Less than a year and a half before disgraced, former Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli brought trumped up terrorism and bias charges against Aakash Dalal in the case of minor vandalism at Bergen County area synagogues, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey “awarded” Molinelli with several all-expenses-paid trips to Israel. The 10-day trips from the Jewish Federation came after Molinelli had helped the group secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money by having Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Detective William Stallone conduct free security assessments at the Jewish Federation’s 50 Eisenhower Drive building in Paramus (Law enforcement security assessments are a prerequisite for the grants).
View/Download PDF of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s 2016 $75,000 Nonprofit Security Grant Program application: https://njcorruption.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/2016-jewish_federation_northern_new_jersey_app.pdf
In 2007, the Jewish Federation, located a few buildings away from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office’s headquarters on 100 Eisenhower Drive, received $100,000 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The grant program requires applicants to claim that they have been victims of or threatened by terrorist organizations, networks, or cells. The group received $75,000 in 2010–a few months after funding the trips for several assistant prosecutors in Molinelli’s office.
Between 2013 and 2016, the group took in $100,000 more from FEMA with the assistance of Molinelli and current Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal. The Jewish Federation cited the case against Dalal as a “threat” in its applications for money. At Dalal’s trial in October 2016, Mark Zettler, the President of Temple Beth-El in Hackensack, testified that Joy Kurland, the head of the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, had told him “Don’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on this,” referring to the Dalal case and the grant program. Zettler would eventually receive $52,000 after a swastika was discovered spray painted on his synagogue.
Bergen County Assistant Prosecutors Thomas Kearney, Vered Adoni, Catherine Fantuzzi, and Ron McCormick would eventually make the trip to Israel between April 29, 2010 and May 8, 2010. Thomas Kearney, pictured below at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, would go on to try the case against Dalal in October 2016. In October 2016, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey received $75,000 in federal grants with the aid of the prosecutor’s office.
In July, Molinelli received an award from the UJA of Northern New Jersey – which facilitated the exchange – for his efforts in creating “ambassadors” between the two communities. Hoping to make the exchange an annual event, the UJA steering committee hopes to sponsor a visit from four Israeli prosecutors next June.
Four Bergen County assistant prosecutors recently returned from a 10-day crash course on criminal justice in Israel. To their surprise, they found major differences between the legal procedures of the two democracies.
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said he had been interested for some time in having his staff of 60 lawyers “learn how the administration of justice is accomplished in foreign countries, particularly in those jurisdictions where social settings would dictate a heightened awareness of the rights of both the victims and the accused.”
Dalal, a 19-year old Rutgers University student and Republican Party activist, was working on former United States Congressman Ron Paul’s 2012 President campaign in New Hampshire, when co-defendant Anthony Graziano caused minor damage to two Bergen County area synagogues. No one was injured in the incidents and prosecutors alleged that Dalal had “encouraged” Graziano from New Hampshire.
Molinelli was removed from office amid several corruption scandals including allegations that he may have accepted bribes in return for favorable plea deals, several lawsuits filed by former employees alleging racial bias and sexual harassment, charges of fraud against his executive assistant, and allegations by a former investigator for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office linking high ranking Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office officials to organized crime families.
Meanwhile, Dalal is facing 30 years to life in prison at sentencing. The charges have been criticized by many as politically motivated and several protests have been held in New Jersey. The circumstances might have been different had the jury heard this.