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Former Mayor Sharpe James Returns to Newark

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

After spending 18 months in a federal prison for fraud, Newark's former Mayor Sharpe James has returned to the city he led for 20 years. James was convicted of fraud in 2006.

James returned from Virginia on a bus last night. Rutgers History Professor Clement Price says he's known James professionally for the past 20 years and that the Newark James is returning to is no longer his city.

"Newark is a city that has craved heroes and heroines," Price says. "The mayor being so prominent is oftentimes the person who becomes emblematic of the city's aspirations."

Price says those aspirations now have more to do with current Mayor Corey Booker, who ran in a contentious race against Sharpe James in 2002 before winning the office in 2006.

Price says some are cheering the former mayor's return, but "there will be others who will associate Sharpe James with an old Newark."

That didn't stop a crowd of supporters from gathering at the bus terminal to welcome James back to their city.

"He's done what the law requires and now he's coming home," says former Essex County Prosecutor Clifford Minor. "We're here to greet him and let him know we miss him."

Minor plans to run against Newark's incumbent Mayor Cory Booker in the May election.

Sharpe James will spend the remaining 9 months of his sentence at a Newark halfway house. He's appealing his conviction.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted James. Today, Christie said James should've gotten a longer sentence, but that James has paid his debt to society... and Christie wishes the former mayor a "happy and productive life."

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