- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Two men who worked for a Newark mayoral candidate have been charged with conspiring to set Mayor Ras Baraka’s campaign bus on fire in February, prosecutors said Friday.

A grand jury indicted 43-year-old Michael Benkowski, of Newark, and 36-year-old Shareef Nash, of South Orange, in the Feb. 16 fire, according to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.

Benkowski and Nash were first arrested and charged in April. Benkowski is being held on $200,000 bail at the Essex County Correctional Facility. Nash was free on $200,000 bail. If convicted, each could face 10 to 20 years in prison. It wasn’t immediately clear Friday if they had attorneys.

Murray said Benkowski and Nash worked for Shavar Jeffries’ campaign. Jeffries issued a statement in April calling the behavior unacceptable and saying anyone involved in the arson must be prosecuted.

The grand jury said Nash, who was president of Jeffries’ Central Ward campaign office, hired Benkowski, a paid canvasser, to start the fire. Prosecutors say sugar was poured into the van’s gas tank and a fire was set inside the vehicle, which was parked next to the Central Ward campaign headquarters.



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