The New York Times is shining (a lot of) light on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s involvement in the handling several dozen indictments—all of which were later mysteriously dismissed by the state’s attorney general Paula Dow—against Deborah Trout, the former Sheriff of Hunterdon County in west-central New Jersey and prominent Christie supporter.
A grand jury indicted Trout and one her subordinates, undersheriff Michael Russo, of extracting “loyalty oaths” from employees and laminating fake police identification for a wealthy Christie donor. The paper’s story of how Dow bigfooted the the county’s prosecutor’s office and extinguished the indictments is well worth Instapapering in its own right. But one biographical detail pertaining to Undersheriff Russo deserves noting in bright yellow highlighter:
The sheriff, investigators found, ran an office in which personal loyalty was paramount and standard background checks were often not conducted, resulting in some noteworthy personnel appointments. She appointed Michael Russo her undersheriff. A hot-tempered figure, he had led a chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that the State Commission of Investigation found had operated like a paramilitary organization, with officers carrying guns and night-vision goggles. It was, the commission stated, the “paradigm of a society that is out of control.”
The commission’s original report from 2000 adds that members of the Warren County SPCA, founded by Russo and two other men, deliberately impersonated police officers:
Uniforms consist of navy blue pants with a gold stripe down the outside of each leg, a blue or white shirt, depending upon the individual’s rank, with an SPCA patch on one shoulder and the American flag on the other one, and a cap. ... The Commission was told by society officers that the uniforms are strikingly similar to those of the New Jersey State Police and that many officers do not attach the society patch in order to be mistaken as police officers.
Fun! But also legitimately concerning for Governor Christie—who, the Times notes, “was elected on the strength of his record as a United States attorney prosecuting corrupt officials.”
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