By Wally Edge | December 27th, 2006 - 7:36pm
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In a 2003 interview on New Jersey Network, legendary Hudson County insider Paul Byrne offered some free advice: "Politics 101 in New Jersey: don't tick off the U.S. Attorney." But a classic 1970's turf war shows that not everyone is afraid of the federal prosecutor.

In 1978, U.S. Attorney Robert Del Tufo accused Senate Judicary Committee Chairman Martin Greenberg, an Essex County Democrat, of using a Senate hearing to interfere with a federal investigation of his Hudson County colleague, William Vincent Musto. The Judiciary Committee, of which Musto was a member, was looking into allegations of ethical breaches by state law enforcement and investigative agencies. At the time, Musto was under federal indictment on charges of gambling and conspiracy. Del Tufo said that Greenberg had visited the U.S. Attorney's office as Musto's lawyer.

Del Tufo charged that Greenberg and Musto were seeking to influence potential jurors by allowing Musto to defend himself in a public hearing of the Judiciary panel. Among the witnesses being called by the Senate was James Jelicks, a police informant who was to testify on Musto's behalf at his trial. Jelicks was reportedly prepared to accuse the State Police of authorizing him to break into the home of a horse breeder as part of a state probe of the racing industry, and that federal prosecutors forced him to lie during their probe of Musto. Greenberg and Del Tufo each denied their respective conflicts.

(The Acting Judiciary Chairman, John F. Russo and five other Judiciary Committee members backed up Greenberg and Musto, saying that the Musto case had never been mentioned to them.)

Musto was acquitted on these charges, although he went to prison four years later after his conviction on a separate indictment.

Greenberg first met Musto in 1957; he was a 25-year-old legal assistant to Governor Robert Meyner (while Brendan Byrne was Meyner's Chief of Staff) and Musto was an Assemblyman and the Mayor of Union City. He later became Byrne's law partner and ran for the State Senate in 1973, winning the seat Ralph DeRose gave up to run against Byrne in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Greenberg resigned half way through his second term to become General Counsel to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and counsel to the Golden Nugget Casino. He was a Superior Court Judge from 1992 to 2003, sitting in Hudson County.

Greenberg is now Of Counsel at Walder, Hayden & Brogan. Among his colleagues at the Roseland firm: James Plaisted, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Musto in 1982 and defended U.S. Senator Robert Menendez's role in that trial during the 2006 U.S. Senate race, and prominent criminal defense attorney Joseph Hayden, who contacted federal prosecutors in 2006 on Menendez's behalf after subpoenas were issued as part of the alleged federal probe of the Senator's real estate deal.

Del Tufo resigned as U.S. Attorney in 1980, sought the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1985 (Greenberg supported Peter Shapiro), and became Jim Florio's Attorney General in 1990. He is now the Chairman of the University of Medicine and Dentistry Board of Trustees.

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 22nd

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Quote of the Day

quote of the day

"In many ways, Fulop has embraced McGreevey’s granular-level approach to retail politics, racing around the state to raise money for congressional candidates in South Jersey one night, showing up at a Morris County Democratic Party function the next. His administration has also awarded legal work to Weiner Lesniak, the Parsippany-based firm run by state Sen. Ray Lesniak, the Union County Democratic Party power broker." - columnist Charles Stile

- The Bergen Record

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