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McGreevey Donor Guilty in Tax, Witness Scandal

August 19, 2004|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. — Charles Kushner, a wealthy real estate developer who was the largest contributor to Gov. James E. McGreevey's election campaign, pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax violations and paying a prostitute in a scheme to stop his brother-in-law from testifying against him.

Kushner, 50, who donated more than $1 million to McGreevey's election effort, could face substantial fines and 18 to 24 months in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 29, government lawyers said. He is free on $5 million bail.

The hearing came amid continuing pressure on the governor to resign before Nov. 15 -- the date he set for leaving office after announcing last week that he is gay and that he had had an "adult consensual affair with another man."

Under the state constitution, the November resignation date would rule out a special election this year. On Wednesday, Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) said in a statement he was not interested in seeking the governorship in a special election, as suggested by some Democrats.

An attorney for Golan Cipel identified him as the man McGreevey referred to in his announcement. Cipel has threatened to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against McGreevey. The governor's lawyers have alleged that Cipel demanded millions of dollars to avert a suit -- a charge that Cipel's lawyers deny. The FBI is investigating.

It was Kushner who sponsored the visa that allowed Cipel, an Israeli, to enter the U.S. and who initially employed him. Cipel was later named a New Jersey domestic security advisor, but resigned after his qualifications were questioned.

On Wednesday, Kushner pleaded guilty to assisting in filing false tax returns, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and retaliating against a witness -- his brother-in-law, William Schulder. Prosecutors said that after hiring the prostitute who seduced Schulder, Kushner sent a tape of the encounter to his sister. She turned it over to the FBI.

Outside court, a lawyer for Kushner said that his client had not had contact with Cipel for several years. "Kushner's case has absolutely nothing to do with Gov. McGreevey," Benjamin Brafman said.

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