NJ attorney general launches new unit to combat corruption

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has created a new unit within the Office of the Attorney General to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions.

The unit, which will include detectives and prosecutors, will investigate and prosecute criminal abuses of the public trust and handle other matters involving federal, state, or local officials, allegations of civil rights violations involving law enforcement officers and agencies, internal affairs investigations, and wrongful conviction claims.

Once fully operational, the new unit will handle all public integrity matters within the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. To ensure the independence of sensitive investigations, the unit will report directly to the attorney general, outside the normal reporting chain of the Division of Criminal Justice.

“Since becoming attorney general, I’ve traveled the state to hear our residents’ concerns and their message is clear: we must root out the corruption and misconduct that undermines faith in our public institutions,” Grewal said. “In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has chipped away at federal corruption law, making it all the more important for state prosecutors to fill the void. Simply put, we must hold accountable those who violate the public trust or undermine the criminal justice system.”

Thomas Eicher, a longtime federal prosecutor who has led complex corruption investigations and obtained convictions against numerous public officials, including multiple congressmen, will lead the new unit, which will be called the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.

Eicher previously served as a federal prosecutor for three decades. He joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 1987, and between 1992 and 1997, he served as a member, and later chief, of the House Bank Task Force that  investigated the U.S. House of Representatives banking scandal and secured the conviction of four former members of Congress, the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives, and six House staff members. The offenses included bank fraud, bribery, obstruction of justice, and campaign finance violations.

In 2003, Eicher joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, where he handled a number of high-profile corruption and civil rights cases. In 2006, he led an investigation into allegations of bribery involving the Atlantic City Council that resulted in the conviction of former Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway and three other councilmen in Atlantic City and Camden. In 2016, he obtained a 25-year prison sentence in a civil rights case against a former Essex County correctional officer who sexually assaulted a pretrial detainee and then lied about it to investigators.

Between 2010 and 2018, Eicher served as chief of the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he managed more than 100 criminal prosecutors and helped establish the first federal re-entry court in New Jersey. From 2015 to 2018, he served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, providing policy advice to the last four U.S. attorneys generals. Earlier this year, Eicher was elevated to deputy U.S. attorney responsible for oversight of the Trenton and Camden offices.

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