Probable cause hearing sought for DeFusco campaign finance complaint

Hearing could determine whether campaign ordinances had jurisdiction

The prosecutor is seeking a probable cause hearing regarding DeFusco's alleged campaign finance violations.

In the continuing legal fight over Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco’s campaign finances, the prosecutor in the case is seeking a probable cause hearing to determine whether or not there was cause to issue the complaint over the councilman’s alleged campaign finance violations.

Connie Bentley McGhee, the prosecutor for New Jersey, said in a virtual West New York municipal court hearing this morning that she is seeking such a hearing while DeFusco himself seeks to dismiss the complaint.

“I will add that the reason for the probable cause hearing would be to determine whether or not there was jurisdiction, and whether or not there was actually probable cause based upon Hoboken’s ordinance to actually issue a complaint to the defendant,” she said.

The complaint was filed by City Clerk James Farina in 2019, alleging that DeFusco had violated the city’s finance laws by going over the $500 contribution limit during his 2017 mayoral campaign. DeFusco has dismissed the complaint as a political stunt against him.

In a previous court hearing, DeFusco had rejected an offer from the prosecutor to select one of the alleged violations and pay four times the amount for it, to which McGhee had asked the court set up a scheduling order to allow a brief by the defense to be responded to, and that they want to having the hearing.

Steven Kleinmann, DeFusco’s lawyer, asked if it was going to be a “traditional” probable cause hearing because they have a pending motion to dismiss.

“It should be an opportunity for a prosecutor to respond to my motion,” he said. “I will have the right to reply, and then Your Honor would hear an argument on the motion. That seems to be the more correct procedural posture here.”

Judge Armando Hernandez gave McGhee 30 days to follow and answer the defense’s brief, to which Kleinmann didn’t object, and said that they’ll seek two weeks to reply themselves after receiving the reply.

“Obviously it’s the court’s discretion, but I will not voluntarily consent to any extensions and I just wanna make that clear,” said Kleinmann. “Because my client needs to move on with his life.”

A decision on the complaint could determine whether or not the city’s own campaign finance laws itself would change. An ordinance adopted would allow labor unions an exemption from the laws, but will only go into effect if the court rules in this case that the laws are unenforceable or unconstitutional.

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