Skip to comments.Menendez associate: Loyal ally or liability? (convicted drug dealer Diaz, a disbarred lawyer)
Posted on 07/26/2006 8:27:09 AM PDT by Liz
Manny Diaz and Robert Menendez shared a law office and a volatile political scene decades ago in Union City, where they both cleared a path to public office for their fellow Latinos. And when Menendez was triumphantly sworn in as Jon Corzine's replacement in the U.S. Senate in January, Diaz was on hand, having already contributed more than $4,000 toward the Democrat's campaign for a full term. In between, though, Diaz got into enough trouble that he might become one of Menendez's best-known supporters by the time this year's U.S. Senate campaign is over.
Nine years ago, Diaz was arrested for cocaine trafficking in a case that eventually landed him in federal prison for two years. In 1999, the year he began serving his sentence, he was also disbarred for misusing his clients' money and other breaches.
All that makes Diaz an obvious target for Menendez's Republican rival, Tom Kean Jr., whose campaign is trying to convince the voters that Menendez has ethical problems. Kean spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said Menendez had "earned his reputation as a corrupt Hudson County boss." "This is more of the same from Bob Menendez," Hazelbaker said. "This latest revelation adds to a very long history of bad judgment."
Diaz and the Menendez campaign argued that the senator's old friend had done his time and continued to make amends through his job directing homeless services for the non-profit North Hudson Community Action Corp.
"Manny Diaz made a terrible mistake, but he paid his debt to society, and now he gives back to society every day by working for a non-profit organization that provides services to underprivileged New Jerseyans," said Menendez spokesman Matt Miller. "The fact that Tom Kean Jr. continues to spread this kind of trash shows just how desperate he is to hide his support for George Bush's agenda."
Diaz and Menendez have known each other at least since they attended Union Hill High School in the 1970s. Diaz said they are not close friends now.
"It would speak very poorly of Bob Menendez if he refused to speak to someone he knew for 30 years and who had been to hell and back," Diaz said Tuesday. He asked, "How long are you supposed to be ostracized for a mistake?" Diaz and Menendez, who were law partners in the early 1980s, rose together through the ranks of the powerful Democratic machine run by then-Union City Mayor William Musto.
The mayor's corruption conviction helped turn the friends into rivals for a time. In the election for City Commission in 1982, the year of the mayor's conviction, Diaz was on a slate of Musto loyalists that defeated a slate of defectors, which included Menendez.
That made Diaz the city's first Latino commissioner, but four years later the political tide had turned against him and his allies. Menendez returned to defeat them, become mayor and eventually rise to state and federal office.
While Menendez climbed, Diaz ultimately fell hard. In 1996, Diaz's law practice was suspended by the state Supreme Court on the recommendation of the Office of Attorney Ethics, which had begun investigating his finances. The next year, an investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration ended in the arrest and indictment of Diaz and two other men on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine, court records show.
Diaz eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 2? years in federal prison, records show. Most of the records in the case were not immediately available Tuesday, but a contemporary news account said Diaz collaborated with one of his law clients in a plot to sell 50 kilograms of cocaine from Colombia, or an estimated $2 million worth.
In 1999, the state Supreme Court disbarred Diaz after a series of findings by the Office of Attorney Ethics. Its investigation found that Diaz misappropriated clients' money in four different cases to pay personal and family debts. It also found that he presented forged bank documents to the authorities investigating him, improperly entered into a business transaction with a client and failed to maintain required accounting records. "I was going through a horrible period in my life," Diaz said, noting that his mother had died of cancer around that time. "I was suffering from depression. ... I just lost my bearings." Diaz said he deserved his punishment but also deserves credit for re-establishing himself after his release from prison in December 2001. While on furlough for his son's high school graduation earlier that year, Diaz said he asked the head of the North Hudson Community Action Corp. to give him a chance to do any job available. He would start there as a caseworker and has since worked his way up to director of emergency food and shelter services.
Menendez has helped the non-profit group, which is based in his former congressional district, get federal funding for an array of social services. But his campaign and Diaz said the senator did not get him his job there. Diaz also said his exemplary post-prison behavior earned an early end to his probation. Records confirm that his five years of supervised release were ended about a year early in October 2005. "The only thing I can do is make amends, and I believe I have made a lot of them," Diaz said.
Shortly before Diaz's probation ended and his right to vote was restored, he made at least one political preference known. From April through June 2005, he gave a total of $4,200 to Menendez's campaign fund -- a small sum in an account that now has more than $7 million in it, but also the maximum an individual can give to a federal candidate in one year.
"I'm a supporter," Diaz said by way of describing his current relationship with the senator. "I think he's got thousands like me. I'm not a close friend. We don't socialize. But I admire him."
As usual, law-abiding American are subsidizing these gov't parasites. Why doesn't this convicted leech get a job in the private sector?
Gotta bump this one
No one would hire hum?
Are you kidding?
McD's needs hundreds of ketchup pumpers and hamburger flippers.
Menendez is exceedingly sleezy, corrupt, and is a complete criminal. He therefore meets the minimum standards required to be a democrat in New Jersey.
Nicely-put. Could not agree more.
Isn't Menendez the guy who killed his parents?
"Isn't Menendez the guy who killed his parents?"
No, that was two spoiled punks in L.A. This particular New Jersey Menendez' parents killed themselves when they discovered what a dirtbag democrat party lowlife they had spawned.
So supporting George Bush is worse than taking money from a convicted felon?? Good luck with that one Bob!
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