7/15/2008New Jersey: Grand Jury Indicts Judge for Ticket Fixing
Grand jury finds Jersey City, New Jersey judge and court administrator should be tried over alleged ticket fixing scandal.
A New Jersey grand jury yesterday handed down indictments against two former Jersey City Municipal Court officials caught in an alleged ticket fixing scandal. Chief Judge Wanda Molina, 48, and Court Administrator Virginia Pagan, 53, had each been charged last year with dismissing a combined total of 223 parking tickets either they or their relatives and friends had received. The pair were forced to resign their positions in September.
"When court officials engage in ticket fixing, it shakes the faith of average citizens who pay up when they get a ticket," New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement. "Today's indictments send a message that these defendants are not above the law and there is indeed one system of justice to which all must answer."
Molina was charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct for actions she took between September 2006 and August 2007. According to the indictment, Molina dismissed eight parking tickets for a female companion with whom she had a "close personal relationship." Molina dismissed three of these tickets by writing "emergency" on the notice as if the recipient had presented a valid excuse. Conflict of interest rules prohibit judges from ever hearing a case in which they might have a personal or financial stake in the outcome.
As Jersey City's court administrator, Pagan's job included entering the disposition of cases into the court's official database. Pagan is accused of taking advantage of this access to dismiss 215 tickets, worth about $5000, that had been issued to her and her daughter. The indictment charged Pagan with second-degree official misconduct, third-degree pattern of official misconduct, third-degree tampering with public records or information, and fourth-degree falsifying records.
Molina and Pagan each face a sentence of up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. A new mandatory minimum sentencing law means they will spend at least five years behind bars if convicted. Additional indictments are expected as nearly half of the city's judges were accused in October of similar conduct.
"Fortunately, a tip put an end to their alleged abuses," New Jersey Criminal Justice Director Deborah Gramiccioni said. "We encourage anyone who suspects public corruption to report it to us."
View Pagan indictment (180k PDF). View Molina indictment (265k PDF)