The concept of prosecutorial overreach is in the news today after the former U.S. Attorney General stated publicly that the Trump children should not be charged with fraud. This post is not about the billionaire Trumps, but about the working class Novaks and our neighbors.
In 2018 I had my own rude introduction to the concept of prosecutorial overreach. Much of my small rural town of Money Island, New Jersey was built in the 1950s to 1970s without any state permits. There were no permits for the houses, well, roads, bulkheads, telephone poles, docks, etc. State officials are frustrated with our local economic depression triggered by local government’s failure to facilitate basic services like water, sewer or internet that would have led to a resolution of the other land use permit issues. The problem was made worse by rising tides and local environmental change.
I became involved after former business owners here died or were disabled. I helped establish a local nonprofit organization to raise the necessary funding to address the paperwork problems and eventually pull us out of this depressed economic state. At first we made good progress. Unfortunately the plan was snagged by government corruption, although I never learned who actually killed the recovery plan. Politicians, local grifters and consultants were careful to protect the identity of their government connections.
Our recovery plans and state funding was suddenly denied. I recruited the best local consultants and engineers to re-approach the state, but without success.
Meanwhile, the State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General responded by suing me personally, my father, my children and the nonprofit organization. None of the relatives sued even knew about the community issues that I was attempting to resolve. The state’s overreach caused them stress. The AG’s attorney assigned the case asserted that they were involved as land owners but this was apparently just their reseach error or misinterpretation. Eventually I won the case, but at significant cost to these relationships. It was unfair because they had nothing to do with any of it.
I continue to work toward a long term solution but without the support or encouragement of my family and community who were scared away by the prosecutor’s overreach. I don’t blame them; being sued by a state prosecutor is not something that any innocent person should have to endure.
I’m not saying that our situation is anything like the Trumps. In fact, just the opposite, in almost every reported detail. I’m just pointing out that prosecutorial overreach is a real social justice issue.