N.J. attorney general creates office to investigate corruption

"Simply put, we must hold accountable those who violate the public trust or undermine the criminal justice system."

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New Jersey’s attorney general said Monday he is setting up an office to fight corruption and build confidence in government.

Gurbir Grewal the new Office of Public Integrity and Accountability will be led by longtime federal prosecutor Thomas Eicher, who will report directly to Grewal as the office investigates an assortment of crimes.

Among the areas the office will focus are allegations of civil rights violations, wrongful convictions and as well as “sensitive matters” for federal, state and local officials, according to Grewal, whom Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy appointed this year.

Eicher has served in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey going back to 2003, including stints as the chief of the criminal division from 2010 to 2018.

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The new office stemmed from concerns he’s heard from residents. He says they want law enforcement to “root out the corruption and misconduct” that hurts faith in public institutions, Grewal said.

“Simply put, we must hold accountable those who violate the public trust or undermine the criminal justice system,” he said.

The new office will include prosecutors as well as criminal investigators from New Jersey State Police, and to ensure the independence of sensitive investigations, the new office will report directly to the attorney general, Grewal added. Those investigations would typically fall under the Division of Criminal Justice’s chain of command.

Eicher said he’s honored for the chance to work for the public and added that “democracy cannot function unless it has the confidence of all the people it serves.”

“I am committed to working with Attorney General Grewal to strengthen that confidence,” he said.

It’s the latest development out of the office of New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer.

Grewal — the nation’s first Sikh attorney general — has quickly become one of the highest profile members of Murphy’s administration.

He’s led a number of particularly progressive-leaning efforts to push back against the Trump administration, including pursuing lawsuits over firearms, immigration and taxes, and he also announced recently the state would begin seeking natural resources damages in cases of polluted sites across the state.

In addition to cases that liberals cheer, Grewal last week also announced a criminal investigation into the state’s Catholic Church spurred by a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report that concluded more than 1,000 children were victims to sexual abuse by more than 300 priests since the 1940s.

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