Irvington cop pleads not guilty to charges of trying to run down Newark councilman

By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on August 03, 2015

Monique Smith of the Irvington Police Department with Freeholder Bilal Beasely in 2008.

 

NEWARK -- An Irvington police captain pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of trying to run down a Newark city councilman with her car in January.

Monique Smith, 44, of Irvington, entered the plea through her attorney when she was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin on charges related to the alleged assault on Councilman John Sharpe James.

Smith was indicted on June 23 on aggravated assault, criminal mischief and two weapons offenses.

During Monday's hearing, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Carlo Fioranelli said the state has extended a plea offer in which Smith would plead guilty to a fourth-degree "domestic violence criminal mischief" charge, according to an audio recording of the proceeding.

In exchange for that guilty plea, prosecutors would recommend a sentence of probation without any jail time, according to Fioranelli.

Ravin questioned Smith's attorney, Anthony Pope, about whether Smith would be applying to the state's Pretrial Intervention Program, a probationary program designed to provide rehabilitation for first-time offenders.

But Pope said he had to determine how joining that program might impact Smith's position with the Irvington Police Department.

"The wild card here is her job," Pope told Ravin, according to the audio recording. "She's a police captain."

Under the PTI program, if Smith met certain conditions and completed the program, the charges would be dismissed and there would be no record of conviction. Joining the program does not represent an admission of guilt.

The charges against Smith stem from a Jan. 5 incident when she allegedly confronted James near his home in the area of Elizabeth and Pomona avenues at about 11 p.m.

As she yelled at him, James got into his car and drove off, police said. Smith then entered her personal vehicle, followed James and repeatedly struck his vehicle with her car, police said.

James went to his parents' residence on Wilbur Street, where his father, former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, intervened on his behalf, police said.

The incident allegedly occurred hours after Smith was promoted to captain during a ceremony at Irvington Town Hall. Township Mayor Tony Vauss has said Smith would be suspended without pay pending an investigation.

Smith was arrested and later released from custody after posting ten percent of her $75,000 bail.

After the alleged incident, James received a temporary restraining order against Smith.

James dropped the temporary restraining order in February after he and Smith entered into a civil agreement that requires her to not contact him, according to James's attorney, Toni Belford Damiano.

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