuesday before a judge sentenced him to five years in prison for directing city employees to do work at a warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew.

As part of a plea deal, the judge also ordered former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres to forfeit future public employment and pay the city $10,000. Torres pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit official misconduct.

“I wholly regret,” Torres said before he paused to compose himself, “my lack of judgment or judgment that led me to these charges. I’m sorry.”

He said he was remorseful and embarrassed.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Torres said, sobbing. “That’s it, your honor.”

The Democrat blew kisses to his family as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Torres served five terms on Paterson’s city council before he was elected mayor in 2002 over incumbent Martin Barnes. Barnes, a Republican, pleaded guilty and went to prison in 2002 for charges stemming from a kickback scheme.

Torres came into office vowing reforms for Paterson. He lost to Jeffery Jones in 2010, but was re-elected in 2014.

Torres and three city public works officials were charged with conspiring to have city employees work overtime at a warehouse leased by the mayor’s family. The work included renovation, painting, carpentry and electrical work between July 2014 and April 2015, officials said. But the attorney general’s office last spring offered co-defendants plea bargains, allowing them to avoid jail time if they testified against the mayor.

Torres’ daughter and nephew intended to use the warehouse as a wholesale liquor distribution facility, but they terminated the lease after failing to obtain the necessary permits and license from the state.

“Joey Torres corruptly used his vast power as mayor of New Jersey’s third-largest city to serve his own selfish ends, when he should have been serving the residents of Paterson,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino. “This prison sentence demonstrates that nobody is above the law, least of all public officials who brazenly abuse the authority entrusted to them.”

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