News Column

Christie Picks Pal for Senate Seat

June 7, 2013

Anthony Campisi

When Governor Christie named New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa to temporarily fill the state's vacant U.S. Senate seat, he chose a man he has known for 22 years.

"There are few people in my life who I know more than Jeff," Christie said, comparing him to a family member.

Chiesa, 47, has long been a trusted Christie lieutenant.

He served as executive assistant U.S. attorney when Christie was New Jersey's top federal prosecutor. Chiesa also focused on public corruption cases, including the prosecution of former state Senate President John Lynch. Lynch pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion charges for failing to report income from a 1999 real estate transaction.

William Fitzpatrick, who worked with Chiesa as a line prosecutor and as a top manager at the U.S. Attorney's Office, recalled Chiesa's deft handling of the successful corruption prosecution of Harry Parkin, chief of staff to a former Mercer County executive.

"As a prosecutor, Jeff was tough, smart, decisive, independent," said Fitzpatrick, who now serves as first assistant U.S. attorney.

"In this job, you had to make decisions on a daily basis, and those decisions really tested a person's judgment."

After Christie ascended to the governor's office, Chiesa joined the administration as Christie's chief counsel, responsible for giving him legal advice.

For the last year and a half, Chiesa has served as New Jersey's chief law enforcement officer, receiving a unanimous confirmation vote in the state Senate.

Chiesa, in an interview with The Record last year, said that he wanted to focus on several key areas as attorney general, including consumer protection and a crackdown on gun crimes.

In the wake of last year's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Chiesa has held a series of gun buybacks throughout the state.

He has also focused on a series of high-profile child pornography prosecutions and led a state police recruitment effort that netted the most diverse cadet class in history.

"I loved being attorney general," Chiesa said Thursday. "It was a way to make incredible contributions to the state."

Though Chiesa described himself as a "conservative Republican," he didn't give his positions on hot-button political issues, like immigration reform - which is expected to come before the U.S. Senate next week.

Before joining the Christie transition team, Chiesa worked as a partner in the litigation group at the politically connected Wolff & Samson law firm. Christie named Wolff & Samson founder David Samson to the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

And before coming to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Chiesa represented hospitals and medical professionals as a partner at the Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski firm, where he met Christie.

Chiesa earned his bachelor's degree in business administration and accounting from the University of Notre Dame. He received his law degree from the Catholic University of America.

A Bound Brook native, Chiesa lives in Branchburg with his wife, Jenny. They have two children: Al, 14, and Hannah, 12.

(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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Source: Copyright Record, The; Bergen County, N.J. 2013


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