By SHIRLEY WITHERSPOON
As a matter of disclosure, Kenneth Del Vecchio is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Empire State News. This article was written before he assumed those titles. ESN had published some positive material about him – and some not-so-positive!
A man who repeatedly defines himself as a lawyer in his campaign proclamations, John McCann has just been outed as being ineligible to practice law in New Jersey – the same state where he is currently running for Congress, in the 5th Congressional District. On McCann’s campaign Facebook page, which has a grand total of 221 likes, his biography states, “John is a practicing attorney who also serves as General Counsel to the N.J. Sheriff’s Association where he advises Sheriffs across the state on both legal and policy issues.”
Notwithstanding McCann’s declarations, it has been revealed that he is currently administratively ineligible to practice law in the state, for his failure to pay required annual attorney assessments to the New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protections – since October, 2012. Accordingly, it appears that he has been prohibited from practicing law in New Jersey for over five years.
Questions are now abounding whether the varied sheriffs he has advised on “legal issues” knew of McCann’s inability to practice law. More so, there is considerable concern that his ineligible status could have ramifications upon cases that he handled while being disallowed from the practice of law.
McCann has flouted publicly, on numerous occasions, that he has served as the attorney for the Bergen County Sheriff, Democrat Michael Saudino. This specific lawyer position has led to additional legal problems for the ineligible barrister.
Legislative District 39 Republican Executive Director Joseph Hakim filed a criminal complaint against McCann on November 16, asserting that McCann committed the third degree crime of threats and other improper influence in political matters, as well as the petty disorderly persons offense of harassment. The complaint specifically states:
“John McCann, a candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, did threaten unlawful harm against Joseph Hakim with defendant John McCann doing such in his capacity as a lawyer for the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department and knowing that he had no legal authority to conduct such investigation, with the purpose to influence Joseph Hakim in an opinion, recommendation, and vote as both a party official, in Joseph Hakim’s capacity as Executive Director of the Republican Party’s 39th legislative district, and as voter, with regard to the 2018 New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District election, wherein defendant, stated to Mr. Hakim, ‘Joseph, I know all things about you. I know what you are about. Parts of my job allow me telling you that I had access to information on any one and I looked you up. That was the benefits of my job,’ making such threat to Joseph Hakim because he does not support defendant John McCann in his candidacy for Congress, in violation of NJSA 2C:27-3A(1).”
Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali provided a written statement to the police department in Woodcliff Lake, the locale where he said the incident between Hakim and McCann occurred. Ghassali’s statement provides:
“On Saturday Sept. 23, 2017, I witnessed the following at the Wel Tice Community Center at about 9a.m. John McCann told Joseph Hakim that he knows everything about him as his job was the attorney for Bergen County Sheriff. And that he can have access to information to investigate him. Hakim asked if he was being threatened and both got loud. Because Hakim is not supporting him for his run for Congress.”
Obviously, this is not a he-said she-said case, with the incident being witnessed by Mayor Ghassali. The criminal statute, 2C:27-3, provides that a person commits a third degree crime if he:
“Threatens unlawful harm to any person with purpose to influence a decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or exercise of discretion of a public servant, party official or voter…in any public election.”
Per the complaint and witness statement, McCann, in his capacity as attorney for the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, “threatened unlawful harm” (in conducting an investigation into Hakim with no legal authority) with the purpose to influence his opinion, recommendation and vote as a party official (Legislative District 39 Republican Executive Director) and voter in a public election (the Congress election in the 5th District). As the complaint stated, McCann issued the threat because Hakim “does not support defendant John McCann in his candidacy for Congress”
McCann denies any criminal conduct. A probable cause hearing for the case is scheduled on December 14 at a municipal court located at the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack. Hakim is represented by well-known Bergen County lawyer, Douglas Anton. It is unknown whether McCann has representation, but he can legally represent himself despite his current ineligibility to practice law in New Jersey (defendants are always permitted to represent themselves pro se).
Meanwhile, Steve Lonegan, a former three-term mayor and McCann’s GOP primary opponent, has been soaring along with his campaign. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R–Texas), one of the nation’s most respected conservative leaders, endorsed Lonegan two weeks ago. New Jersey state legislators have been lining up to endorse the GOP 5th Congressional District frontrunner, with endorsements already coming in for Lonegan from some of the most popular elected officials in the state, including: State Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), State Senator Mike Doherty (R-Warren), State Senator Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), State Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-Passaic), State Assemblyman Parker Space (R-24), State Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex), State Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-23), and State Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-23). At this very early point, Lonegan has been endorsed by nearly every state legislator in the district, with the remaining few legislators likely to come on board soon – as it’s unlikely they would want to miss the train captained by their next congressman.
Senator Cruz proclaimed, “Steve Lonegan is a tireless advocate for our founding principles who has proven his willingness to boldly take his message directly to the people of New Jersey, and I am proud to endorse him to become the next Member of Congress from the Fifth District. I have known Steve for many years, and look forward to working with him to grow jobs, expand freedom, and ensure the security of the American people.”
“Steve Lonegan will go to Congress to cut taxes and create jobs,” Senator Oroho stated. “We need his determination and focus now, more than ever. That’s why I’m supporting Steve Lonegan for Congress in Congressional District 5, a district Steve has won in the past, albeit for different offices.”
In speaking of Lonegan, Senator Cardinale stated that he “has been a tireless champion of the Republican Party when no one else would step forward to take on the tough battles. I’m pleased to be the first state legislator to announce my support for his campaign.”
And Senator Doherty said, “Steve Lonegan has led the fight for every worthwhile conservative cause in New Jersey for the last two decades. And he’s often been out front when few, if any, in the state legislature were willing to stand behind him. But in 2018, the Republican Party will unify behind Steve to take back the Fifth Congressional District.”
Numerous conservative issue-oriented entities and their leadership have also already endorsed Lonegan, including Ann Kievit, President of the Northwest New Jersey Taxpayers’ Association; Rev. Greg Quinlan, President of the Center for Garden State Families, on behalf of New Jersey for a Conservative Majority; and Alexander Roubian, President of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has also endorsed Lonegan, granting him the nationally coveted “Young Guns” designation. The NRCC has awarded this designation to just 31 congressional candidates in the United States.
When announcing Lonegan as one of the Young Guns recipients, NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said, “These 31 candidates are formidable competitors against the liberal agenda of Nancy Pelosi and the left. We look forward to working with these candidates to grow our Republican majority and enact policies that help hard working Americans.”
McCann’s roster of endorsements has been anemic. The Record, a daily newspaper covering Bergen and Passaic Counties has, however, referred to McCann as the “right-hand man” of the Democrat Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino. McCann proudly states that he served as the lawyer for this Democrat sheriff for the last several years (until this fall) – but it appears, for at least part of the time, he had been doing so while being ineligible to practice law in New Jersey.
A lone Republican official in the 5th Congressional District stands out as a supporter for McCann, embattled Bergen County Republican Organization (“BCRO”) Chairman Paul DiGaetano. The BCRO has been floundering for quite some time, with elected officials, county committee persons and Republicans throughout Bergen County complaining that the organization has little, if any, money, as well as no fundraising abilities to obtain monetary support any time soon. Grumblings have elevated to loud criticisms, with additional complaints of all out organizational failures. The once thriving BCRO has been unable to oversee successful Republican elections at the county level for multiple consecutive years.
Additional grievances arose when DiGaetano chose to wage a primary battle against Kristin Corrado in New Jersey’s 40th Legislative District. Corrado ran an off-the-line campaign in Bergen County, along with assembly running-mates Kevin Rooney and Chris DePhillips. DiGaetano was destroyed in that contest this past June, obtaining only 30% of the vote. Corrado, Rooney, and DePhillips all went on to win in the general election. Many GOP leaders and voters were outraged at DiGaetano’s choice to run in the primary election because they felt it compromised his chairmanship role at the BCRO. They were specifically troubled that his attention was on himself rather than other candidates’ elections in Bergen County—with such self-absorbed focus in direct contradiction to his role as the BCRO chairman. The fact that he was ossified in his race against Corrado caused a further lack of confidence in his leadership.
Problems for DiGaetano became much worse when, for an inexplicable reason to most observers, he chose to support McCann instead of Lonegan in the 5th Congressional District primary. Beyond all of McCann’s legal woes, he is considered less than a moderate Republican; many feel that he is an outright liberal given his pro-choice stance, odd economic agenda, and his very open Democrat ties. McCann apparently also has no fundraising abilities, zero national support, nor any real local support – other than DiGaetano.
This all has metastasized from questions to grave concern from GOP leaders, county committeemen, and voters in the state’s most populated county. It is has led to a ground swell to replace DiGaetano, with Lonegan Campaign Chairman Kenneth Del Vecchio reported to be the choice of many Republican leaders, locally and even nationally, to be the new BCRO chairman. Del Vecchio, who moved back to his native Bergen County this summer after residing in New York for the last four years, had recently been in a top leadership position at the BCRO, as senior advisor. But he left when DiGaetano gave him an ultimatum – either choose the Lonegan chairmanship role or stay with the BCRO and support McCann. Del Vecchio, who defines “loyalty” as the most important word in his dictionary, immediately chose to stick with Lonegan.
A charismatic, but sometimes controversial, figure, Del Vecchio seems to be the natural selection to revitalize the ailing organization. In December 2015, Del Vecchio became the first Congress candidate in the country to endorse Donald Trump for president. Immediately upon his endorsement, Del Vecchio was appointed the Congressional District 18 & Orange County Chairman of Trump’s New York presidential campaign. From there, Del Vecchio was a relentless beast in support of Trump’s candidacy. He personally went door-to-door to over 1,000 households in his congressional district. He appeared on Fox News Channel to herald Trump, and did substantial local media interviews in Trump’s support.
Del Vecchio’s efforts paid off. Trump received 70% of the vote in Orange County and more than 67% of the overall vote in Congressional District 18 in the New York presidential primary. Del Vecchio’s inexorable stumping for Trump helped lead District 18 to being one of the top five Trump winningest congressional districts in the state (and it had the highest vote total of the those top five districts).
In addition to currently serving as chairman of Lonegan’s Congress campaign, Del Vecchio was chairman of Lonegan’s gubernatorial campaigns. Commonly referred to as a modern-day Renaissance Man, Del Vecchio has written, directed and produced over 30 movies that star numerous Academy Award and Emmy winners and nominees. His movies are distributed by industry powerhouses such as Sony Pictures, Anchor Bay, Millennium Entertainment, Cinedigm, and NBCUniversal. He is the author of some of the nation’s best-selling legal books, writing a series of 1,300+ page criminal codebooks for Pearson Education/Prentice Hall and ALM/New Jersey & New York Law Journals. He’s a best-selling criminal suspense novelist, inking out his first book as a 24-year-old law student and then following with multiple others.
Del Vecchio is also the founder and chairman of Hoboken International Film Festival, called by FOX, Time Warner and other media “One of the 10 biggest film festivals in the world.” Additionally, he is a former judge, a former prosecutor, and a criminal lawyer who has tried an astounding amount of cases (in excess of 400); he was noted as the youngest attorney in New Jersey history to try and win a felony jury trial. He’s taught a few thousand police officers and lawyers criminal law at high priced seminars, and he’s been a frequent legal analyst on Fox News and other leading networks.
Del Vecchio, through all of these endeavors, is accustomed to – and extremely successful – in managing large monetary budgets, high level fundraising, overseeing substantial personnel, and major media dealings. His accomplishments over the last 20+ years have been profiled in voluminous press reports. Some notables include the following highlighted feature articles and television appearances: The Daily Beast, FOX, CBS, CNN, NBC, “The Colbert Report”, Radar Online, The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times, who wrote “As usual, Mr. Del Vecchio was larger than life.”
Legendary actor Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas; Nixon) called Del Vecchio “an extraordinary man.” Two-time Academy Award nominee Charles Durning (Tootsie; The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) exclaimed that “Kenneth Del Vecchio would make a great president!” Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts (The Expendables; The Pope of Greenwich Village) stated that “Kenneth Del Vecchio is the only judge I ever agreed with in personal conversation. He’s got some great views about freedom and liberty…and he’s a little bit nuts!” TV star Joyce DeWitt (”Three’s Company”) declared that Del Vecchio has “a vision and concept based on excellence and integrity.” Academy Award nominee Robert Loggia (Scarface; Big) said of Del Vecchio: “The man is honest. Hard-working. Talented. And oh so intelligent.” And U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer – yes, the top dog Democrat from New York – proclaimed, “Del Vecchio is a man you can see, with the movies he is involved with, with the friends he has, he has a great mind and he also has a big heart.”
Senator Schumer likely was unaware of Del Vecchio’s lifelong, unabashed conservative and liberty-minded stances when he made those complimentary comments. And Del Vecchio is not otherwise without detractors. Much like Lonegan and President Trump, Del Vecchio is said, by some, to have a large ego. His opponent from his 2016 congressional race often remarked that Del Vecchio was “bombastic.” Others have referred to him as brash, tough, hard, and insensitive to liberal views. When once confronted with his critics’ characterizations of him, Del Vecchio whipped, “Jealousy is the worst word in the dictionary.” Then he elaborated, “I don’t understand the concept of jealousy. It’s for insecure losers. I’m happy for others’ successes. And I hope for people to be happy for mine. People, out of weakness, often contrive battles with other people. Oddly, it’s rarely those who have big egos; it’s actually the people with no ego, with no confidence. I can figure out a jealous person pretty quickly, and I cut them out immediately. Jealousy usually goes hand-in-hand with disloyalty.”
An interesting article in Forbes, “Leonardo Del Vecchio and Family”, may shed some light on Del Vecchio and his immediate family. Leonardo Del Vecchio, Kenneth Del Vecchio’s grandfather, is Italy’s wealthiest man, having a net worth of over $21 billion. His eyewear company, Luxottica, owns Ray-Ban, Oakley, Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters. When asked about his relationship with his grandfather, Del Vecchio always demurs or outright denies that Leonardo Del Vecchio is his grandfather, presumably to avoid distraction from other issues. Del Vecchio has declined further comment in this regard.
Del Vecchio also declined to comment on the movement behind him for the BCRO chairmanship other than to say, “I wish the best for Paul DiGaetano. That said, I was disheartened when he chose to stand in isolation with John McCann. It’s a strange choice, given that McCann seems to be nothing more than a disruptive shill for the Democrats. Although McCann certainly has a constitutional right to run, the electorate would rather see all of our energy spent on defeating the socialist-minded and well-funded Josh Gottheimer. In any case, after Steve trounces McCann in the primary, we’ll be primed to proceed to further victories. And that’s because we are veteran-protecting, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-life, freedom seeking, sanctuary city eliminating, politically correct smashing, economy boosting capitalists. That’s what the voters want – not plastic, phony politicians.”
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