UNION CITY -- A Secaucus resident has accused Union City Mayor and State Sen. Brian Stack of assaulting him at Stack's annual holiday party on Dec. 14.
Ray Mitchell, 33, filed a simple assault charge this week against Stack. However, Stack vehemently denied that any incident occurred.
Mitchell alleges that upon entering Scheutzen Park in North Bergen, where the party was being held, Stack approached him, asked him why Mitchell had not greeted him, and then began to choke him, according to a police report.
Police who responded to the scene initially reported seeing no apparent injuries on Mitchell’s person, although a second report filed by another officer indicated that Mitchell had red marks on the sides and rear of his neck.
According to a third police report, video footage from Scheutzen Park’s security system showed no altercation taking place from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., when it was supposed to have occurred, and no footage showed Stack in the vicinity of where it was alleged to have taken place.
In a phone interview following the party, Stack accused North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco of sending the man to the party in an attempt to discredit Stack. Accusations between Stack and Sacco, who preside over warring factions of the Democratic Party in Hudson County, have flown for some time.
“This is Nick Sacco and his cronies," Stack said at the time. "There were 2,000 people from all around Hudson County having a great time at that party."
“The allegations are ridiculous,” said Mark Albiez, Stack’s aide, this week. “It’s clear they’re politically motivated.”
Mitchell said that he has no political agenda in a phone interview on Wednesday, despite his interest in local politics and regular attendance of public meetings.
“It shouldn’t matter that [Stack] is a mayor and a state senator, a man shouldn’t be able to [allegedly] choke another man and get away with it,” he said. “I’m just fighting for my rights.”
Mitchell said that he had wanted to file an aggravated assault charge, but worked out the implications of that before settling on simple assault.
On Thursday, Paul Swibinsky, a spokesman for Sacco, denied any involvement in the alleged incident.
“Nicholas Sacco has never heard of Ray Mitchell, and is not connected at all to this terrible incident,” he said in a phone interview.
Emilio Lopez, a witness named in the police report, complained to Stack about the alleged incident publicly at a Board of Commissioners meeting on Dec. 20, but the mayor again denied that any incident took place.
At another commissioners meeting this week, on Wednesday evening, Stack stood firm against critics from the Union City Concerned Citizens Group who questioned whether any pending legal fees would be paid with residents’ tax dollars.
“Absolutely not,” said Stack. “This matter has nothing to do with Union City.”
After absorbing further criticism, Stack said he would not answer any more questions about the alleged incident.
“I would be remiss in discussing it out of court,” he said.
A hearing has been set for Jan. 7. Albiez would not say whether Stack would appear in court. – Dean DeChiaro