2016 Feuds of the Year – Number 5: The state of NJ vs. Felix Roque

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West New York Mayor Felix Roque retained his perfect record against the government when he was acquitted of commercial bribery a few days before Christmas. Felix Roque

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

As the anti-establishment folks were still reeling from Team Roque handily defeating Count Wiley’s West New York United slate in May 2015, they assumed their prayers had been answered when the mayor was indicted less than a month later.

The state attorney general’s office alleged that between 2007 and 2012, Roque participated in a $250,000 kickback and bribery scheme where he referred patients needing MRI and CT scans to medical diagnostic imaging centers controlled by Rehan Zuberi in exchange for cash and election campaign contributions.

Roque was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in 2012 for allegedly playing a role in hacking Recallroque.com, but was acquitted at trial in October 2013.

While detractors said Roque threw his son Joseph under the bus (he testified he hacked the website by himself), they figured the pain management specialist would have to face the music this time since he was going to be on trial all by his lonesome.

Just 17 months later, actually somewhat quick by New Jersey standards, Roque ended up in a Hackensack courtroom, again confident he would be set free by a jury of his peers.

After six full days of testimony, politicos were flummoxed by how weak the government’s case was: nearly every witness was a cooperating witness or had a rap sheet (limited credibility) and there was no hard audio or video evidence of Roque accepting bribes.

The only intriguing piece of evidence introduced by the state was when lead case investigator Anthony Correll said that Roque detailed how Roque made nearly $150,000 in cash deposits during a 34-month period.

However, when Roque took the stand, he countered by stating that he accepted rent payments in cash from tenants without checking accounts, as well as accepting cash co-pays from patients who did not have medical insurance.

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The few hardcore anti-administration types that had been rooting against Roque day in and day out since he was re-elected were beside themselves as they could see the forest through the trees.

It took the jury less than a full day of deliberations to acquit Roque, ensuring that Christmas would come early for his family and political supporters – while his critics were rewarded with nothing more than a colossal lump of coal.

There are many conflicting theories of where the case took a turn for the worse, with some sources claiming that critical evidence in the case such as GPS and medical records being tossed out by the judge “for no reason.”

Sources close to Roque scoffed at the notion, claiming that any evidence was rejected because it was introduced in the 11th hour, months after it should have been.

Whatever the case may be, from my vantage point, it seemed pretty apparent that Roque was going to walk away unscathed after Bergen County Superior Court Judge Christopher Kazlau dismissed two of the three counts against Roque.

Roque is now poised to coast into the 2019 re-election season with very few speed bumps ahead, with no legitimate competition anywhere in sight, though whether or not he decides to vie for a third term is still a long ways off.

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