George Norcross and others plead not guilty; defense lawyers dismissed indictment calling it a ‘press release’

George Norcross and his co-defendants have been accused of developing Camden’s waterfront properties by manipulating a state tax-credit program.

George Norcross

George E. Norcross III standing in front of Mercer County Superior Court on July 9, 2024 during a news conference (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

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The Democratic boss of South Jersey, George  E. Norcross III, and four of his co-defendants pleaded not guilty at the Mercer County Superior Court Tuesday morning.

George Norcross, his brother Phil Norcross, former Camden Mayor Dana Redd, Bill Tambussi and John O’Donnell entered their pleas before Judge Peter Warshaw.  A sixth co-defendant, Sidney Brown, will be arraigned next month because of his attorney’s scheduling conflict.

This was George Norcross’s first court appearance since his indictment in June for alleged racketeering and other charges.

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In the 13-count indictment, George Norcross and his co-defendants are accused of manipulating a New Jersey tax credit program and taking over Camden’s waterfront properties through extortion and coercion.

Prosecutors allege that Norcross, a former chairman of the Camden County Democratic Committee, used his political clout for his personal benefit with the help of his co-defendants, including Redd, who is separately charged with official misconduct.

Redd did not make any comments while leaving the courthouse.

After the arraignment, George Norcross’s attorney, Michael Critchley, dismissed the indictment, calling it a “press release” and accused Attorney General Matt Platkin of being “involved in a jihad to get George Norcross” to further his political career.

“I kind of think if we have to appropriately describe this indictment, when he runs for office, he should use this indictment as an in-kind contribution. Because this is just something to measure his belief that he can someday be governor, be prosecutor, be congressman,” said Chritchley.

He said “multiple law enforcement agencies” looked at accusations in the past.

“This was not a legitimate inquiry,” Critchley added. “It was an investigation that was going on for many years.,”

Critchley encouraged people to “read the damn indictment.”

“Analyze it, and say to yourself, ‘What are we talking about? Where is the crime,” he said. “Know where the crime is? Nowhere!”

Critchley said the document “has a lot of words, a lot of pages, a lot of allegations. But one thing it does not have, it does not have elements of a crime.”

He also dismissed a question about whether George Norcross is being pressured to step down as chairman of Cooper University Health Care.

“Save your provocative comments for somebody else,” he retorted.

Activists said the arraignment is a key step in holding George Norcross “and his cronies” accountable.

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“No one is above the law, and even as the legal process continues we’re going to fight to dismantle Norcross’ corrupt machine,” said Antoinette Miles, State Director of the New Jersey Working Families Party.

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