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Sunday, August 6, 2017

A jury found former Police Chief Ken Zisa guilty; no appeals court has said otherwise

Former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa and former City Attorney Joseph Zisa, back to camera, at the kickoff in March of the Zisa-backed Hackensack United for Progress, a City Council slate that went down in flames in the May election despite spending nearly $200,000 on the campaign.

HACKENSACK VOWS TO FIGHT
SUIT SEEKING $29.8M IN DAMAGES

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

Editor's note: I've updated this post with a link to the Appellate Court opinion that ultimately freed former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

An appeals court cited misconduct by the prosecutor and serious missteps by the judge during the 2012 jury trial of former Police Chief Ken Zisa, who was found guilty of official misconduct and insurance fraud.

But in freeing Zisa, no court or judge has ever said he didn't do what he was charged with doing when he intervened at an accident scene involving his girlfriend, who crashed his SUV, allegedly while intoxicated, and then filed a bogus $11,000 insurance claim.

For that reason, Hackensack officials will fight a federal lawsuit that seeks nearly $30 million in damages, alleging Zisa's civil rights were violated by a law-enforcement conspiracy in Bergen County.

The filing of the suit was reported by the Hackensack Daily Voice on Aug. 1, four days before the story appeared in The Record of Woodland Park.

The state Appellate Court opinion that ultimately freed Zisa noted the trial judge let stand "defendant's conviction on one count of official misconduct ... for affirmatively interfering" in the the auto accident investigation in 2008, as well as his conviction on one count of insurance fraud.

See the full opinion:

State of New Jersey v. Charles K. Zisa 

$2.95M payment

Last October, the city began paying Zisa the $2.95 million ordered by the judge that freed him last August -- $1,755,000 in back pay, vacation days, sick days and other compensation (money he lost after he was suspended) and nearly $1,203,000 in legal fees

This year, the former police chief said that he had no intention of suing the city, but that was before a City Council slate backed by the Zisa family political dynasty lost the non-partisan May election.

The Zisas -- including the disgraced chief, former four-term mayor Jack Zisa; and their cousin, former City Attorney Joseph Zisa -- had transformed the city into a North Jersey laughing stock called "Zisaville" before City Council reformers were elected in 2013.

'Money grab'

"There is apparently no end to the pain the Zisa family is willing to inflict on Hackensack," Mayor John Labrosse told The Record (Saturday's Page 1).

"This lawsuit has no merit and the city will vigorously defend taxpayers from this money grab," said the mayor, who was reelected in May, when his slate won all five council seats. 

"Earlier this year, Ken Zisa said he has no intention of suing the city, but now we know that the truth is."

History of litigation

After Ken Zisa was indicted in 2010, about two dozen police officers sued him and the city, alleging corruption and intimidation.

"Most of the lawsuits stemmed from a bitterly contentious relationship between Zisa and police officers who accused him of engaging in campaigns of retribution and harassment as paybacks for their refusal to go along with his political demands [as a Democratic state assemblyman]," The Record has reported.

The city racked up $8 million in legal fees defending him, and insurers paid out many millions more to settle the cases, minus the deductibles.

In August 2012, the city paid $2.48 million to a Police Department dispatcher and former girlfriend of Frank Zisa, who was the city's deputy police chief.

The plaintiff, Alessandra Viola, alleged she faced disciplinary charges after she resisted sexual advances by both Ken and Frank Zisa.
Ken Zisa claims he's broke
Defense lawyer has link to The Record

Today's Record

Two-thirds of the front page and a page and a half inside are devoted to whether opposition in Mahwah to an eruv or religious boundary for Orthodox Jews is anti-Semitism (1A, 6A and 7A).

An editor with The Forward argues the eruv allows Orthodox Jewish mothers to leave the house and thus promotes women's rights (6A).

Left unsaid in recent coverage of the controversy is that Orthodox Jews are the first group to be treated as badly by Mahwah as the Ramapough Mountain Indians, who have been ordered to take down tepees erected in a flood plain and conservation zone.

Veteran columnists

Three of The Record's columnists drone on and on today:

Political Columnist Charles Stile calls Sheila Oliver a "safe choice" as running mate for Democrat Phil Murphy, who is expected to win the November election to replace Chris Christie, the GOP bully who is the worst governor in state history (1A).

Columnist Mike Kelly is alarmed at the push to legalize marijuana, claiming "pot is unhealthy" (1O).

And Columnist Bill Ervolino, who is also a stand-up comedian, explores the culinary uses of bananas (1BL).

Hide-and-seek

Saturday's Better Living cover included two photos of the kitchen in the Saddle River home of rapper Joseph Ward Simmons, also known as Rev. Run.

One of the photo captions says, "Above, Joseph Ward Simmons, also known as Rev. Run from Run DMC, loves his kitchen," but he isn't in the photo, as readers would expect.