Yesterday, Cumberland County Democratic Freeholder Louis Magazzu resigned his office over compromising photos he took of himself, pictures he probably never thought would wind up on the blog of his archnemesis Carl Johnson (pictured), an underemployed artist/deadbeat dad/troublemaker from Millville in New Jersey’s Cumberland County with a hyperactive interest in politics and a rather low opinion of Magazzu. I woke Johnson up this morning to find out what the heck is going on here.
What’s your beef with Lou Magazzu?
Cumberland County is the poorest county in New Jersey. We have the highest unemployment rate. We have the most children on welfare. We have 25 percent of the state’s prisoners here. This place sucks. And this was after 12 years of leadership under Lou Magazzu.
But it’s more personal than that, isn’t it?
Yes, he had me arrested in December. It’s a little murky. It’s a child support issue. Now keep in mind that all of my children are adults. But I was in arrears in my child support. I was scheduled to go to court to revise the court order based on my current income level, and he had me arrested the day beforehand… I still owe about $12,000 in child support and tuition payments for my son.
How is it that he had the power to have you arrested?
What you need to understand is that Lou Magazzu was the most powerful man in Cumberland County. He was running the show. Nothing happened without his approval. He controlled everything for years, appointed judges, wardens. You name it. He was behind it all.
So then what’s his beef with you? Why would he single you out?
I’ve always been very political, a community activist. It started years ago when I wrote a letter to the editors of the area newspapers, calling Lou out for a press release he put out there saying he was responsible for the biggest tax decrease in county history. It was all smoke and mirrors. I have a big mouth, and I don’t know how to keep it shut. Just read my blog, read about all the corruption surrounding him. It will take you forever.
And so you set up the blog to expose this corruption?
Yes, the site was set up to expose the uncivility in city government. If you disagreed with Lou, you were mistreated. Your job was in jeopardy. People were afraid to take Lou on. He had such an iron fist, and people knew he would retaliate. I said, with my income—migrant workers look down on my income as an artist and unskilled laborer in a glass factory—with my income, I have nothing he can take from me. I love political debate, but this was not possible in Cumberland County.
So, as for the photos, how did you get them?
Earlier this year, this person contacts me, saying she’d been involved with him since 2006. She asked if he was married. I said he was and that he has five children. The conversation went back and forth with weeks between correspondences. Eventually, she says she has full frontal pictures of Lou.
How did you verify that they were legit?
I thought it was a setup at first. But then I analyzed the pictures to make sure they weren’t doctored. I was able to analyze the EXIF code, which is the information embedded in digital photographs. Then I checked the source code on the emails she forwarded to me. The emails all traced back to the same account, it was valid, and it traced back to Lou. And besides, now we know he admitted the photos were of him. I read that before going to bed last night.
Was it an easy decision to post them?
No. It was gut wrenching. I feel bad for his wife and kids. I feel bad for dragging them into it. But then I remember how he dragged my personal life into a political debate where it didn’t belong.
You put them up weeks ago. What took so long for word to get out there?
The local papers told me point blank, this is not a story. When I’m in arrears on child support, that’s a story. When a friend of mine’s background was brought up by a Democratic campaign, that was a front-page story. But these naked photos of Magazzu, not a story. He was always the papers’ number-one candidate.
So what changed?
He retained counsel to try to get me to remove the pictures, which is a violation of my First Amendment rights. Once he got a lawyer on the case, the papers decided it was a story.
But why is it a story? Who cares if he wants to send naked photos of himself to someone?
The people of Cumberland County care. He’s a married man. And it shows an extreme lack of judgment. If he can’t even make the right decision in this case, think of all the harm he’s done to his constituents. And then we have to ask: Did he use taxpayer dollars to go on “political junkets” to visit this woman? Did he use his county-issued Blackberry to send the photos?
Do you feel bad for him at all?
No. Just because I know many people that he’s done far worse to. I’ve gotten so many emails from Democrats—people in his own party—saying thank you for doing this.
Is revenge sweet?
No. It’s bitter. I’m not really into revenge. This is more karma. Am I gloating? Not so much. Does it feel good? Yeah, I guess it does. After all this time, karma, justice, and what have you have been served. Lou got what was coming to him.