Rollins appears before grand jury Queried on role in N.J. election

November 19, 1993|By Newsday

NEWARK, N.J. -- For more than six hours, Edward J. Rollins, the former campaign manager of New Jersey Gov.-elect Christine Todd Whitman, appeared before a federal grand jury here yesterday to testify about what he knew of alleged payments to discourage black turnout.

Mr. Rollins, who volunteered an account of payoffs to reporters Nov. 9 and then retracted his statements, was questioned yesterday by U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff. Avoiding reporters after his testimony, Mr. Rollins left through a back door of the courthouse. Mr. Chertoff also left with out comment.

Mrs. Whitman has asserted that Mr. Rollins lied when he told the reporters that her campaign paid $500,000 to black ministers and others to keep black turnout light Nov. 2. Mrs. Whitman, a Republican, defeated Gov. Jim Florio by fewer than 30,000 votes.

Mr. Rollins is set to appear at a Washington, D.C., law firm today to give a deposition in a lawsuit filed by state and national Democratic Party committees. The suit seeks to invalidate Mrs. Whitman's election, charging that the Republican Party "implemented a racially discriminatory strategy to manipulate the outcome."

While Mr. Rollins gave testimony to the federal grand jury, the Rev. Al Sharpton led about 15 local ministers and community leaders in a prayer vigil.

As Mr. Rollins arrived at the courthouse, he said the furor created by his initial comments had caused "extraordinary" pressure. He said that he would tell the grand jury "whatever they want to know." Mr. Chertoff announced the federal investigation last week, saying he would look into possible violations of federal criminal law.

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