(FREEHOLD) A Monmouth County jury delivered a guilty verdict for the former superintendent of schools in Wall Township including the most serious charge filed against him of official misconduct, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
James Habel, 58, formerly of Point Pleasant before moving to Dunedin, Florida, was found guilty of one count of second degree Official Misconduct and four counts of fourth degree Falsifying or Tampering with Records. Habel is scheduled for sentencing on May 15, 2015, before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Francis J. Vernoia, P.J.Cr.
After the verdict was handed down, Judge Vernoia remanded Habel to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold Township, pending sentencing, discharged the prior bail and ordered him held without bail. Habel faces a mandatory New Jersey state prison sentence of five years without the possibility of parole for the second degree Official Misconduct charge. The sentence will also include a mandatory forfeiture of his state pension benefits and a lifetime ban on public employment in New Jersey, as required by law.
Habel also faces an additional 18 months in state prison for each of the four counts of fourth degree Falsifying or Tampering with Records.
“I have a message for officials who abuse their public office for personal gain: We will find you and we are going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” Gramiccioni said. “To the citizens of Monmouth County, by and large most public officials are honest and law abiding. However, the sad reality is that these types of crimes are occurring in our towns and cities. We need your help in rooting out these corrupt individuals and shining light on their criminal activity.
“Just like this case, anonymous referrals from concerned taxpayers can open the door leading to an investigation to root out corruption and graft,” Gramiccioni.
Citizens may report concerns via the following:
* Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Corruption Tip Line – 855-7-UNJUST (855-786-5878); or
* E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write “Corruption/Misconduct Tip” in the Subject Line.
“We want to thank the wonderful employees of the Wall Township Public School District who cooperated in every way possible with this investigation and prosecution. We want to especially thank Business Administrator Brian Smyth, Human Resources Coordinator Janet Essner, and Director of Technology Jeffrey Janover,” said Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco.
“They were put in the most difficult position of having to testify against their former boss. They handled themselves with the professionalism and dignity that we expect of our public servants and should be commended for their efforts,” added Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor John Loughrey, Director of the Office’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau.
Prosecutor Gramiccioni praised the efforts of his team in prosecuting the case, and publicly thanked all the residents of Wall Township who aided in the successful prosecution.
The case was successfully prosecuted by Loughrey and Falco.
Habel was represented by Robert A. Honeker, Jr., Esq., of Ocean Township.