What is wrong with Trenton?

In the chilly late night hours of Christmas 1776, General George Washington crossed the Delaware River to liberate Trenton from Hessians forces serving the British. It was a remarkable display of leadership that Trenton has not witnessed since.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a 31-page criminal complaint charging Tony Mack, Mayor of Trenton, in connection with an alleged bribery scheme worth around $119,000, relating to the sale of city-owned land to private investors….

Mayor Mack is joined in the complaint by his brother, Ralphiel Mack, the head football coach at Trenton Central High School (the “Fightin’ Kickbacks”) — right about now, losing the first game 34-16 seems the least of his worries — and sandwich shop owner Joseph Giorgianni.

The FBI arrested all three, though both Mack brothers are free on $150,000 bail.

The aliases listed in the complaint are amazing. Mayor Mack is identified alternatively as “Honey Fitz,” “the Little Guy,” and “Napoleon.” I’m guessing the Mayor is not particularly tall.

In the complaint, Mack is alleged to have introduced another possible alias by stating, “I like to do it like the Boss Tweed way. You know Boss Tweed ran Tammany Hall?” I’m entirely confused as to why a self-respecting New Jersey official would name check Boss Tweed, when Nucky Thompson is right there for the picking. In fact, many of the bribes alleged in the complaint were made in Atlantic City and yet Nucky gets overlooked. Weak.

Meanwhile, Joseph Giorgianni is identified as “JoJo,” “Mr. Baker,” and “the Fat Man.” If you’re wondering how a sandwich shop got involved in a wide-ranging public corruption scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office also filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Giorgianni ran a drug distribution ring out of his sandwich shop. So he’s an enterprising fellow. He’s also a convicted felon who went to prison in the 1980s for “carnally abusing and debauching the morals” of a 14-year-old girl in the back of the sandwich shop he owns in Trenton. He was released early from prison because of health problems related to his weighing more than 500 pounds, which explains his primary alias.

Mayor Tony F. Mack

According to the complaint, Joe Giorgianni — who is white — would use the code “Uncle Remus” when informing Mayor Mack — who is black — of a received payment. Well Zip-a-Dee Doo Dah! Why even use “Uncle Remus” as a code word? The purpose of a code word is to prevent investigators from figuring out that something is amiss. Saying “Uncle Remus” over and over, on the other hand, is highly suspicious. Unless you’re just in the practice of hurling around references to paleo-racist stereotypes.

What is wrong with Trenton? Obviously this is where someone points out that it’s in New Jersey and we all have a good laugh. But seriously, the scheme alleged in the complaint is laughably concealed. Anyone with a modicum of sense would realize that investigators could see through it. And given the prevailing legal atmosphere in New Jersey, where U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman already busted the Mayor of Hoboken a mere 22 days into his term, there was a high risk that the FBI was monitoring officials in the state for possible corruption.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mack would not face trial until next year. Therefore, Mayor Mack remains in charge in Trenton for the time being, but if there ever comes a time when he must step aside, capable Deputy Mayor Paul Sigmund IV will have to lead the great city. Wait? The Deputy Mayor isn’t available? Oh, in May Paul Sigmund IV was arrested and charged with heroin possession and assaulting a police officer.

What is wrong with Trenton?


Joe Patrice is the author of Recess Appointment, a blog about political rhetoric, and he’ll be dropping in occasionally to write about the intersection of law and politics. To answer the question that you’re probably about to ask, he got his J.D. at NYU and spent ten years working at a Biglaw firm and a white-collar defense boutique. His favorite word is sesquipedalian.


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