Former Bayonne mayoral candidate rejected plea deal in alleged bribery case

Jason O'Donnell would have been barred from public office per the agreement

O'Donnell allegedly took a bribe during his campaign for Bayonne Mayor.
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O'Donnell allegedly took a bribe during his campaign for Bayonne Mayor.

The case against former state Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell regarding his involvement in an alleged bribery scheme has moved forward in Superior Court.

O’Donnell was previously the representative in the State Assembly for the 31st Legislative District, which encompasses Bayonne and parts of Jersey City.

In March, O’Donnell was in court again. Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale held a pre-indictment conference in court in Hudson County on March 3, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) told the Bayonne Community News.

O’Donnell appeared with his attorney, Leo Hurley and the Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo represented the state, the OAG said.

During the conference, a plea offer was made to O’Donnell and was entered on the record in court.

“In exchange for his plea of guilty to bribery, the State would recommend a sentence of five years in state prison,” according to the plea deal.

Under the terms of the plea deal, O’Donnell would have to forfeit the money he received in the alleged bribes and pay anti-corruption penalties. The OAG said he would be required to forfeit any public office and would be permanently barred from public office or public employment in New Jersey.

O’Donnell did not accept the plea offer. According to the OAG, O’Donnell has not been indicted.

The original charges filed against him by complaint are pending.

There have not been further developments in the case as of April 9, the OAG told the Bayonne Community News.

Alleged quid-pro-quo

In December of 2019, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the charges against five current and former public officials and political candidates from across the state, including O’Donnell, based on testimony from a cooperating witness.

According to the OAG, O’Donnell was charged in a criminal complaint with second-degree bribery in official and political matters for allegedly accepting a bribe during his campaign for mayor of Bayonne.

O’Donnell is charged with allegedly accepting a $10,000 cash bribe.

He allegedly solicited $10,000 in “street money” for his mayoral campaign from the cooperating witness. In return, O’Donnell allegedly agreed to provide the cooperating witness with tax work from the City of Bayonne if elected mayor.

O’Donnell allegedly accepted a paper bag containing $10,000 in cash from the cooperating witness at his campaign headquarters at which time the cooperating witness said, “I just wanna be your tax guy,” and O’Donnell allegedly responded, “Done.”

O’Donnell also allegedly failed to file required campaign reports with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) disclosing the $10,000 contribution.

The alleged criminal conduct occurred between April and May 2018.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.