A handsome, young African American politician bursts onto the national scene. Buoyed by his compelling personal story, a talent for public speaking and Ivy League smarts, he rises quickly to become a nationally prominent figure and one of the brightest rising stars in the Democratic Party. Yet, as he awaits the most important election of his career, whispers of a conspiracy emerge from the conservative press. The candidate is hiding an important document from the American people — and this failure to disclose allegedly calls into question his fitness for the very job he seeks.
We’re speaking, of course, about Cory Booker.
To explain, one of the longstanding staples of Booker’s public speeches is a tale of a time when he was walking near his former home in Newark when he heard gunshots, ran in the direction of the sound, and discovered a young, recently shot man who fell into Booker’s arms and began to bleed to death. Here, for example, is a 2010 speech where Booker told this story. The conservative National Review, however, doubts the truth of this tale, and — like a birther demanding President Obama’s birth certificate — they would “like to see documents backing up Booker’s statements.” They claim that they have been “stonewalled and given the run-around by everyone we’ve asked for help in obtaining the relevant police records,” and they announced on Wednesday that they have “filed suit against the Newark Police Department, the City of Newark, and Mayor Booker to obtain the records in keeping with New Jersey law.”
In reality, it is not at all clear that the National Review is lawfully entitled to these records. When ThinkProgress Googled the phrase “newark public records,” the first link came up was this one, a Newark City website explaining the process for obtaining city records under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act. That website informs the reader that “The terms public record and government record in New Jersey do not include. . . Criminal investigatory records,” so the police records that National Review seeks appear to be beyond the scope of Newark’s legal duty to disclose.
That said, ThinkProgress has obtained the police record of the April 19, 2004 shooting that forms the basis of Mayor Booker’s story. The record confirms Booker’s story. Here is the relevant portion of the report:
It was learned that former Newark City Councilman Cory Booker had been in the area when the incident occurred and had rendered aid to the victim. The undersigned contacted Mr. Booker and conducted an interview with him. He advised me that he had been in the area when he heard the gunshots. He stated that he did not witness the shooting nor did he observe the suspect. After hearing the gunshots, he responded to the victim and rendered aid and assisted in securing the scene until the arrival of officers. He could not provide any further information at this time.
Later in the same report, the detective who authored it states that an off duty police officer also arrived at the scene of the shooting at about the same time Booker did. The officer “stated that he then rendered some aid to the victim along with former Newark City Councilman Cory Booker.” So Cory Booker’s story of the time he assisted a dying gunshot victim is true, just as surely as President Obama was born in Hawai’i.
The full police record (which has been redacted to protect the identities of witnesses) can be read here.
The Office Of The City Clerk has announced that it will release the police records to the National Review.
A city hall spokesperson for Mayor Booker emailed ThinkProgress a chain of correspondence between the Newark City Clerk’s office and National Review reporter Eliana Johnson. Contrary to the National Review’s claim that they were “stonewalled and given the run-around by everyone we’ve asked for help in obtaining the relevant police records,” the documents provided by city hall provide a different explanation for why Newark did not promptly provide the document Johnson requested — they had a tough time finding the obscure document Johnson requested. Johnson requested the document in a letter dated August 22, 2013. After some initial correspondence, the clerk’s office informed her on August 30th that a “preliminary search has been conducted and thus far we have not yielded any results.”
Though the clerk’s office told Johnson that they expected to be able to respond to her request by September 13th, the National Review chose not to wait until this date. Instead, the conservative magazine published its piece on September 11th indicating that they had filed a lawsuit against the city and claiming that they’d been “stonewalled.”