Thursday, June 17, 2010

Collins... a strategist? or a criminal?

Everyone in this society expects catty campaign advertisements when a political election is approaching. Yet, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor feel that one man may have gone too far. Apparently impersonation is crossing the line.

Taylor and Dow announced today Kevin Collins, 39, of Brooklyn, N.Y., formerly of Wood-Ridge, N.J., was charged with impersonation, a fourth-degree crime. He was a paid political consultant and connected to deceptive "robocalls" made to more than 12,000 voters that attacked the two Republican incumbents in the June 2009 primary race for state Assembly in the 40th Legislative District. “Robocalls” are automated phone calls.

Investigations found that Collins was a paid political consultant for Republican challengers Joe Caruso and Anthony Rottino. The calls, which were made using a robocall service operated by an independent company, allegedly impersonated Assemblyman Rumana's chief of staff, Ann O'Rourke. The calls featured the voice of a woman who identified herself as "Ann."

It is alleged that Collins even went so far as to obtain the cellular telephone number of Ann O'Rourke and provided it to the robocall service company so that it would appear that the automated phone message originated from her and her cell phone.

The fourth-degree charge carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Collins also was charged by complaint on Nov. 23, 2009 with violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act, a disorderly persons offense which carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

This indictment to Collins is a clear message to where the line is drawn in campaigning. Even though everyone enjoys a commercial displaying the poor grades and the occasional underage drinking charges of the opposing candidate, no one wants to be deceived. Collins will be ordered to appear in Superior Court in Passaic County at a later date.

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