UNION CITY AND WEST NEW YORK – Bergen County got a taste of North Hudson politics Thursday morning when both Union City Mayor and State Senator Brian Stack and West New York Mayor Felix Roque appeared consecutively in Superior Court to answer to separate charges.
The simple assault charge filed against Stack by Ray Mitchell of Secaucus, who in December accused the mayor of choking him at a holiday party in Scheutzen Park in North Bergen, was dropped by Mitchell with prejudice within minutes. Presiding Judge Warren McGeady reminded Mitchell that if he dismissed the charge now, it could not be re-filed.
Stack has maintained since the incident that he never put his hands on Mitchell, and accused rival senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco of orchestrating the event to discredit Stack. Sacco has denied Stack's accusation.
Stack’s lawyer, Dennis McAlevy, stated for the record that he was of the opinion that the charge was outlandish and politically motivated.
“It was a frivolous and false accusation that was made by the complainant,” McAlevy said after the proceedings. “There’s no question at all in my mind that he was acting on behalf of the political people that are objecting to Mayor Stack, and it’s just one of their underhanded tricks that has now backfired on them.”
Afterwards outside the courthouse, Mitchell said that he just wanted to put the incident behind him.
“Sometimes you have to forgive and forget,” he said.
Stack and Sacco themselves appear to be in a temporary truce as far as the Hudson County Democratic party is concerned. They are both running for state Senate in their respective districts in the Democratic primary in June.
As for West New York, it seems that Mayor Felix Roque and his rival Commissioner Count Wiley will ignore Mitchell’s example, as McGeady set a May 23 court appearance for a trial on the assault charge brought against Wiley by the mayor two months ago, as well as harassment charges filed by Wiley against Roque and against his aide, Richard Rivera, as a result of the same incident.
The incident which sparked all three charges took place at a recent Board of Commissioners meeting when Wiley allegedly bumped into Roque, who, with Rivera, allegedly responded with harsh remarks. Wiley’s assault charge carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail, while the harassment charges filed against all three men could result in a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
McGeady advised all three men to have their lawyers file special applications due to the fact that each complainant was also a defendant, in an effort to avoid any confusion at trial during cross-examinations. Wiley said that he would testify on his own behalf and present videotape as evidence, while Roque said he would call two witnesses and Rivera would call five. – Dean DeChiaro