I-Team: Psychologically Unfit? County Race for New Jersey Sheriff Gets Dirty - NBC New York
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I-Team: Psychologically Unfit? County Race for New Jersey Sheriff Gets Dirty

A veteran law enforcement officer challenging the incumbent says he thinks he was found psychologically unfit because of his decision to run

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    NEWSLETTERS

    I-Team: Race for New Jersey County Sheriff Gets Dirty

    A sheriff's lieutenant running to replace his boss has faced accusations that he is unfit for service — but the sheriff says he is the real victim. The I-Team's Sarah Wallace reports.

    (Published Wednesday, May 29, 2019)

    What to Know

    • A county-level sheriff's race in New Jersey is getting unusually dirty, an I-Team investigation has found

    • Michael Strada is the incumbent and has been in the role for nearly a decade; his challenger is law enforcement veteran Andrew Boden

    • Boden says he was ordered to undergo a psychological fit-for-duty exam and was found unfit, alleging it was because he entered the race

    Usually, no one pays attention to local races for county sheriff. But the one in Sussex County, New Jersey isn’t typical. It’s ugly. It goes way beyond accusations of dirty tricks. 

    The incumbent sheriff, Michael Strada, is being challenged by a lieutenant in his department who wants to be the new boss in town. But days after he announced his candidacy, 45-year-old Andrew Boden says he was ordered to undergo a psychological fit-for-duty exam. The 21-year law enforcement veteran was found unfit.

    In his first interview since that determination, Boden told the I-Team he believes he was targeted because of his decision to run. 

    “He, Strada, has been quoted as saying, ‘I will destroy anyone who gets in my way,’" Boden said. "And he’s destroying me." 

    Boden has been suspended without pay since early March after the exam, which was ordered and paid for by the county, found him to be unfit.

    “I am working in construction because the bills keep coming in,” Boden said. “How am I going to pay my mortgage and feed my four boys?” 

    Documents support Boden’s claim that he was ordered to undergo the psychological exam because of a single verbal argument with another lieutenant who later testified the two reconciled and even “hugged.” Boden still faces disciplinary departmental charges in connection with that incident.

    Sheriff Strada, who has held the position since 2010, originally agreed to an on-camera interview with the I-Team, but backed out at the last minute.

    His campaign manager, Kelly Ann Hart, issued a written statement that said in part: “Boden and his supporters have engaged in a dangerous campaign of personal harassment towards Sheriff Strada, his family, the department, and members of the public.” 

    Strada has accused the Boden camp of doctoring a clip of video that appears to show the sheriff, not in uniform, fondling the backside of a female firefighter at an event. 

    Eric Rojas/AFP/Getty Images

    “I had nothing to do with that video,” said Boden. 

    Boden subsequently passed another psychological exam by a different expert. He is waiting to be re-tested by the forensic firm hired by Sussex County. 

    “He (the Sheriff), has come at me with every weapon you could come at somebody with to discredit my name and my candidacy, and we’re still slugging it out,” Boden said. 

    The primary election is scheduled for June 4. 

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