Day: August 14, 2020

Multi Vehicle Accident on NJ Turnpike at Exit 7A

August 14, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–The Robbinsville Township Fire Department responded to the NJ Turnpike Exit 7A mile marker 61.2 north bound on the inner lanes for a multi-vehicle accident around 6:15 pm. It did not appear that there were serious injuries in the accident. NJ State Police is investigating no additional information was available about the accident.

Cancellation of “Tribute In Light” Creates Outcry — NEVER FORGET!

See updated story here:

After Major Public Outcry “Tribute in Light” Is Back On September 11th

August 14, 2020

See earlier MidJersey.News article announcing the cancellation of the “Tribute in Light” : “Tribute in Light” Will Not Shine Over Lower Manhattan In 2020, Hopes To Return In 2021 For 20th Anniversary

As noted in the original post the SBA Sergeants Benevolent Association will be organizing the “Tribute In Light” this year: (bumped to the top so you can find it easier)

MIDDLETOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The Mayor of Middletown sent a letter to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to express deep disappointment and outrage against the decision not to have the “Tribute in Light” in New York City this year. Middletown Township lost 37 members of the community on 9/11. The mayor called not having the lights a disgrace and is disgusted that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Board has cancelled the largest visible tribute to those who made the greatest sacrifice for our country.

Middletown Mayor Tony Perry states that Middletown, NJ would host the lights if New York City does not want to.

Union Beach, NJ has also stated they will host beams of light from their waterfront.

Personal Facebook statement from Al Lewandowski Borough of Union Beach Councilman: Ok so NYC can’t do the lights because it’s not safe… So starting on Friday September 11 at 7pm till 10 pm and Saturday the 12th same time Union Beach will keep their PROMISE. We’ll have the beams in the air from our waterfront. More to follow on this event. We would like to thank our Union Beach Recreation with this tribute. Never Forget!

NYC Sergeants Benevolent Association

NYC Belongs to the People, The Lights Will Go On…

Ed Mullins, the President of the 13,000 member NYC Sergeants Benevolent Association, announced today that the SBA will host a Tribute in Light on the evening of September 11, 2020. This is in response to the city canceling the annual commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Mayor de Blasio has once again failed to represent the people of this city with his inability to provide a viable alternative to this sacred annual event,” said Mullins.

“He allowed mass protests and riots in the city with no concerns whatsoever about the pandemic. He has shown time and again that he has no allegiance to crime victims in this city, whether they are killed in street encounters or by terrorists.

“The 9/11 attacks was an act of war on our nation, and the Tribute in Light remembrance paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 innocent victims who were murdered that day, as well as all of the people that continue to die from 9/11 related ailments and illnesses. These victims include members of the NYPD, PAPD, FDNY and other First Responders, as well as all of the people who went to work that day and died for our country.

“The mayor won’t find a way to honor these heroes, but the SBA will pay tribute to all of the fallen victims by arranging for a Tribute in Light. A twin beam of light will shine on the evening of 9/11. The men and women of the Sergeants Benevolent Association will make sure of that.

“The mayor might have a short and selective memory, but the members of the NYPD will NEVER FORGET the sacrifice of every person who lost their life that fateful day.”


9/11 Survivors Call for Reversal of Decision to Cancel Towers of Light

NEW YORK, NY: FDNY-Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro released the following statement slamming the decision by the 9/11 Museum to cancel the 9/11 Tribute Lights that have brightened the sky above downtown Manhattan for 18 consecutive years in memorial of the lives lost on September 11, 2001:

“New York City Firefighters stand united in opposition to the cancellation of the annual Towers of Light. The first responders and New Yorkers who have lived through September 11, 2001, and now persevered through the coronavirus pandemic, are feeling betrayed. I haven’t spoken to a single tradesman that isn’t ready and willing to work — especially, to complete the honor of lighting the sky on the anniversary of the darkest day in American history. These are more than light beams displayed once a year — they are beams of solace for a still-grieving nation and the literal embodiment of ‘never forget.’

“The Towers of Light have been, and will always be, a symbol showing that New York City and this country can not be kept down, and will stand strong and proud in the face of any tragedy or disaster. It shines to the heavens as a reminder of those we have lost. There has been no time where this message is more relevant and poignant.

“To remove this display this year, of all years, is an indication that the museum does not understand the value, or the importance, of the sacred duties in which they have been entrusted. These lights are a symbol that brings about raw emotion from all New Yorkers, especially those who lost loved ones and responded that day. I call upon the museum to reverse their decision, or risk becoming a new source of loss as New Yorkers look above to an empty sky as we hope to emerge from these dark times. The Uniformed Firefighters Association is an organization of action and we will not stand by. We are prepared to take action if the decision is not reversed,” said Andrew Ansbro, President, Uniformed Firefighters Association.

The ceremonial “Towers of Light” that shine from NYC in tribute to those lost on 9/11 are an iconic symbol of hope. Because Tunnel to Towers is fully committed to the idea that we must NEVER FORGET, the Foundation is doing everything in its power to make sure that the Towers of Light will once again be illuminated. Read more:

New York Assemblyman Doug Smith

9/11 Tribute Must Happen: Yesterday, I sent this letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo requesting he call on the New York State Police to assist the National September 11 Memorial & Museum with anything they need to ensure the Tribute in Light memorial beacons at ground zero will shine again this year. #NeverForget

MidJersey.News was in Middletown and Atlantic Highlands on 9/11/2001 below are scenes from the Monmouth County shoreline. 37 Middletown residents and thousands of others never returned.

Never Forget:

Governor Phil Murphy: “The November 3rd Election will be primarily vote-by-mail”

August 14, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy reports November 3rd election will be primarily “Vote By Mail” See statement below:

The November 3rd Election will be primarily vote-by-mail.

All active registered New Jersey voters will automatically receive a prepaid return-postage vote-by-mail ballot.

No one should have to choose between their right to vote and their health.

TRENTON – Per Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement, the Nov. 3 General Election will be conducted primarily by mail-in ballots. This is similar to the way the July 7 Primary Election was held, and is to help reduce the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Mercer County Clerk’s Office is preparing to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the County.

Before the election, all voters, regardless of party affiliation, will receive a mail-in ballot, where they will be able to fill in their choices. Only blue or black ink will be allowed; red ink or pencil cannot be accepted. Postage on all ballots is paid. In addition to mailing in their ballots, voters will have the option of placing their ballots in one of the secure drop boxes throughout the County. There will be more drop boxes available than during the Primary Election. There will also be at least one polling place per municipality that will be open on Election Day, for voters who prefer to vote at the polls. Further details, including polling place and drop box locations, will be determined by the Mercer County Board of Elections.

Also, for those unregistered to vote, an online system will be launched on Sept. 4 to assist those people who need to be registered. More details about this system will be available as the weeks progress.

“The July 7 Election provided us a template on how to perform our Election duties in the midst of a crisis,” said Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello. “The fact is, we all must continue to do our part to reduce the risk that COVID-19 poses to the public. For those who want to vote at the polls, they can still do so by provisional ballot.”

The earliest ballots will be mailed out in late September and early October. The deadline to register to vote in time for the Primary Election remains unchanged; that date is October 13. All ballots sent in must be postmarked no later than November 3 and received by the Board of Elections no later than November 10, one week after the Election. Alternatively, voters may return their ballots personally to poll workers. These do not need to be postmarked, but received within 48 hours of polls closing.

For more information on the Nov. 3 General Election, please visit the website for the Mercer County Clerk at You may also call the Elections department at 609-989-6494.

Smith Throws First Pitch at Babe Ruth State Tournament

August 14, 2020

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) tossed out the traditional first pitch at the Babe Ruth State Championship doubleheader featuring Hamilton/Northern Burlington squaring off against Atlantic Shore in the 2020 Southern NJ 15-year-old State Tournament Aug. 12.

     “It was good to get on the field with the Hamilton/Northern Burlington team and toss that first pitch,” said Smith, who for a number of years played in the annual Congressional Baseball Game. “Last night’s game one was a come-from-behind thriller, but unfortunately we couldn’t take game two. Still, it was a great night of baseball and the kids should be proud.”

     Smith took to the mound after the National Anthem as the 15-year-old all-stars from Atlantic Shore and Hamilton/N. Burlington watched his wind-up and delivery with interest. The congressman’s over-the-plate pitch was greeted by a round of applause. The announcer Keith Noonan, described the pitch as “Congressman Chris Smith came out and threw the first pitch and it was absolutely perfect. Right down the middle with some speed.” Co-announcer Joe O’Gorman said, “If you see a guy with a little grey hair take the mound for Hamilton-Northern Burlington, be a little suspicious today.”

Atlantic Shore, the all-stars from Atlantic County, won the State Championship with a 8-3 victory in game two of the double header. Hamilton/Northern Burlington forced the second game with a come-from-behind 7-6 win in the first game.

Man Rescued From Grain Bin

August 14, 2020

UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Members of the Hope Fire Company of Allentown-Upper Freehold firefighters helped a man from a grain bin on Route 524 around 11:40 am. The man was stuck in the bin for a short time and was able to climb out to the roof of the bin prior to the fire department and EMS arrival. With help of farm staff firefighters helped the man to a lift and was lowered to the ground. The man was transported to RWJ at Hamilton Hospital by Capital Health ambulance for evaluation and appeared in good spirits and ok.

Robbinsville Reports No New Cases of COVID-19 in the Township

August 14, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–One of the few times since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic locally on March 22, Robbinsville has zero new reported cases of Coronavirus.

Mayor Dave Fried released a statement via his Facebook page:

This is really great news. All of the Mercer Hospitals have few to no cases. We also had no new cases in Robbinsville this week and now have no cases with symptoms. As we continue to open up be smart stay safe. Use kind words. Remember people will have different levels of comfort as we reopen. There is no right or wrong so be aware others may feel differently then you and that is ok. There is no rule book and the guidelines change daily. Do what is right for you and your family. Don’t worry about what others are doing. I will continue to encourage businesses to reopen and I have begun urging the State to allow restaurants to reopen. As the weather changes outside dining will become less and less practical. Please keep doing what you are doing wash your hands be aware about social distancing. There is plenty of divisiveness in the Country right now. We can lessen it by being respectful and paying it forward whenever you can. As our friend Steve would say make someone’s day today.–Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried

Five New Defendants Charged in Alleged Straw Donor Scheme Uncovered in Corruption Probe by Office of Public Integrity and Accountability

August 14, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced charges against five new defendants in the investigation of an alleged straw donor scheme that previously resulted in charges against an attorney, Elizabeth Valandingham.  The charges stem from a corruption investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) that led in December 2019 to five former public officials and political candidates being charged with taking bribes.

Valandingham, 47, of Morristown, N.J., was charged on June 17, 2020 with false representation for government contracts and misconduct by a corporate official, both second-degree offenses.  The charges relate to alleged conduct between 2012 and 2017 at the law firm where she worked.

It is alleged that Valandingham and an unnamed co-conspirator recruited straw donors in a scheme to make illicit campaign contributions on behalf of the law firm, often in excess of the contribution limits, and to avoid disclosure of those contributions.  Straw donors are individuals who contribute to a candidate but are unlawfully reimbursed by another person or entity, in this case the law firm.   Under New Jersey Election Law, it is illegal for a person to reimburse another person for a political contribution or to give or lend another person money to make a contribution to a specific candidate.

The straw donors recruited in the scheme involving Valandingham – including the five individuals charged yesterday – allegedly would routinely write checks on their personal checking accounts and in their own names to various candidates and political committees, while being contemporaneously reimbursed with cash deposits directly into their checking and/or savings accounts.  During the course of the scheme, the straw donors collectively contributed and were reimbursed in cash for approximately $239,000 worth of donations.

“New Jersey’s campaign finance and pay-to-play laws are designed to ensure that law firms and other contractors cannot purchase an unfair advantage in the competition for public contracts by making undisclosed or overly large campaign contributions,” said Attorney General Grewal.  “We are determined to hold individuals accountable if they seek to distort the political process and public contracting by making illegal contributions through the type of straw donor scheme alleged here.”

Each of the following straw donors allegedly made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to various candidates and party committees only to be reimbursed by the law firm with cash deposits into one or more of his or her bank or financial accounts.  Each was charged yesterday by complaint-summons with fourth-degree concealment or misrepresentation of contributions.

  1. Vanessa Brown, 40, of West Caldwell, N.J.
  • Christopher Brown, 37, of West Caldwell, N.J.
  • Ricardo Balanzateguimaldo, 40, of Bogota, N.J.
  • Erin O’Reilly, aka Erin DeMauro, 41, of Lincoln Park, N.J.
  • Suzanne P. Gayet, 63, of Boonton, N.J.

Valandingham was previously charged in connection with her role in preparing and submitting annual proposals to municipalities for the law firm to be awarded public contracts for legal services.  In submitting proposals through which the firm successfully secured such contracts, she allegedly deliberately failed to disclose local political contributions the firm made during the prior year.  The municipalities required that such contributions be disclosed as part of the public contracting process, but Valandingham allegedly failed to disclose the contributions made by the straw donors and instead indicated the firm made no reportable political contributions.  Valandingham was charged specifically in connection with proposals for contracts in Bloomfield and Mount Arlington. 

For further details on the charges against Valandingham, please see the prior news release:

The defendants initially charged in the OPIA investigation – former Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas, former State Assemblyman and Bayonne mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish, and former Morris County freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty – face charges of second-degree bribery in official and political matters for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions.  In return, they allegedly promised the cooperating witness – a tax attorney – that they would vote or use their official authority or influence to hire or continue to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work. 

For further details on the bribery charges, please see the prior news release:

Valandingham and the defendants charged as straw donors are charged in connection with conduct that is not directly related to the bribery allegations against those other five defendants.

The investigation is being conducted by the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the leadership of OPIA Director Thomas Eicher.  Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo and Anthony Robinson are prosecuting the cases, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and Counsel to the Director Anthony Picione.

Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in September 2018 to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions.  In December 2019, the Attorney General issued a directive codifying OPIA and making it a permanent part of the Attorney General’s Office.  That directive established the OPIA Corruption Bureau as the lead office within the Department of Law & Public Safety for the investigation and prosecution of state criminal violations involving corruption and abuse of public trust.

OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption.  The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption.  Information is posted at:

Defense Attorneys: Undetermined.

“Tribute in Light” Will Not Shine Over Lower Manhattan In 2020, Hopes To Return In 2021 For 20th Anniversary

See updated story here:

After Major Public Outcry “Tribute in Light” Is Back On September 11th

August 14, 2020

NEW YORK — The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is reporting that the “Tribute in Light” will not shine over Lower Manhattan this year due to COVID-19 and the set up crew has to work in close proximity for weeks setting up the lights. When the weather is good the lights can be seen for miles in areas with less light pollution parts of Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties can usually see the lights if the conditions are good.

See official statement below:

Tribute in Light, the world’s beloved twin beams of light, will not shine over lower Manhattan as part of this year’s 9/11 commemoration. This incredibly difficult decision was reached in consultation with our partners after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required to produce the annual Tribute in Light. We hope to resume this iconic tribute for the 20th anniversary. In a spirit of unity and remembrance, the city will come together for a “Tribute in Lights” initiative to inspire the world and honor the promise to never forget.

Suspended Police Officer Pleads Guilty To Possession of a Prescription Legend Drug Clenbuterol

August 14, 2020

*Clenbuterol according to Wikipedia is a bronchodilator and in some countries used for asthma. The drug also known by street name “bute” is used by bodybuilders in their “cutting” cycles for weight loss. As of 2011, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) listed Clenbuterol as an anabolic agent*

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A suspended Ocean Township police officer pleaded guilty Thursday admitting he unlawfully possessed Clenbuterol, a drug not approved for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but popular among human consumers as a weight loss supplement, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Ryan Vaccaro, 38, of Ocean Township, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree Possession of a Prescription Legend Drug (Clenbuterol), before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Lourdes Lucas, as part of a plea agreement with this Office.   During his plea, Vaccaro acknowledged that between May 1, 2018 and Feb. 19, 2019, he was knowingly in possession of five or more dosage units of Clenbuterol and that he did not have a lawful prescription for that substance.

Vaccaro was charged on February 19, 2019 with fourth degree Possession of a Prescription Legend Drug, second degree Possession with Intent to Distribute a Prescription Legend Drug, and second degree Distribution of a Prescription Legend Drug, as a result of an investigation connected to former Deal Police Officer Joseph Ammaturo, who entered a guilty plea last month.   The investigation revealed that Ammaturo obtained three boxes of Astralean Clenbuterol containing approximately 150 pills from Vaccaro and that Ammaturo distributed two of those boxes to other individuals.  The third box was ultimately recovered from Ammaturo’s residence.  Additional Clenbuterol pills were found in Vaccaro’s residence during the execution of a search warrant.

Clenbuterol is a drug used to treat breathing disorders in animals and is not approved for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  It is popular among human consumers as a weight loss supplement despite its banned status.

As part of his plea agreement, an order permanently barring Vaccaro from holding public office in New Jersey was entered and signed by Judge Lucas today. The plea agreement also permits Vaccaro to apply to the pre-trial intervention program.

 “We will continue to prosecute law enforcement officers who fail to respect their responsibilities to the community and to their colleagues who put their lives on the line each and every day,” Gramiccioni said.

“I am pleased that this case has finally concluded and we as an organization can put this behind us. The Ocean Township Police Department is a highly professional and community-minded organization and we will not let the actions of a former police officer overshadow the great work and dedication by the men and women of this department,” said Ocean Township Police Chief Steven R. Peters.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 9, 2020, at which time Vacarro faces a probationary sentence.

The case has been assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crimes Unit.

Vaccaro is represented by Richard E. Incremona, Esq., of Freehold.