HOBOKEN -- Testimony continued Monday in a personnel case involving the 2011 termination of Jonathan Cummins, the former assistant to the head of information technology in Hoboken City Hall.
The testimony, while related to a single personnel matter, is significant because it sheds light on an ongoing FBI investigation into the alleged theft of thousands of e-mails in City Hall last year.
In 2011, the FBI arrested Hoboken's information technology director, Patrick Ricciardi, and charged him with allegedly intercepting e-mails for and from Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her aides. According to the 2011 complaint, Ricciardi allegedly forwarded the e-mails to a present and former city official, although the FBI failed to name them at the time. Rumors have said that the information in the e-mails could have been used for politics or in union negotiations.
According to the 2011 FBI complaint, Ricciardi's former assistant, Jonathan Cummins, allegedly confessed to involvement to city officials, but later said he was not involved. Ricciardi told the FBI that Cummins only confessed due to his friendship with Ricciardi, according to the complaint.
Cummins was fired in 2011, but is now fighting the termination.
In court in Newark this afternoon, former city attorney Mark Tabakin testified in the proceedings.
Tabakin's testimony focused on the alleged admission from Cummins in May of 2011 and the later reports that the admission was only a false confession.
On Monday, Tabakin alleged that Cummins voluntarily confessed to having been involved in the e-mail interception scheme over the period of six months to a year. Tabakin said that the alleged confession followed simple generic questioning from Tabakin and former Hoboken Business Administrator Arch Liston last May when they found “what looked like thousands of emails [to the mayor and other city officials] captured and saved on a little drive.” However -- he noted -- the Nov. 7 FBI complaint said that Ricciardi said that Cummins did not do it.
“One of them is lying,” Tabakin said Monday. “There is a lie going on here and it’s not small.”
Tabakin also disputed reports that Cummins was only involved with the initial setup of related email accounts.
“He didn’t say any of that,” Tabakin said. “We didn’t get into passwords or codes. He [allegedly] admitted what he admitted out of the clear blue.”
He added, "Either he told us the truth back in May and is lying now, or he lied to us then.”
The FBI became aware of the email situation after Zimmer’s administration became suspicious of information that was apparently leaked to others. City Hall then conducted an internal security audit in early 2011, which revealed the suspicious files in Riccardi’s computer, according to the FBI complaint.
City Hall notified the FBI of the situation, which led to their 2011 investigation and arrest of Ricciardi.
Ricciardi was charged with accessing a computer without authorization, interception of wire and electronic communication, and disclosure of intercepted wire and electronic communications. In November, he appeared in federal court in Newark to hear his charges. He faces a potential maximum jail sentence of five years for each count if convicted, and did not enter a plea.
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