Neil M. Cohen, chairman the New Jersey Assembly’s key committee overseeing insurance issues, resigned Monday amid reports that he’s under investigation for suspected possession of child pornography.
The clerk of the Assembly received a one-sentence letter from Cohen just before 9:30 a.m. Monday. Cohen said his resignation is effective immediately, but he did not offer any explanation.
Cohen has not been charged with a crime.
Colleagues who use the same legislative district office as the 57-year-old Democratic lawmaker said last week that they told law enforcement authorities about images of child pornography found on his computer.
State Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who shared a district office with Cohen, said the investigation began after a staffer in the Union Township office found a printout of a nude girl, possibly in her early teens or younger.
Cryan and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak said they referred the case to the state Attorney General’s Office. Attorney general spokesman Peter Aseltine said the office does not comment on whether it is investigating cases.
Cohen, an unmarried divorce lawyer, has served in the Assembly in 1990-91 and continuously since 1994.
Regarded as one of the most liberal legislators, Cohen is also considered one of the busiest, having introduced 342 bills this legislative session — 94 more than any other legislator.
“Assemblyman Cohen was a respected legislator who dedicated his life to the State House and whose legacy would have been great,” said Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts. “Unfortunately, all of that will now be forever overshadowed.”
“We sincerely hope he receives the help he desperately needs,” Roberts said.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine issued a statement Monday calling the allegations “deeply disturbing.”
“All of us who have worked with him are shocked by the reports,” Corzine said. “Child pornography reflects a horrible debasement of children that is totally intolerable. Creating, distributing and using child pornography should be pursued vigorously by law enforcement wherever it is found.”
Cryan said Cohen remained hospitalized for psychiatric treatment on Monday.