Disgraced Former Newark Mayor Out Of Jail

8 04 2010

Disgraced Former Mayor Sharpe James

Editors Note: Maybe its because I don’t know Sharpe James on a personal level, but I found it down right disgraceful, that the people of Newark have turned this man into a hero. Sharpe James stole from the very throngs people who were out there welcoming him “back home”. I would think that the people would let him know that he was not welcome in the city he ran to the ground for 2 decades. After all isn’t the Mayor’s job to be “By the people, for the people”?

NEWARK — The disgraced Sharpe James is back. The bombastic, fiery former mayor, 18 months of prison behind him, stepped off a Greyhound bus tonight and into a throng of cheering supporters, four television crews and signs reading “Sharpe’s City USA” and “Welcome home.”

Dressed in a pinstripe suit and blue tie, and looking fit and happy, the man who ran the state’s largest city for two decades greeted several hundred people at Newark Penn Station, blowing kisses to the crowd before being whisked away in a white SUV.

“He looks great,” said Porscha Fleming, 22, of Newark. “He looks so happy. It was worth waiting three hours to see him.”

James, 74, who will serve the rest of his sentence at a halfway house in the South Ward, returned to a city run by the man who defeated him in the mayoral elections, Cory Booker, and a state governed by the man who sent him to prison, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

His journey home had begun more than 12 hours earlier. At 8:45 a.m., under a sweltering Virginia sky.

James walked out of the Petersburg Correctional Complex — where he did clerical work and made beds, coached high school dropouts and wrote a 17-chapter memoir — and was driven to the Richmond bus station in a white Chevy prison van.

As he waited for his bus to depart, the former mayor walked around the Greyhound terminal carrying three cardboard boxes. They contained binders with the early chapters of “A Sharpe View,” the tentative title for his prison-written memoirs — recollections of some of the state’s biggest political names, including former Sen. Bill Bradley, and governors Richard Codey and James E. McGreevey.

At a diner inside the bus station, where he ate eggs, hash browns, beef bacon and a biscuit, he reminisced about the “good old days” of Newark politics with Jose Godinez, a 46-year-old fellow prisoner headed to another correctional facility.

“It wasn’t about money then, it was about issues,” said James, who was not accompanied by prison officials. “What are you going to do for me, Sharpe?”

Passenger Paul Kearse, on his way home to New York, recognized the former mayor while boarding and asked to shake his hand.

“He was one of my political idols, going back many years,” Kearse said.

THE JOURNEY HOME

Throughout the day, James was upbeat as he discussed politics and his future with friends and strangers. The Federal Bureau of Prisons barred him from speaking directly with reporters until he had been transferred to Logan Hall, a halfway house in Newark’s South Ward.

“Sharpe James wants to see Newark grow and prosper,” he said to another passenger. “Beyond that, I want to help young people grow and prosper.”

James’ foes are still smarting from his 27-month sentence, which barely scratched the 20 years Christie wanted. “I think he should still be in jail,” Christie said today. “The judge made an awful mistake.”

James remains fiercely popular in Newark. His supporters remember the booming economy during his tenure and brush off his crime — selling city property for $46,000 to his former girlfriend, who flipped it for about $660,000.

“I feel as though he did nothing wrong, so God gave him a chance to return home again,” said Clarence Hodge, 49, of Newark, who compared the mayor’s return to the resurrection of Christ. “He showed me when he was mayor what he was capable of.”

During a short stop in Baltimore, James ordered lunch — a leg and thigh combo at KFC — and fretted he wouldn’t make it back to the bus before it pulled out of the station.

But the driver assured him, “We’re not going to leave behind no mayor.”

James said he has no designs for elected office. Instead, he said, he wants to advocate for non-violent prisoners incarcerated on drug charges and speak out against harsh sentences he says ensnare young black men.

“I know what everybody thinks: Marion Barry,” James said, referring to the former mayor of Washington, D.C., elected to city council after convictions. “It comes time you pass the baton. I want to work with Cory Booker.”

Carolyn Newell, a passenger heading back to Huntington, N.Y., asked James why he felt so strongly about helping young, non-violent offenders.

“People say I was incarcerated for a reason,” James said. “It changed my way of looking at life. It put me in a population that needed help and needed guidance. I’ve been on both sides now and you can’t testify unless you’ve suffered the consequences.”

(News Source: NJ.com)

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