Former Aide to Newark's Cory Booker Indicted on Corruption Charges

"Sometimes a man got to have a steak," Salahuddin allegedly said to informant.

By Brian Thompson and Michael Clancy
|  Thursday, Feb 18, 2010  |  Updated 6:02 PM EDT
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Former Aide to Newark's Cory Booker Indicted on Corruption Charges

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A former deputy mayor of Newark, an aide to Mayor Cory Booker who resigned amid the statewide corruption probe last year, was indicted on charges of steering city contracts to a company he had a financial interest in, federal authorities said.

And it immediately raised a political cloud over Booker, who's running for re-election this Spring.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Ronald Salahuddin was named in a multi-count indictment that was the subject of an afternoon press conference in Newark. U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said Salahuddin sold his office, steering business to a company in which he had a financial interest.

The indictment makes clear wiretaps were used, quoting a Consultant working with Salahuddin as saying of City Hall officials, "They're all corrupt except [the Mayor]."

Booker responded immediately in an interview with NBCNewYork.com.

"Today is very frustrating because somebody violated my trust and the public trust," said Booker.

The first term Mayor added, "Please understand we have set up policies and procedures, we've set up new ethics laws at City Hall."

And Booker says he has cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney's office.

U.S. Attorney Fishman agreed, and added "There's no evidence we uncovered in the course of this investigating, that [Booker] had anything to do with the conduct that's alleged."

Salahuddin -- who cited health reasons when he resigned after the feds arrested scores of public officials in a sweeping corruption bust last July -- was ensnared by a cooperating witness who was working for the government, according to a 33-page indictment unsealed Thursday.

He is charged with extortion conspiracy, bribery and attempted extortion for shaking down a cooperating witness posing as a the owner of a demolition company looking to get work knocking down buildings near the New Jersey Devils' new hockey arena.

"I know I've been, I'm talking circuitous, but you understand... So all I want you to do is, you know help him," the feds say Salahuddin said to the cooperating witness --  with "him" referring to his alleged co-conspirator, businessman Sonnie L. Cooper. "You know feed him, not a salad, you know, sometimes a man got to have a steak."

According to the indictment, Salahuddin told the government informant that "it's not a deal when you are giving it all and nothing in return... that's Santa Claus... you understand... and none of us believe in Santa Claus."

Cooper, owner and president of S. Cooper Brothers Trucking Inc., the company in which Salahuddin allegedly had a financial interest was also indicted.

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