Former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, accused of taking cash bribes in 2018 during the Bayonne mayoral contest, turned down a plea offer from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office which would’ve come with a recommendation of five years in state prison.
In exchange for a guilty plea, “the State would recommend a sentence of five years in state prison,” according to a spokesman for the AG’s Office.
O’Donnell would also have had to forfeit the monies he received in the alleged bribes and pay anti-corruption penalties, as well as forfeiting any public office and would be permanently barred from public office or employment in New Jersey.
But O’Donnell, 47, and his attorney, Leo Hurley, shot down the state’s offer. Hurley declined comment this afternoon.
The former Bayonne mayoral candidate was charged with accepting a $10,000 cash bribe during his unsuccessful bid in 2018, which he failed to file with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), authorities allege.
He was one of five New Jersey public officials who were accused of taking cash bribes either during their terms in office, or while they were vying for office.
The five defendants include Oâ€™Donnell, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, ex-Mt. Arlington Councilman John Windish, and Mary Dougherty, a former Morris County freeholder candidate, and then-Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas.
Thomas was charged with accepting $35,000 in cash bribes, $10,000 delivered on one date and $25,000 delivered a second date, authorities said, for a potential council run in 2021.
The AG’s office said the three defendants from Morris County were also offered plea deals and they declined. Thomas is the only defendant charged that has not had a plea offer extended.
As of this writing, no indictments have been returned in any of the aforementioned cases.
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_