Jury selection begins for ex-Newark Mayor James

Jury selection started Tuesday in the first of two trials for ex-Newark Mayor Sharpe James.

James, 72, is charged with five counts of corruption, including conspiracy and fraud. His co-defendant, 38-year-old Tamika Riley, faces the same charges in addition to others, including tax evasion. James, who served as mayor from 1986 to 2006 before deciding not to seek a sixth term, is accused of rigging city land deals for Riley, who then allegedly sold the land for maximum profit.

Judge William Martini briefed 150 prospective jurors and is expected to brief another 150 Wednesday. From those, the prosecution and defense will chose 12 jurors and seven alternates.

The former mayor's attorney claims up to 90 percent of the jury pool might be unfit to serve, citing his client's right to a fair trial and an impartial jury. Some Newark residents agree.

"Probably not. I don't know," says Ozzie Velazquez. "I have mixed feelings about what's going on with [James]."

James could face up to eight years in prison if he's convicted on all counts, but a judge could impose a stiffer penalty.

The longtime City Hall fixture will also face a second trial for allegedly using city-issued credit cards to pay for $58,000 worth of trips taken with women other than his wife and for personal expenses.

AP wire reports contributed to this story.

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