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New Jersey power broker George Norcross pleads not guilty to racketeering charges

George Norcross, a New Jersey power broker, pleads not guilty to corruption charges
George Norcross, a New Jersey power broker, pleads not guilty to corruption charges 02:35

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to racketeering charges in his first court appearance since his indictment last month.

Norcross and five others were charged last month, accused of controlling property deals on the Camden waterfront to collect millions of dollars in tax credits. Former Camden Mayor Dana Redd was among those charged. His five co-defendants also pleaded not guilty.

Michael Critchley, Norcross's attorney, told the judge and reporters after the 40-minute arraignment at the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse his client denies any wrongdoing.

"The indictment has a lot of words, a lot of pages, a lot of allegations," Critchley said, "but one thing it does not have, it does not have elements of a crime."

Prosecutors allege Norcross and his co-defendants — including his brother Phillip Norcross — committed first-degree racketeering conspiracy, among other offenses to further the Norcross enterprise.

Norcross, 68, is the executive chairman of the insurance firm Conner, Strong & Buckelew. He also serves as the chairman of the board of trustees for Cooper Health.

According to the indictment, the Norcross enterprise allegedly secured property and property rights on the waterfront for itself and others. The indictment also alleges they collected millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits and controlled and influenced government officials to advance their interests.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors stated they have more than 13,000 pages of evidence and 2.5 million documents and audio files as part of their case. Most of Tuesday's hearing focused on the sides agreeing to an interim protective order so the defense can start reviewing that evidence.

"It's a vital right to moving the case forward, and they need to get this stuff," Judge Peter Warshaw said. "The defense needs its discovery. The defense needs to get to work."  

Last month, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin alleged Norcross threatened a developer when he was looking to acquire what would become the Triad1828 Centre.

"When the developer would not initially relinquish his rights on terms preferred by the Norcross enterprise," Platkin said at a press conference, "George Norcross threatened the developer that he would, in substance and, in part, 'F you up like you've never been F'd up before.'"

Platkin added Norcross allegedly told the developer he would ensure they would never "do business in Camden again."

The indictment included evidence from early 2012 through 2024 and alleges the Norcross enterprise used its power over government officials to create and craft legislation to serve its mission's interests.

Norcross's attorney called the arraignment the first step in their journey for justice and says he plans to file a motion to dismiss the indictment.

"They're talking about recorded conversations that took place eight years ago," Critchley said. "Eight years ago when it was being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia and if it's a crime now, it would have been a crime then."

The state did not comment after the arraignment due to the ongoing investigation.

Norcross is due back in September.

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