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Sharpe James found guilty; Happy Birthday Pope Benedict XVI...

Behind The News
April 16, 2008 12:32:29 PM PDT
What's the old saw about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely? Sharpe James didn't have absolute power during his 20-year reign as Mayor of Newark. But it was pretty close to that. The sheer force of his domineering personality rammed through many projects, but it also alienated and scared off a lot of folks who could have helped New Jersey's largest and arguably most problematic city.

How did he pull off such a lengthy and powerful tenure?

Today we found out.

And it's not pretty. James and his former mistress were both convicted today by a federal jury on five charges of corruption, fraud and conspiracy. The man whose free-wheeling ways awed some people and infuriated others, could soon find his freedom severely curtailed: He faces seven to eight years in prison under federal guidelines, although the judge could impose as much as 20 years on some of the individual convictions. He also faces the end of his six-figure annual taxpayer-funded pension.

James sat without visible emotion as he heard the verdict -- which was read in a courtroom just one block from the City Hall where James ruled for five terms as Mayor.

The charges stem from the sale of nine city-owned properties to Tamika Riley, the Mayor's former girlfriend, who quickly sold them for more than 12 times what she paid for them.

James' legal troubles are hardly over. He still faces federal charges of using city funds for personal expenses.

We'll have the latest on the James trial, and reaction, tonight at 11.

And corruption also allegedly on display in New York City today -- where two City Council employees were indicted for running a multi-million dollar slush fund that allocated money to fake organizations.

The scheme was uncovered when one of the charities supposedly getting the money was listed as being housed at one of the workers' home address.

Blowing the whistle on all this was City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose office engaged in this slush fund practice. She insisted she had nothing to do with the scheme, but acknowledged that the slush fund apparently existed for decades.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest on the Pope's day in Washington. It's his 81st birthday today, and there's a big party at the White House for him. He won't be there, however. He'll be wrapping up a meeting with U.S. Bishops.

Meanwhile, President Bush, before hosting the Pope's birthday fest, announced his major climate change proposal. (Maybe it's just me, but "climate change" just doesn't cut it, compared to "global warming.") The president will propose a new target for stopping the growth of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions: The year 2025. According to my calculations, that's 17 years from now.

Critics say it's a less-than-ambitious goal. We'll have reaction, at 11.

And we're in Philadelphia tonight for the debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. You can see the debate here on Ch. 7, hosted by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, at 8 p.m.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Marvell Scott (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports, including the first game of the Yankees-Red Sox series here in New York.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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