According to the September 30th article in the New Jersey Law Journal, which appears online at law.com, Eric Wisler, formerly a partner at at DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole in Teaneck, one of New Jersey’s most prominent law firms, is accused of paying $192,000 to a state senator in exchange for legislation and other favors intended to benefit the attorney’s land-developer clients.
An indictment announced Monday charges that Wisler, while a partner, made regular payments from 2004 through 2006 to Sen. Wayne Bryant, D-Camden, in return for Bryant’s influence in the Legislature.
Bryant, who left office in 2008 upon his conviction of unrelated bribery and fraud charges and is serving a four-year sentence, is charged with 20 counts of mail fraud, and one count each of accepting bribery and extortion for his alleged role in the arrangement with Wisler.
Wisler is charged with a total of 37 counts of mail and wire fraud, as well as one count of offering a bribe.
Wisler and Bryant could each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted and up to 10 if convicted of bribery alone. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the money supposedly paid to Bryant.
Wisler’s attorney, Michael Critchley of Critchley, Kinum & Vazquez in Roseland, said in a statement that Wisler “vehemently denies the allegations.” According to the article, Critchley was quoted as saying: “Eric never solicited, received or expected to receive any inappropriate consideration from Wayne Bryant in his role as a public official. The relationship with Wayne Bryant’s law firm was solely in the context of providing potential legal services and not in any way associated with Wayne Bryant’s role as a public official.”
Authorities say Wisler, as lead counsel to Brownfields redeveloper EnCap Golf Holdings and parent company Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh, N.C., used client money to pay $8,000 in monthly fees to Bryant’s law firm, Zeller & Bryant in Camden. The payments supposedly were for legal work on EnCap’s Meadowlands redevelopment project.
However, the indictment states the payments were in reality consideration for Bryant using his office to help secure millions for Wisler’s clients through legislation and other advantages, and that Wisler corresponded regularly with Bryant and other political insiders on requests for legislative action and inaction and even helped write proposed legislation.