Kevin Collins of Brooklyn, a political consultant, pleaded guilty Tuesday to arranging for deceptive “robocalls” to be made to over 12,000 voters in Bergen, Passaic and Essex counties, attacking the two Republican incumbents in the June 2009 primary race for state Assembly in the 40th District.
Collins, 41, formerly of Wood-Ridge, pleaded guilty to the dirty tricks ploy before state Superior Court Judge Donna Gallucio in Paterson to a criminal complaint charging him with violating the state Fair Campaign Practices Act, a disorderly persons offense.
Under a plea agreement, Gallucio immediately sentenced Collins to one year of probation and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine.
Collins was also ordered, as a condition of probation, to apologize in writing to the primary victim of the deceptive robocalls, Ann Mary O’Rourke, former chief of staff to Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Passaic).
In return, the state dismissed a fourth-degree charge of impersonation contained in a June 17, 2010 indictment. The charges resulted from an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice and the State Police.
Collins, who was a paid political consultant for Republican challengers Joe Caruso and Anthony Rottino, admitted that he was responsible for automated “robocalls” attacking the incumbents, Rumana and Assemblyman David Russo (R-Bergen). Collins admitted that he obtained the cell phone number of O’Rourke, and provided it to an independent, out-of-state robocall service so that it would appear that the automated phone message originated from her.
The robocall went to over 12,000 residents of the 40th District on the day of the primary, June 2, 2009. The call made disparaging remarks about the incumbents and encouraged recipients to vote against them. The call did not identify the campaign or political organization responsible for it, but featured the voice of a woman who identified herself as “Ann” and falsely displayed O’Rourke’s cell phone number in the caller I.D. as the purported source of the robocalls.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey J. Manis prosecuted the case. The investigation was conducted by Manis and the State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Unit.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM