Jersey City Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise received a one-year driver’s license suspension and a $5,000 fine after pleading guilty this afternoon to leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury related to a July 19th hit-and-run.
The matter was heard before Essex Municipal Court Presiding Judge Chandra R. Cole in the Essex Vicinage Special Remand Court. The case was transferred outside of Hudson County since Amy’s father, Tom DeGise, is the county executive.
The government recommended a 1-year suspension and $5,000 fine for DeGise pleading guilty to the leaving the scene charge, which would get the failure to report charge dismissed.
Brian Neary, counsel for DeGise in the matter, asked his client a series of yes and no questions so she could acknowledge that she hit bicyclist Andrew Black at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Forrest Avenue at 8:01 a.m. on July 19th after he ran a red light.
She also acknowledged that she reported the incident at a Jersey City police station about six hours later.
Prior to sentencing, Neary argued that while DeGise’s driving record is extensive, he pointed out that the vast majority were unpaid parking tickets and that she had no moving violations.
While the license suspension was not negotiable, he argued that DeGise should face a lesser fine – $2,500 – as opposed to the maximum one – $5,000.
“There are no hardship licenses in the State of New Jersey for this particular offense, so she bears that … in the municipal court system, this is the highest fine that there is,” Neary noted.
“And is should be right?” Cole asked.
“Well judge, I will concede it to be so, although, if you take drunk driving, drunk drivings are not as high as that. Okay, nowhere near that, even a third offense in New Jersey is nowhere near that,” he said, pleading his case that $2,500 was punishment enough along with the license suspension.
Cole ultimately disagreed, issuing the maximum fine of $5,000 along with the one-year driver’s license suspension. While the statute also allowed for the possibility of 180 days of incarceration, the government did not argue for any jail time.
Afterwards, DeGise left with her father and fiancee without taking questions, though Neary addressed the media for few minutes outside the courthouse.
Of note, he said that Andrew Black, who was working for Uber Eats when he was struck by DeGise’s vehicle, had filed a notice of claim to the City of Jersey City and it was therefore possible civil litigation was coming.
He also indicated that this traffic case heard today had civil resignation, which means that whatever was said in court today could not be used as evidence in any civil cases.
In a lengthy statement issued by spokesman Phil Swibinski, DeGise said she will regret this incident forever and apologized to Black for the first time.
“Now that this legal matter has been resolved and I am no longer required to maintain my silence, I want to speak directly to the people of the community I have always called home and that I love with all my heart, Jersey City. Seven months ago I made a mistake that I will regret for the rest of my life,” she said in the prepared remarks.
“I want to offer my heartfelt apology to Andrew Black and I am thankful that he was not hurt. I also want to apologize to the people of Jersey City for not only my actions, but for the negative attention they brought to our wonderful community. As someone who grew up here and has seen how much Jersey City has grown and progressed, the last thing I would ever want to do is damage our city’s reputation and und undermine the work that is happening every day in local government to make it an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”
At the first Jersey City Council meeting after the incident occurred, DeGise said she received death threats and said this was likely the most difficult experience of her life. She also said that she would not be resigning, a sentiment she reiterated today.
“I will continue to do whatever I can to help my community as an elected member of the City Council, and I will be serving the remainder of my term,” she said.
Kevin Bing, a former Ward C council candidate and activist who attended the hearing, said that while he appreciated that DeGise admitted guilt, he said she still needed to step back to put this matter behind her and asked Mayor Steven Fulop to call for her to do so.
Bing was non-committal when asked about the possibility of a recall, which would require 42,523 signatures, but reiterated that he believed most residents would not stand for this as the final outcome in the matter.
Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon, who was the first elected to ask for DeGise to be resigned or recalled, said he stood by his words from July and said he’d leave future actions to Black and Jersey City residents.
“Today’s accountability and apology from Councilmember Amy DeGise were much needed and six-months delayed. I was the first Councilmember to call for Councilmember DeGise’s resignation, and I stand by that call,” he said in his own statement.
“I defer to Andrew Black, the victim of her hit-and-run, in terms of whether or not justice has fully been served–and I defer to the residents of Jersey City on whether her apology is sufficient.”
The hit-and-run incident was captured on video by CCTV and led to the story making international news, with her driving record, residency, and an incident in Hoboken where she tried to get out of having her car towed all examined by the NJ press corps.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon.