The Parsippany Township Council's Tuesday night meeting at Town Hall provided the backdrop for Mayor James Barberio finally to speak publicly about a controversial correspondence revealed last month. The letter spoke about the case of a friend's grown son, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute eight pounds of marijuana.
During the meeting's public comment portion, resident Roy Messmer took the mayor to task for using official township letterhead stationery when he wrote to Morris County Superior Court Judge David H. Ironson on behalf of 26-year-old Daniel Moses.
"This does not represent the citizens of Parsippany," Messmer scolded Barberio, stating his opinion that the use of township letterhead was improper.
Messmer also mentioned an in which Barberio, when asked about the letter, is quoted as saying:
"I did not ask for leniency. What the young man did was wrong, and he will pay for his crime. I commend the Parsippany Police Department for their work in this case. Yes, I wrote a letter. I wrote it on behalf of Daniel Moses' father, who has been my friend for many years. They're a good family, and he is a good man who has volunteered with many groups for the benefit of Parsippany Troy-Hills. But I never asked for a reduction in sentence, and I am glad justice was done."
Pulling out a copy of Barberio's letter to Judge Ironson, Messmer read the mayor's words from the first sentence of the missive's last paragraph: "I hope the court will be as lenient as possible when sentencing Daniel ..."
Messmer then talked about a drug-related burglary in his neighborhood and said it was representative of a growing "drug problem in the nation, not just in this town."
He then addressed the mayor directly.
"I don't know what you were thinking when you wrote this letter," Messmer said, "but I think the residents, the taxpayers of Parsippany, are due an explanation."
Barberio fired back, saying he had spoken with several members of the press on this topic. He mentioned receiving a call from a reporter and having a conversation in which he never said "leniency."
(Patch stands by the , which was transcribed during a phone call received from the mayor that same day after an .)
The mayor contended that he could not have asked for a reduction in sentence because he did not know what the sentence was. Daniel Moses ultimately received five years in prison with the option of parole in one year.
Barberio then yielded the floor to Justin Marchetta, who was at the council meeting to fill in for absent Township Attorney John Inglesino.
The lawyer read a letter, this one written by Inglesino, Marchetta said, into the public record.
In Inglesino's words, Barberio's letter "was erroneously characterized in court by a Morris County assistant prosecutor as 'inappropriate' because, according to that assistant prosecutor, the Parsippany-Troy Hills Police Department and federal authorities were involved in the investigation and prosecution of Mr. Moses."
Inglesino, through Marchetta, continued, intimating that questioning the appropriateness of the letter revealed a lack of knowledge regarding how the legal system works.
"In the American justice system, a period of time elapses between a criminal conviction or plea bargain arrangement and sentencing," Marchetta read. "During that time, the convicted individual may, and indeed typically does, call upon friends, family, employers, clergy, community leaders and others to submit letters on his or her behalf to the court for purposes of familiarizing the court with the individual."
The letter goes on to say that Inglesino discussed the matter with Prosecutor Robert Bianchi, "who has confirmed to me that the subject letter was not illegal."
In fact, Marchetta–reading Inglesino's ideas–called the mayor's letter "legal, ethical and appropriate."