Hoboken Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante went into great detail when explaining the effort that has gone into the “terrorism” flyer investigation, noting that even the FBI and U.S. Secret Service have been involved with the probe.
“Free speech advocates were saying this is just free speech. And in the 1st Amendment there are nine exceptions for protections and one was insightful language: anything that could insight a mass of people who act a certain way, react a certain way, that group then is probably not protected by the 1st Amendment,” Ferrante said at last night’s council meeting.
He added that the county prosecutor’s office, state attorney general’s office and the FBI special agent in charge were all in agreement that the flyer violated criminal statutes.
On November 3, four days before the Hoboken municipal elections, a racist flyer that said “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town!” over a photo of now Mayor Ravi Bhalla with a paid for line from 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco’s campaign.
All four major candidates in the mayoral contest, Bhalla, DeFusco, Council President Jen Giattino and Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5), denounced the flyer, though no one took any responsibility for the campaign literature either.
Ferrante, who spoke as the council’s last order of business at the request of President Ruben Ramos, continued that he put four officers on every shift from Saturday, November 4 until the evening of Tuesday, November 7 – Election Day – to monitor anyone placing campaign literature on car windshields or telephone polls due to a city ordinance prohibiting those actions.
The Mile Square City’s top cop further stated that any notion he released videos of potential suspects to the media to aid Bhalla’s campaign were “100 percent false and 100 percent insulting.”
“For those who suggested I put videos out to help the sympathizers of Ravi Bhalla, again, 100 percent false and 100 percent insulting,” who added that now former Mayor Dawn Zimmer never complained about or tried to influence a police directive since he became chief.
Arguably the most intrigue came when Ferrante revealed some particulars about who had been interviewed and what other law enforcement agencies had been involved.
“Although I believe every mayoral candidate, except one, has been interviewed, we have one person still coming in. Every campaign manager except two have been interviewed, there were bloggers who were interviewed, we have interviewed several dozen people,” Ferrante explained.
“We had followed all leads that were gathered about, who people thought those individuals were. Those individuals who were ID’ed by many people … our detectives chased every lead, which was described to me by the FBI.”
Ferrante added that all the people that were named have been vetted and almost all of them have been interviewed, with alerts being issued to every law enforcement agency in the tri-state area.
“It’s amazing that nobody knows, nobody wants to say, they know these people,” Ferrante stated, later making it clear that none of the six mayoral campaigns have officially been cleared of wrongdoing yet.
He also said that the Hoboken Police Department is continuing to operate under the assumption that the people who distributed the flyers were hired from out of town.
At the tail end of his speech, which lasted almost 20 minutes, Ferrante again emphasized how much time and effort the HPD was putting into this matter.
“We are set to have a conference call with the prosecutor this week. We have worked with FBI, we have worked with Secret Service, who actually did forensic analysis of flyers that were taken off cars,” the police chief revealed.
After the election, DeFusco’s sister started a GoFundMe page to issue a reward for anyone with information about who handed out the flyers.
About two-and-a-half weeks later, the DeFusco campaign forwarded five identities to the HPD, but the department is yet to make any arrests in the case.
DeFusco lost to Bhalla by about 500 votes and many of his supporters have blamed the “terrorism” flyer for the reason he came up short.