EXCLUSIVE: Beleaguered Prosecutor Nicodemo Off the Eisemann Case; Trial Moves Forward Despite State’s Objection [Court Documents]

The lead prosecutor in the case against SCHI founder Rabbi Osher Eisemann, Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo, has been removed from the Eisemann case, just weeks after Judge Joseph Paone ruled that the prosecution violated the Brady Act by withholding key exculpatory evidence from the defense.

Regardless, the state is not backing down on their prosecution of the revered SCHI founder, as they push forward in an attempt to appeal a decision from Judge Paone vacating the convictions and ordering a new trial.

In the weeks since the judge affirmed the Brady violation, the prosecutors have come under fire for their corrupt handling of the case, with one state senator calling them “the most unethical to ever work or exist” in New Jersey.

Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, who is charged with overseeing all the departments at the AG’s office, has recused himself from the Eisemann case, leaving First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay Ruotolo to make all decisions about the case.

Ms. Ruotolo refused to meet with the defense team, and approved the state’s appeal.

Since Judge Paone’s ruling, the state seems to be working overtime in an attempt to reverse the ruling and send Rabbi Eisemann to prison.

On July 14, immediately after the ruling ordering a new trial, Rabbi Eisemann’s lead defense attorney Lee Vartan sent a discovery demand letter to prosecutors asking that under the Brady Act, they turn over all documentation and records surrounding the withheld evidence, and all investigative notes that pertain to their knowledge of the counts charged at trial.

The letter went unanswered for three weeks and in the interim, prosecutors filed an appeal on Paone’s decision.

In a four-page filing to the state’s Appellate Division, Deputy Attorney General Lauren Bonfiglio, who handles appeals for the AG’s office, recounted a skewed narrative of the case’s background, replete with factual errors and mischaracterizations.

The state wrote that they were unable to submit a merits brief outlining their reasons for the appeal by the August 1 deadline, and they asked the court to grant them a
15-day extension.

Defense Attorney Vartan subsequently wrote a letter to the appeals court pointing out the clear factual mistakes in the narrative told in the state’s brief, and urged the court to move speedily, as any delay would burden Rabbi Eisemann, whose long legal saga would’ve been long over had prosecutors not held back any evidence.

This Monday, the Appellate Division agreed to give prosecutors the courtesy of a one-time extension until August 16 for them to file their brief, but the court stressed that no further extensions would be granted.

The appeal is categorized as an interlocutory appeal, as it is seeking to reverse a mid-case
decision, and interlocutory appeals are generally expedited.

The Appellate judge overseeing this appeal is not from the same Appellate Part that handled the initial appeal after the trial in 2019, which resulted in the case being sent for resentencing.

At 6:00 p.m. this Monday, on the eve of a previously scheduled pre-trial hearing before Judge Paone, prosecutors filed a motion asking Paone to push off all proceeding on a new case until after the appeal process concludes.

In the 11-page motion brief submitted by Deputy Attorney General Michelle McBrian, who succeeded John Nicodemo as lead prosecutor in the case, the state asserts that a stay on the trial should be granted because of “judicial economy” and because discovery would lead to “irreparable harm” for the appeal.

“Courts always seek to avoid burdensome and unnecessary proceedings that may be rendered unnecessary by an appellate decision, but all the more so where there are other cases that are unquestionably pressing and in need of resolution,” McBrian wrote.

Ironically, after millions of dollars and nearly six years into the case, for the first time a prosecutor writes that she seeks “the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay” and to “avoid the waste of defendant’s, the Court’s and the State’s resources,” since any trial proceedings will have been for naught in the event the Appellate Division reverses Paone’s ruling.

Interestingly, later in her motion, Prosecutor McBrian acknowledges Vartan’s discovery letter as a key motive for their attempt to garner a stay on trial proceedings, and to thereby delay any discovery obligations.

“In a letter dated July 14, 2022, defense counsel made additional “discovery” requests that ultimately may be the subject of motion practice,” McBrian wrote. “The nature of these requests may implicate various privileges, including work product privilege and deliberative process privilege and also go to the heart of the State’s appeal concerning the alleged Brady violation.

There is no need to proceed with discovery requests and expediting a new trial date until the Appellate Division decides whether to grant leave to appeal. If leave to appeal is granted, the Appellate Division will have jurisdiction over the case, thus precluding further proceedings in the trial court.”

Incredibly, this seems to imply that the state is in possession of additional exculpatory evidence, yet they make no attempt to conceal that they are trying to withhold it.

At the hearing Tuesday, Judge Paone denied the prosecutor’s motion for a stay on trial
proceedings, stressing how Rabbi Eisemann was subject to the legal proceedings of the case since 2015, and more than three years has elapsed since his initial trial.

Any delay was unjustified, Paone noted, and the appeal process would likely be over before trial begins. Paone disregarded the prosecutor’s objections to discovery, and urged them to try to accommodate all discovery requests from the defense.

Paone also advised them to file motions to his court when they thought any information was privileged or protected.

Paone set Wednesday, February 1, 2023 as the date for jury selection of a new trial, and opening statements to commence on February 6, the following Monday. He also set December 1, 2022 as a date for a pre-trial hearing, when both parties could discuss the details of the new trial.

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  1. To the state of NJ. Why don’t you just drop the case, you loost and move on!!!

    That’s life, we all win and loose, and like adults we just get over the fact that we lost, and are happy when we win.

    His name is not Donald Trump!!

    Enough of this torture for this poor innocent man!!

  2. and the prosecution is working as hard as it can punish a man for something he did not do. they cant stand the idea that a jewish man can be honest and innocent. who is paying for all their cheating and lying, the public’s tax4es/

    • Can someone explain where is Governor Murphy in all of this? Where are our friends when we need them. Governor Murphy is a no show, Acting AG Platkin recuses himself. They all see this is a farce and yet they’re all scared to say anything. To take an innocent man, a tzaddik yesod oilam and put him and his family through this gehinom for 7 years is so horrific that it can’t just be ignored. Hopefully after all is said and done we should be demanding answers and accountability from our elected officials up there in Trenton.

  3. The prosecutors passed this hot potato to their subordinate who couldn’t refuse to take on the case. They don’t want to be involved anymore in this case where they came out looking so bad but they still want to try by any means possible to win in the end. Remember their names and never let them move into any elected position!

  4. After reading the comments on this story over the last few years you can see how silly the comments are, might i add how immature and uneducated the authors of the comments are.

    The acting AG had to remove himself because he likely has recieved phone calls from Lakewood community leaders throwing their support behind him and if he would to throw the case out it can haunt his political future for years to come. Regarding the Governor he has the right to offer clemency and commutations, he simply cant just call the AG and ask him to drop the case.

    • The Acting AG should do the right thing and stop this witch hunt which is being conducted great taxpayer expense. No, his political future should not be the deciding factor, rather to enforce the rule of law. And when the state DOJ has been weaponized to pursue a political or anti semitic agenda. its definitely his duty to put an end to it.

      We are dealing with someone’s life! To know Rabbi Eisemann is to know how ludicrous these charges have been from day one. It’s not silly and juvenile for people to be completely disgusted with this and to demand changes.

        • Please explain the extreme motivation to convict after two judges have already ruled that these far overarching charges are wrong. It has now come to light that the only way that any conviction was achieved was by withholding key evidence that would have exonerated the defendant. The state has spent six years on trying to convict a man on charges nobody can clearly explain. The state has attempted to throw a man in jail for 12 years (!) on charges that the judge has now said would have never been convicted on had the full story been heard.

          What’s the motivation behind this? It’s defiantly not to uphold the rule of law. Maybe it’s political or maybe it’s anti semitic. Either way, it’s reprehensible.

          • Motivation to convict – easy – explain why $200,000 moves around in a big circle, gets deposited back from his personal account. The only thing the defense said that it was to make a loan to Aaron Gottlieb – which Gottlieb denied the existence of any such loan while under oath during the trial. So did J. Rubin deny that any loan was made. So two Yidden testified that that wasn’t true (and besides who makes a $200000 loan that lasts one day in the borrower’s account before he gives it back), so the story doesn’t add up. We are of course going to judge a fellow Jewish l’kaf zechus, and there must have been a good reason to move $200000 around in a circle that ends up deleting a loan, but the prosecutors don’t think like that. They think that if you can’t articulate a logical reason to move $200000 around in a circle, then you must have done something wrong. And if your lawyer had one line in a Quickbooks entry that was the sole evidence that was sending his client to jail for 10 years, and he couldn’t think maybe I should call the bookkeeping office and ask them to say that the entry was a mistake, then probably it wasn’t a mistake, and the bookkeeper just got pressured to say a story, which she eventually did. Any regular person who had a mistaken bookkeeper entry against him for 10 years in jail wouldn’t waste ten seconds before he called the bookkeeping office. The fact that that didn’t happen is to a prosecutor strong proof that the story isn’t true, and they thought to get the bookkeeper to testify as a mistake out of desperation right before the resentencing. As a frum yid we judge lkaf zechus, but the reasons for the prosecutor to do what he did are obvious. The only difference is we know who Rabbi Eisemann is and of his sterling character.

  5. How is this circus a justifiable use of tax payer dollars. Even לשיטתם what they are accusing him of does not merit this kind of “investment” of resources in the context of all the real crimes and criminals they should be dealing with.

  6. Mr Joselit
    You are conveniently forgetting that he was acquitted of the actual crime. So even 2 judges have said they don’t understand how somebody can be convicted of laundering proceeds of a crime ,when the jury said that the crime never existed . The prosecutor tried to use fancy language to explain, but he never really came up with a good answer to this question when asked by the judge . So just leave the man alone already after 2 judges found fault with your prosecution’ and a jury acquitted him of the actual supposed crime and the man was dragged through the mud for 6 years and spent millions on legal fees. No normal prosecutor would keep trying after 2 judges were a lot more sympathetic to the defendant than to the prosecution . This desire to keep going even after an acquital on the actual crime and 2 judges going against the prosecution, definitely smells like some kind of vendetta whatever the motive ,antisemitism or another vindictive motive.

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