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Gov. Murphy: Ex-NJ official convicted of bribery deserve 2nd chance

October 02, 2018 - 6:27 pm

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that a former municipal official who resigned from a $70,000-a-year state job after it came to light he was convicted of taking bribes from undercover FBI agents has earned a second chance.

Murphy, a Democrat, delivered a passionate defense of Marcellus Jackson at an unrelated event in Asbury Park.

"He made a mistake. He paid a price. He repented. He did what he needed to do and he raised his hand and he asked for a second chance,'' Murphy said. ``We have to get to a better place and give folks, Marcellus and generations-to-come a second chance.''

Jackson is a Democrat and former Passaic council member. He was among 11 officials arrested in a 2007 corruption sweep and pleaded guilty to obstructing interstate commerce by extortion. He got a 25-month prison sentence.

Last week, he resigned from his post as a special assistant in the state Department of Education's Office of Civic and Social Engagement after Attorney General Gurbir Grewal pointed out that as someone convicted of a federal felony involving public office, Jackson is permanently disqualified from holding office in the state.

Murphy said his administration conducted a review of Jackson before he was hired in July, but the review missed the job prohibition. Grewal said state law requires the attorney general or county prosecutor to file a public-job forfeiture application but that this was not done in Jackson's case. It's unclear why.

Murphy credited Grewal for uncovering the oversight.

He says Jackson is a friend whom he met through a church in Bergen County, where Jackson serves as a deacon.

Jackson also worked on Murphy's 2017 campaign for governor, Murphy said.

The governor said he was taken aback by the harsh reaction to news over the past few weeks of Jackson's conviction and resignation, though he stopped short of saying state law should be changed to accommodate Jackson.

"My jaw was on the floor when I saw so many folks including some very good friends of mine condemning this guy and saying just because it was public corruption,'' he said.