NEWARK, N.J. – The Third Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed by nonprecedential opinion the convictions and sentence of a former Newark police offer who paid kickbacks to the executive director of the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corporation (NWCDC), U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Janell Robinson, 46, of Newark, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton on Jan. 7, 2021, to 108 months in prison, three years of supervised release and forfeiture of $288,950. Robinson was convicted at trial of one count of conspiracy to defraud the NWCDC facilitated by use of mails and wire transmissions, two counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right affecting interstate commerce, following a jury trial before Wigenton.
Robinson appealed her conviction and sentence, arguing that exculpatory evidence would have shown there could not have been any extortion under color of official right because the NWCDC was neither a government agency nor a department of the City of Newark. The Third Circuit rejected that argument, pointing out that under New Jersey law, entities like the NWCDC are deemed to provide essential governmental functions on behalf of a city and exercise the powers and responsibilities of the city with respect to provision of water supply services.
The government was represented on appeal by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bruce P. Keller of the Special Prosecutions Division and Norman Gross of the Appeals Division in Camden and, at trial, by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Schwartz of the Special Prosecutions Division.
The Court of Appeals decision is attached.