NORTH WILDWOOD — Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam walked away from a municipal courtroom 40 miles from his hometown with all assault and harassment complaints against him stemming from a Nov. 11 fight outside a casino dismissed.
His co-defendant, City Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy, whose punches caught on a security video landed their mark, unlike the ones seen thrown by the mayor, agreed to pay a $500 fine imposed by Municipal Court Judge Louis Belasco on one violation of a city ordinance against obstructing traffic.
“The mayor was accosted and attempted to protect himself,” said attorney Vincent Campo after the hearing, which followed about two hours of negotiations with the prosecutor. “We’re happy the mayor was exonerated, as we knew he would be of any illegal or untoward conduct.”
Gilliam, who did not speak during the brief hearing and stayed seated next to his lawyer, said only: “The justice system proved itself to be what we said from the very beginning. It’s basically about moving Atlantic City forward.”
Gilliam’s legal problems are far from over. As Fauntleroy’s attorney alluded to after the hearing, Gilliam remains under investigation by the FBI and IRS, whose agents raided his home in December.
“Based upon what’s been reported by the media," attorney James Leonard said outside the courtroom, "the mayor has bigger fish to fry than this.”
The video showed a fight outside the Golden Nugget casino involving Gilliam, Fauntleroy, and three employees of the Haven nightclub, including Greg Aulicino and Joseph Camarota, who filed the original complaints against the two elected officials.
Both attended Thursday’s hearing and agreed to dismiss the complaints against Gilliam, and amend the complaint against Fauntleroy to one municipal violation. After, Aulicino read a short statement and said he was “glad to see someone that’s taking responsibility for their actions.”
“It’s a shame to see public officials behave so poorly,” said Aulicino, a VIP host. “It makes my job a little bit harder to promote the city of Atlantic City when you have someone like Jeffree Fauntleroy putting a black eye on Atlantic City.”
Asked if the two elected officials would be welcome back at Haven, Aulicino said, “I don’t believe so.”
In court, Fauntleroy acknowledged only that his actions impeded the flow of traffic in a public place, in this case the valet area outside the Golden Nugget, where the 2:30 a.m. scrum took place.
“He’s acknowledged he obstructed the flow of traffic on Nov. 11, 2018,” said attorney Leonard. "That’s exactly what the video showed him doing. "
Fauntleroy said he was “absolutely” satisfied with the outcome.
"It’s a great day for me, a great day for Atlantic City. I get to move forward."
The hearing was the second time for Gilliam and third for Fauntleroy traveling from Atlantic City to the quiet off-season courtroom in North Wildwood, where the cases were transferred to avoid a conflict of interest in Atlantic City. The two entered not-guilty pleas in December to the complaints, in which the three employees of the Haven accused the officials of simple assault and harassment.
When agents raided Gilliam’s home, they carted away boxes and computer equipment. Former political allies of Gilliam have said they have been questioned in connection with possible campaign finance violations. A nonprofit Gilliam founded, Connecting the Dots, which was the announced recipient of money raised at Gilliam’s inauguration gala, has also been scrutinized.
The FBI has made no public statements about the investigation into Gilliam since the day of the raid.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges against the officials, but the complaints proceeded in Municipal Court, where they would have been punishable by up to 180 days in jail.
According to the citizens’ complaints, Aulicino accused Gilliam of attempting to punch him. “Aulicino stated that Gilliam swung a punch but missed but kept trying to attack him,” the complaint stated.
A second complaint, by Camarota, also said Gilliam swung and missed, and chased him around a car.
The third complaint, by Julie Rodriguez, accused Gilliam of harassment, and said he yelled and made threats to her, saying “I’ll [expletive] you up.”
Rodriguez filed a similar complaint against Fauntleroy. Aulicino’s complaint against Fauntleroy stated that he punched him several times and threw him to the ground.