It’s been more than seven months since Jeff Chiesa took over for Paula Dow as the state Attorney General. In the first of a two-part interview, Managing Editor Mike Schneider caught up with Jeff Chiesa to get a status report about the priorities and accomplishments of his office.
But first, Chiesa, who has known Chris Christie for two decades going back to their days at the U.S. Attorney’s office, was asked about the governor’s reaction to GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s pick to be his running mate. The selection of Paul Ryan ended speculation about Gov. Christie’s VP prospects which began after his announcement a year ago that he would not seek the Republican Presidential nomination. Chiesa refrained from speaking for the governor other than to say that the governor loves his current job. Chiesa also would not comment on the possibility of Christie being the keynote speaker for the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa.
“We’re trying to execute as many of those important priorities as we can, be it child pornography, gangs, all the things that are affecting people’s lives here in New Jersey in many different ways. Consumer affairs, another way that affects our lives in many different ways. So I’m happy that we had an opportunity to do these things but it’s a credit to the people that work in the department that we’re able to do it.”
The more recent high profile case involves Assemblyman Robert Schroeder (R-39). Less than two weeks ago, his office brought charges against the assemblyman for passing bad checks. According to allegations, the assemblyman wrote nearly $40,000 in bad checks to investors of his company — All Points International Distributors Incorporated. The assemblyman was charged based solely on the evidence, said Chiesa.
“Anytime you bring charges against anybody, you want to make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s fair and is based on nothing but the evidence. No one should be treated better because of who they are and no one should be treated worse because of who they are.”
The issue of drugs and gangs is a high priority for his office and it’s a problem that requires coordinating with state and local departments, said Chiesa.
“I think it is a real problem and whether it’s in Camden or Newark or in some of the different places that we work with division of criminal justice, with the local department, with the state departments. It’s something we’ll continue to be aggressive about because it does impact the lives of the people who live in those communities in a very negative way.”
The recent tragedies in Colorado and Wisconsin have put a spotlight on mass shootings and in the case of Wisconsin, hate crimes. Recalling the attacks on Bergen County synagogues soon after he came into office, Chiesa said his department took swift action when those incidents happened and will continue to be vigilant.
“We gather intelligence to be sure we know as much as we can about people who may want to react or act on those feelings that they have and we do our best to be sure and [to be in] the best position to address those situations.”