The legal team for SCHI founder Rabbi Osher Eisemann is alleging a second Brady violation by state prosecutors and is now pushing for the dismissal of his seven-year-old indictment, according to a motion filed in court this week.
Superior Court Judge Joseph Paone previously ruled that Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo concealed crucial evidence and disregarded a court rule mandating the disclosure of pertinent information to the defendant’s lawyers, known as a Brady violation.
Court records reveal that Nicodemo was aware of evidence that could have exonerated Rabbi Eisemann over a year before the trial, but he chose to keep it hidden, leading Rabbi Eisemann’s attorney to argue that he “misled the jury twice.”
Consequently, Judge Paone ordered a new trial. An appeals court upheld the ruling, and the Supreme Court last week declined to hear the prosecution’s second attempt at appeal.
In the new court brief, attorney Lee Vartan argued for the indictment’s dismissal “based on the State’s intentional decision to withhold material exculpatory evidence from the defense not once, but twice.”
The court brief also lays out how newly released documents prove that the initial Brady violation was deliberate, not accidental as the prosecutors had claimed.
Vartan asserted, “The state committed a Brady violation in defending against a Brady violation,” emphasizing the intentionality behind the actions.
An intentional Brady violation is grounds to have a care entirely dismissed.
Vartan also raised allegations that the attorney general’s office was on the brink of committing a third Brady violation, had the court not intervened and compelled prosecutors to produce withheld documents.
Vartan sought a new trial after discovering that Nicodemo and the state attorney general’s office failed to provide required evidence to the defense, specifically the audit trail leading to a former school bookkeeper. The bookkeeper certified that an entry in a QuickBooks ledger account was not intended to erase a debt owed by Rabbi Eisemann, entirely contradicting the state’s case.
Prosecutors argued that they did not suppress evidence because the QuickBooks data was provided before the trial. However, Judge Paone determined that this entry, which was “key to the state’s case,” was only provided two days before the trial, and it was hidden on a thumb-drive amid a sea of information.
This latest development adds to a series of controversies involving Nicodemo and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.
In 2022, an indictment against a Bergen County police chief was dismissed due to another deputy attorney general assigned to Nicodemo’s unit omitting crucial information from the grand jury’s presentment. Despite the exoneration, the police chief lost his bid for Bergen County sheriff nearly a year later.
Nicodemo had previously faced criticism from two state senators for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
Following the Brady violation, Nicodemo was reassigned from his role as a prosecutor to a diversity officer.