John V. Kenny: I wish that Stern was here, so I could spit in his eye.

Memoirs of Hudson County

Originally appeared in Tiger In The Court
By Paul Hoffman

As election day approached, it was clear that the net was closing on Kenny and his Hudson County cabal. But the Little Guy continued to spout defiance. “I wish that Stern was here,” he said in early October, “so I could spit in his eye.”

On October 29, Kenny threw a $100-a-plate dinner at the Jersey City Armory for Senator Harrison Williams, running for reelection against the Republican state chairman, Nelson Gross. Speaker after speaker laced into Lacey and the federal investigation. Congressman Gallagher called it “a Gestapo stalking through our county, an anglicized version.”

Among the Irish Catholic Democrats of Hudson County, anything anglican is suspect.

Kenny also injected a racial motif into his remarks-of a different sort. He acknowledged buying the bonds: “I never knew that when you want to take care of daughter and children that it was an offense against the U.S. government. If that displeases Lacey or that great Jewish lawyer Stern, well, that’s just too bad. I’m going to provide for the welfare of my children.”

The Newark News said that Kenny had “reached depths of personal and religious vilification.” Senator Williams had to issue a statement expressing his “deep regret” over Kenny’s language, though he doubted that Kenny had intended an anti-Semitic slur. He hailed the Little Guy as “a great humanitarian.”

Williams romped to an unexpectedly easy victory. Two days later the “great humanitarian” John V. Kenny appeared, under subpoena, before the grand jury. He was accompanied by his attorney, the late Walter D. Van Riper, who had had firsthand experience of the Byzantine intrigues of Hudson County politics. As state attorney general during World War Two, he had investigated gambling in Jersey City and had obtained several indictments. Whereupon the U.S. attorney’s office, headed by a Hague hireling, indicted Van Riper-for allegedly selling black-market gasoline. Not surprisingly, both cases lapsed into limbo.

Kenny didn’t spit in Stern’s eye-he took the Fifth Amendment . . . or tried to. He refused to sign a waiver of immunity and asked permission to read a statement. He got it-but before he could get the words out of his mouth, Stern started firing a barrage of questions: “Did you purchase those bonds?”

“Certainly I did.”

“Did you purchase them for cash?”


“Through what means did you purchase them for cash?”

“What do you mean?”

“How did you buy them?”

“With cash – cash that I had saved for forty years.”

“Who handled the transaction for you?”

“Well, I’m not supposed to answer any questions….”

But he did-for eight more pages of transcript. Kenny insisted that the cash came from his private business concern, Terminal Industries, which cleaned cars on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and that his wife kept the money in a basement clothes hamper.

Finally, Kenny managed to read the statement Van Riper had prepared: “Mr. District Attorney, members of the grand jury: I am advised by my legal counsel that in view of the fact that I am the target of this investigation and that an effort is being made to bring about my indictment, if I were compelled to testify at this time, it would amount to a violation of my constitutional rights. Therefore, acting on that advice, I most respectfully decline to answer the questions asked of me in this proceeding on the ground that to do so might incriminate me.”
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