Judge tosses Newark suit, nixes private police escorts

Posted: Updated:

A judge has ordered the city of Newark not to use police escorts for private events following a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Ras Baraka misused city funds by having officers escort a hip-hop DJ to the mayor's birthday party.

At a hearing Tuesday, the judge also dismissed claims in the lawsuit that Baraka violated state election laws by sending a flyer to residents within 90 days of an election.

For Baraka's April 9 party at Newark's Prudential Center, city police escorted DJ Funkmaster Flex from New York.

Three Newark residents sued Baraka last week, including one who formerly ran for mayor.

“It’s certainly a concern that Newark police officers have their sirens on in Manhattan,” says Marco Iaracca. “If you watch the video you'll see an individual pull to the side so they could get through into the tunnel so that's a concern. It's a misuse of city services.”

Video posted on Funkmaster Flex's Facebook page shows him in a car following another car with flashing lights as it heads into the Holland Tunnel.

Baraka said his campaign has reimbursed the city $200 for the escort.

A spokesperson for Baraka said in a statement, “The city of Newark won a major victory this morning against a lawsuit filed in Essex County Court brought by professional political provocateurs." Baraka’s office also called the lawsuit “clearly politically timed.”

Newark’s mayoral election is May 8 and Baraka is up for re-election.

But Iaracca disagrees with the mayor’s office’s statement.

“I didn't time his birthday party. His birthday party was April 9 and it came out on Funkmaster Flex Facebook page shortly thereafter,” he says. “Then his filings were filed within a few weeks of that event.”

The city agreed to comply with the judge’s order on police escorts.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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