Sudhan Thomas Offered Plea Deal in “Pay to Play” Case

Thomas would serve five years in prison with no chance for parole if he accepts a deal offered by the state Attorney General

Sudhan Thomas

MORRIS COUNTY — Former Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas pleaded not guilty after being indicted by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for allegedly soliciting $35,000 in cash bribes from a cooperating witness, who has since been identified as Matt O’Donnell.

Thomas, 45, was arraigned before Morris County Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor on Monday and entered a not guilty plea.

Thomas faces a four-count indictment accusing him of official misconduct, a pattern of official misconduct, bribery in official and political matters, and acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior.

Also at the hearing, the state placed to offer their initial post-indictment plea offer on the table: in exchange for Thomas’ guilty plea to second-degree official misconduct, the state would recommend five years in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Furthermore, he would forfeit $10,000 worth of illicit proceeds, face a lifetime ban on public employment, and forfeit his pension.

Thomas is represented by Matthew Troiano, a former Morris County chief assistant prosecutor, and his initial case disposition conference currently is scheduled for May 3 before Taylor.

He was previously charged by complaint-summons in December 2019, where Attorney General Gurbir Grewal alleged that Thomas was preparing to run for Jersey City councilman in 2021 at the time of his conduct. Cases are pending against former Parsippany-Troy Hills Councilman and Morris Freeholder John Cesaro, former Mt. Arlington Councilman John Windish, and former state Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (no relation to Matt O’Donnell) of Bayonne. (Click here to read related article). On March 25, 2020, Cesaro was offered five years, with two years of parole ineligibility. Additionally, he would have forfeited the alleged bribe monies, paid anti-corruption penalties, and been barred permanently from public office or public employment, said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Thomas was charged with accepting $35,000 in cash bribes from a cooperating witness, $10,000 delivered on one date, and $25,000 delivered on a second date, who has since been identified as Matt O’Donnell.

Thomas allegedly agreed, in return for the cash payments, to arrange for the cooperating witness to be hired as a special counsel for the Jersey City BOE – back when he was still the president of the board.

The remaining were indicted last month. Former Morris County Freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty last month pleaded to a downgraded charge of filing a false campaign report, in return for a recommended sentence of probation.

Attorney Elizabeth Valandingham

Matt O’Donnell law partner Elizabeth Valandingham faces state prosecution in an alleged scheme to dodge campaign finance laws to procure hefty municipal contracts.  Five of her relatives and friends also were charged as “straw donors” in that probe. (Click here to read related article). Also, click here to read the charges against the “straw donors.”