New Jersey Mayor Pleads Guilty in Insurance Bribe Scheme

May 29, 2008

A former New Jersey lawmaker ensnared in a federal bribery investigation pleaded guilty to federal and state corruption charges Tuesday and resigned as mayor of Orange.

Mims Hackett Jr. admitted he took a $5,000 bribe to steer a city contract to an insurance broker, who actually was an undercover informant.

“They wanted me to influence one of the officials in the city,” Hackett told U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares.

The 67-year-old Hackett was among 11 public officials arrested last fall on federal bribery charges. Since 2002, over 125 public employees in New Jersey have pleaded guilty or been convicted of corruption.

Hackett, a Democrat, resigned from the state Assembly days after his arrest and his mayoral term in Orange was set to expire on July 1.

“He apologizes to the citizens of Orange,” Hackett’s lawyer John A. Azzarello said after Hackett pleaded guilty to the federal charge of attempted extortion under color of official light.

Azzarello said that Hackett hesitated before taking the cash, which was stuffed in an insurance brochure. “That’s the moment in time that the mayor made a grave error in judgment,” the lawyer said.

Later Tuesday, Hackett pleaded guilty to an official misconduct charge brought by state prosecutors, who claim he collected more than $5,700 in fictitious meal expenses.

A plea agreement covering the state and federal cases calls for Hackett to spend 18 to 24 months in federal prison. He is free on bond until the sentencing on Sept. 15.

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