Jersey City Councilwoman Amy DeGise will make her first — and possibly only — court appearance Tuesday in last summer’s alleged hit-and-run with a bicyclist. She’ll be before a court that’s designed to dispose of cases quickly.
DeGise, 36, is connected to the political power structure in Hudson County, and the case was moved to Essex county to avoid conflicts of interest. She’ll appear in what’s known as the remand court, a special court meant to help clear a backlog of cases.
The court usually disposes of about 200 per month, compared to about 50 handled by other courts. It takes cases that would usually be assigned to municipal courts, and is designed to accept lesser plea agreements in order to move cases quickly, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office website. DeGise could potentially enter a plea and be sentenced all in one hearing.
DeGise is charged with failure to report an accident and “action in case of an accident,” which is the technical term for hit-and-run. A person found guilty of failing to report an accident can be fined $30 to $100 under New Jersey law. An action in case of an accident charge carries a fine of $200 to $400 and up to 30 days in jail for a first offense, though a sentence of jail time is rare.
DeGise was elected to the city council in 2021 on the slate of Mayor Steven Fulop. She is the daughter of Thomas DeGise, who is both the Hudson County executive and a leader in the Democratic political machine. She works at a county high school and was elected to run the party’s county committee in 2018 before stepping down last year amid a power-sharing deal among political factions.
In July, she was caught on video hitting a bicyclist at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Forrest Street in her SUV and driving on without ever hitting the brakes. She turned herself in to the Jersey City Police about six hours later and the video eventually went viral.
Residents called for her resignation during five hours of public comments at an August city council meeting.
“I am not resigning,” DeGise said at the August council meeting.
She has never publicly apologized to her constituents or the cyclist.
“July 19 and the weeks that have followed have been some of the most difficult, traumatic times of my life,” she said from the council dias after five hours of public comments, mostly asking her to resign. “I am grateful that no one was seriously injured and I feel horrible about that situation.”
Only two members of the City Council have called on her to resign. Mayor Steven Fulop and Governor Phil Murphy support her remaining in office.
In a wave of negative attention that followed the hit-and-run, video from a police-worn body cam was published by the Hudson County View, showing DeGise in 2019 trying to stop a Hoboken police officer from towing her illegally parked SUV, which also had a vehicle registration that had expired two years before. On the video, she then tells the officer she’s the mayor’s office.
“Can you just wait a second,” DeGise says to the officer. “I just called John Allen and he told me to hang tight,” she tells the officer. He replies, “I don’t know who that is.”
Allen was the corporation counsel for Hoboken until stepping down in December 2022. On the video, DeGise tells the officer he works in the mayor’s office.
The officer doesn’t back down. “You can wait all you want ma’am, we have to tow the car. There are trucks that are trying to make the turn and can’t because of this. So I have to get the car out of the roadway,” he says, and then hands her the ticket.