Month: February 2021

UPDATE: 46-year-old man killed in multi-alarm Trenton fire

February 21, 2021

See MidJersey.News Breaking News story here: 4 alarm fire reported in Trenton

By: Tyler Eckel

TRENTON (MERCER)– On January 20, 2021 around 1:10 am, Trenton Fire Department responded to the unit block of Elm Street for a reported house fire with entrapment.

Firefighters arrived on the scene of a 2.5 story multi family dwelling with heavy fire showing from the second floor. The “all hands” was transmitted for additional resources and manpower to the scene.

The fire quickly began to spread, damaging several Elm Street homes including the following numerics: 15, 17, 19, 21, and 23. The fire reportedly got up to the fourth alarm before being placed under control.

It is reported that 12 people were displaced by the fire.

Despite heavy fire conditions, firefighters were searching through all the homes in an attempt to rescue the victim trapped. During their search, they located a 46-year-old male, whose name was not released, deceased inside of 19 Elm Street.

“Although the specific cause of the fire is still under investigation, nothing criminal is suspected at this time,” Detective Captain Peter Weremijenko of the Trenton Police Department told MidJersey.News.

Several surrounding fire departments were called into the city, including Hamilton Township Fire Department, Lawrence, Ewing, Bordentown, companies from Pennsylvania, and others.

Trenton also had another house fire the same night

In a second fire, Trenton Fire Department and other mutual aid departments responded to the unit block of Race Street for another house fire that occurred around 5:00 am, which left two people displaced from their home. The fire was placed under control around 5:40 am with no injuries reported.

Well Involved Car Fire In Lawrence Township Extinguished

February 20, 2021

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Lawrence Township Fire Departments Stations 23, 22 and Princeton Fire Department Station 60 were dispatched for a car fire at Princeton Pike near Meadow Road, Lawrence Township. The well involved car fire was reported at 9:45 am and was extinguished by Lawrence Township Station 23. There were no reported injures in the fire. Police closed Princeton Pike in both directions between Lewisville Road and Fackler Road during the fire. No further information was available.

4-Alarm Fatal Fire Reported In Trenton

TFD Also Responds To Additional Fire Overnight

February 20, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Around 1:14 am Trenton Fire Department responded to Elm Street for a house fire with entrapment. Upon arrival heavy fire was found on the 2nd floor in a row home. Trenton firefighters removed one victim and was reportedly pronounced dead on scene. The fire went to 4-alarms and involved 4 homes, before being brought under control.

In a second fire, Trenton Fire Department and other surrounding mutual aid departments responded to Race Street for another house fire around 5:00 am.

Several surrounding departments were called into the city including Hamilton Township FD, Ewing, Lawrence, Bordentown, and others. has reached out for official information on the two fires and if received the story will be updated and any corrections made at that time.

NJ Public Employment Relations Commission Sides With Hamilton Twp. PBA L-66 And SOA L-66A Over Payroll Issues And Sick Time Buyback

February 20, 2021

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–The NJ Public Employment Relations Commission sided with the Hamilton Township Police Benevolent Association Local 66 and Superior Officers Association 66A that Hamilton Township violated the New Jersey Employer – Employee Relations Act in an unfair practice. The Commission granted interim relief to the unions for the Township’s unilateral changes to PBA and SOA’s pay issuance date in December 2020 and January 2021, unilateral
changes to PBA and SOA’s bi-weekly base pay paycheck amounts in 2021, and termination of sick leave buyback for 2020, violate sections 5.4a(1), (2), (3), (5) and (7) of the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act, N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1, et seq.

According to the decision, “The Designee determined that PBA and SOA demonstrated the requisite elements for interim relief under Crowe v. DeGioia, 90 N.J. 126, 132-134 (1982), and enjoined and restrained Hamilton from: 1) unilaterally changing the pay issuance date for the pay period of December 14 to 27, 2020, from December 31, 2020 to a pay date of January 1, 2021; 2) unilaterally changing bi-weekly base pay amounts in 2021 to “annual salary” divided by 27, instead of 26; 3) refusing to reinstate sick leave buyback processing for 2020 for all eligible PBA and SOA members; and 4) refusing to rescind any notice to employees that Hamilton would delay or reduce pay in 2020 and 2021, or refusing to process and pay 2020 sick leave buybacks pursuant to the PBA and SOA CNAs.”

The order states, “PBA and SOA’s application for interim relief is granted. Hamilton is enjoined and restrained from:

1) unilaterally changing the pay issuance date for the pay period of December 14 to 27, 2020, from December 31, 2020 to a pay date of January 1, 2021;

2) unilaterally changing bi-weekly base pay amounts in 2021 to “annual salary” divided by 27, instead of 26; 3) refusing to reinstate sick leave buyback processing for 2020 for all eligible PBA and SOA members; and 4) refusing to rescind any notice to employees that Hamilton would delay or reduce pay in 2020 and 2021, or refusing to process and pay 2020 sick leave buybacks pursuant to the PBA and SOA CNAs.

Read the full decision here:$File/IR%202021-021.pdf?OpenElement

2nd Alarm Commercial Building Fire In South Brunswick

February 19, 2021

From radio reports and on scene reporting, once official information becomes available the story will be updated and any corrections made.

Updated Information from South Brunswick Police here: UPDATE: 2nd Alarm Warehouse Fire

SOUTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Around 7:00 pm the Monmouth Junction Fire Company was dispatched for a warehouse fire sprinkler activation with a reports of a fire inside the building at 5 Stults Road. The first units on scene reported heavy smoke inside the building and 2nd alarm was called. Mutual aid was called from all South Brunswick Fire Departments along with North Brunswick, Kingston, Plainsboro and Jamesburg.

Firefighters advanced a 2 1/2″ handline inside the building but had issues establishing a water supply because of frozen fire hydrants on the property. Tankers were called from Monroe Township Plainsboro, Hopewell-Titusville (Washington Crossing), Jamesburg, Cranbury and others. Two Large positive pressure ventilation fans were brought from the Edison Township Fire Department and placed in service to help remove smoke. Another large trailered fan was called from Millstone Valley to the scene to help remove smoke. Monmouth Junction First Aid Squad and North Brunswick First Aid and Rescue Squad was also at the scene.

Radio reports indicate that the fire was involving pallets inside the building. The company is Sonoco and the plant manufactures ridged paper consumer products. A sign on the building indicated the business has been operating at least 120 years.

No further information is available at the time of this report once official information is released the story will be updated and corrections and additions made.

Governor Murphy, Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan Announce “The Road Forward” Initiative to Mitigate Challenges to Students, Educators, and School Districts Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic

New grant programs will make $1.2 billion available for districts to address student educational and mental health needs

Murphy Administration will also request a statewide assessment waiver from the federal government

February 19, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) Acting Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan today announced “The Road Forward,” a series of coordinated policy initiatives that dramatically expand the Administration’s efforts to identify and address the academic and mental health impacts of COVID-19 on New Jersey students and educators. 

As part of this coordinated initiative, $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds will be made available to districts, including grants dedicated specifically to research-based instructional and mental health interventions. Additionally, the Governor and Acting Commissioner announced that the Administration is seeking public comment and will submit a request to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to waive federal requirements to administer statewide assessments this spring.  

“We know our students and educators have had a difficult year,” said Governor Murphy. “Providing our school communities with increased flexibility and support is essential to move our education system forward. The additional federal funds will allow districts to best meet the individual needs of their students during this challenging time.” 

“Educators and students have endured a great deal over the past eleven months,” Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan said.  “These additional federal funds will support targeted initiatives to enhance academic enrichment and mental health interventions for all students and educators.”

“With students being removed from the traditional classroom for nearly a year, the trajectory for student academic achievement has certainly been stifled,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “We’ve yet to fully grasp the level of learning loss and disruption to our children’s social and personal growth, but it is critical that we get out in front of this issue as quickly as possible. We must address the inevitable academic disparities caused by this public health crisis and to do this it will require an investment in learning enrichment programs and increased student mental health support.”

“We are very pleased that Governor Murphy and Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan are taking a stand for New Jersey’s students and applying for a waiver from federally-mandated standardized testing this spring,” said Marie Blistan, President of the New Jersey Education Association. “A waiver will prevent another disruption that pulls our students away from real learning and will ensure we have more time to focus on meeting their critical immediate needs. We also applaud Gov. Murphy’s commitment to helping New Jersey’s students overcome the social, emotional and academic effects of this pandemic. Investing federal funds to directly support our students’ learning and mental health needs will help them emerge stronger and better prepared deal with the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.”

“New Jersey is almost done closing its digital divide, and with the Learning Acceleration Grant, now our state can work toward closing its learning gap,” said Donna M. Chiera, President of the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey. “The pandemic has certainly exacerbated emotional disorders, so the Mental Health Grant will go a long way in supporting our students and educators in need. And given that the pandemic has kept New Jersey students from a formal test setting for many months, we fully support requesting a federal waiver to waive statewide assessments. To have a full state assessment program at this time would create even more stress for students and educators, along with financial and logistical burdens for districts to implement the testing. We are hoping that the Biden administration understands and recognizes this and allows New Jersey to waive the assessment.” 

“There is an urgent need to address learning gaps for NJ students that have emerged or been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Patricia Morgan, Executive Director of JerseyCAN. “The grants announced today will begin to address this need by supporting longstanding solutions including tutoring, after school programs, summer programs, and mental health supports for students and staff.  These initiatives coupled with robust diagnostic assessments and data analysis are critical steps in a statewide education recovery that includes every student in New Jersey.” 

Making Federal Funding Available to Districts 

On March 15, the DOE will release applications for $1.2 billion in federal ESSER II funds (Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund). The funds will be distributed as follows:

  • As required by legislation, a minimum of 90 percent of New Jersey’s ESSER II funds will be allocated to local education agencies (LEAs) in the same proportion as those funds received under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in school year 2020-2021. 
  • Two grant opportunities will provide a total of $105 million to support districts in providing additional academic and mental health supports.
    • $75 million Learning Acceleration Grant: 75 percent of a district’s allocation will be used to support research-based academic enrichment activities, such as one-on-one intensive tutoring and summer learning academies, and 25 percent will be used for strategies to support the broader learning ecosystem.
    • $30 million Mental Health Grant: Funds will be used to assist districts in implementing school-based mental health supports for all students and educators. These grants will assist school districts in building a tiered, sustainable intervention model of comprehensive mental health supports and services.
  • The DOE will use ESSER II State set-aside funds to provide assistance to non-Title I LEAs, County Special Services School Districts, Education Services Commissions, Jointure Commissions, Division of Children and Families, Department of Corrections, Juvenile Justice Commission, and the Juvenile Detention Centers. 

For additional information, including district allocations, please see the DOE’s February 19, 2021 broadcast memo.

To assist districts in leveraging these federal funds effectively, the DOE has posted to its website a clearinghouse of successful practices that New Jersey school districts have identified as notable achievements in mitigating the challenges posed by COVID-19. These district-reported successes are categorized by county, district size, and topic area to facilitate meaningful collaboration and learning opportunities between similarly-situated districts. 

Requesting a Statewide Assessment Waiver 

The Administration recognizes that amid the severe disruptions caused by COVID-19, statewide assessments will detract from schools’ efforts to focus on students’ social-emotional health, wellness, and individualized academic and behavioral supports. Therefore, the DOE is making available for public comment a request to the USED to waive federal requirements to administer statewide assessments this spring, including the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment, ACCESS for ELLs, and the Dynamic Learning Maps alternate assessment for students with the most significant intellectual disabilities. The waiver request also addresses federal requirements regarding the use of statewide assessments in federal accountability systems. If USED approves this waiver request, the spring 2021 administration of the statewide assessments will be canceled. 

For additional information on this waiver request, please see the DOE’s February 19, 2021 broadcast memo.

Evaluating and Ensuring Student Readiness 

To fill data gaps caused by interrupted statewide assessment administration and to ensure that students are making meaningful growth toward grade-level standards, the DOE will collect data from locally administered assessments that provide a snapshot of student learning during this school year. The DOE will provide additional guidance regarding this data collection later this month. 

In Fall 2021, the DOE will provide all districts with the formative assessment known as Start Strong. Using the lessons learned from the initial administration this past fall, the upcoming and improved Start Strong assessments will better enable districts to collect timely, actionable, standards-based student performance data at the beginning of the school year.  

The DOE will also pilot the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) this fall. The KRA is designed to be administered to incoming kindergarteners, measuring school readiness in the domains of social foundations, language and literacy, mathematics, and physical well-being. Administration of the KRA will provide participating districts with data depicting how prepared their students are for kindergarten. The tool will give educators and families the information needed to adjust, improve, and target teaching and related resources to the needs of their students.

BPU Sets March 16 Hearing in Optimum/ Altice Investigation

ROBBINSVILLE-HAMILTON TOWNSHIPS, NJ (MERCER)–In response to a wave of complaints regarding poor service and unfair consumer pricing by Optimum/Altice USA, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has found sufficient cause to investigate Optimum/Altice USA and convene a public hearing on March 16, 2021.

The BPU said in a February 17 order it had:

“reviewed the various complaints, municipal government official resolutions and requests for Board investigation and intervention in this matter, and HEREBY FINDS that there is sufficient cause to convene a proceeding to afford the municipal officials and Altice customers the opportunity to voice their concerns about the services received from Altice; as well as afford the company the opportunity to respond to these concerns before determining what corrective action may be warranted and should be taken in this matter.”

The Board designated Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden as the Presiding Officer. Holden “is authorized to rule on all motions that arise during the proceedings and modify any schedules that may be set as necessary to secure a just and expeditious determination of the issues.”

The public hearing will be held virtually. Information concerning participation in the public hearing will be posted on the BPU website. Attorneys for the Townships of Robbinsville and Hamilton filed dual letters to Lawanda Gilbert, Director of the BPU Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, requesting an investigation into the under performing utility in August, 2020.

In addition to Hamilton and Robbinsville, the order lists the boroughs of Dunellen and Sayreville, along with the Townships of Green Brook, Howell, Jackson, Montville, North Brunswick and Piscataway. The BPU received complaints and resolutions from at least 10 municipalities and several state legislators concerning various issues their residents and constituents cited alleging inadequacy and lack of service provided by Altice USA. In the complaints, the municipal and legislative officials cited: “Frequent and lengthy service disruptions (across all services), inconsistent connections and fluctuating Internet speeds, long telephone wait times, poor customer service, and an inability to get a satisfactory response to these issues from the company both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”


The letters detail just 11 examples from the hundreds of complaints received by the respective municipal offices at Robbinsville and Hamilton over the past several months citing poor customer service, unstable Internet connections, insufficient network capacity and allegations of price-gouging.

“It is the duty of Optimum (Altice USA) as a utility to furnish safe, adequate and proper service for its customers … and they have failed in that duty,” Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried said last summer. “We should not have to continuously pressure this provider to do its job.”

Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin also received a flood of complaints regarding Optimum/Altice USA (formerly Cablevision) and requested the BPU immediately commence an investigation into the services being provided to both Robbinsville and Hamilton pursuant to powers vested in the Board.

“Having reliable cable and internet service has never been more of a necessity than this year has proved it to be,” Martin said. “Both municipalities’ residents have experienced similar, unacceptable issues and a lack of timely remediation from Optimum. Mayor Fried and I will fight for our residents by partnering together on this issue and hope that by doing so it will provide for a stronger likelihood of these concerns being taken seriously by the State. “

Related stories here:

Mayors Testify At NJ Senate Committee On Law And Public Safety About Utility Company Problems

Hamilton and Robbinsville Request BPU Investigation Into Optimum/Altice

East Windsor Township Sponsors Gun Safety Program With Free Gun Lock Distribution To East Windsor Residents

February 18, 2021

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor Janice S. Mironov announced that East Windsor Township is sponsoring a Gun Safety Program, through which gun locks will be distributed free of charge to any East Windsor resident. The program commences March 1 and will run through the end of March.

According to Mayor Mironov, “This is a pro-active initiative, geared to promote and provide improved gun safety. These locks if properly used by lawful gun owners can help prevent accidental deaths or injuries in the home, as well as deaths and injuries caused by the intentional misuse of guns.”

Mayor Mironov added, “The use of gun locks is a no-brainer, which keeps guns out of the hands of children and helps prevent unnecessary tragedies. We hope that programs such as this will remind and educate lawful gun owners about their important responsibility to handle firearms safely and to store them in a secure manner.”

Township residents can obtain free safety locks at the Township police/court facility located at 80 One Mile Road, by contacting Detective Brian Gorski at (609) 448-5678, ext. 236

The gun locks are made available to the Township at no cost, through Project ChildSafe. Project ChildSafe is the nation’s largest firearms safety program, and is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Trenton Man Charged with the May 23, 2020 Murder of Watson Cogdell

February 18, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri announced today that an investigation conducted by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force resulted in a Trenton man being charged this week for the May 23, 2020 murder of Watson Cogdell.

Bobby Vazquez, 41, is charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.  He is currently being held in the Mercer County Correction Center on unrelated charges. The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain Vazquez pending trial.   

At approximately 1:40 p.m. on May 23, 2020, Trenton police responded to a Shot Spotter activation for three gunshots in the area of 193 Brunswick Avenue in Trenton.  Trenton patrol officers and emergency medical technicians arrived on scene and located Cogdell suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

A crime scene was located in the lot on the side of 217 Brunswick Avenue and MCHTF detectives located four .40 caliber casings and a projectile.

Witnesses were interviewed and area video surveillance footage was reviewed as part of the investigation.  Multiple witnesses were interviewed who observed the suspect shoot Cogdell.  The suspect was described as wearing dark clothing, approaching from Middle Rose Street, shooting the victim, then returning in the direction of Middle Rose Street.  A suspect identified as “Bobby” was seen running into a residence on Sanford Street after the shooting.  Officers located the residence, which was abandoned, and obtained a search warrant.  During a search, a black Taurus .40 caliber handgun, suspected narcotics and drug paraphernalia were located inside.

Despite having been charged, every defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Related MidJersey.News stories here:

BREAKING: One Shot Dead; The Carnage Continues As Shootings Ravage City

Developing Story: Trenton Shooting Victim From This Afternoon Identified

Hamilton Township Mourns Loss Of Former Mayor John K. “Jack” Rafferty

Jack was born May 1, 1938 and passed on February 17, 2021 at age 82, he served as Hamilton Township Mayor from 1976 to 1999, he also served NJ General Assembly 14th District from  1986 to 1988 and also ran for NJ Governor in 1981 has reached out to others in the community to reflect on the loss of Jack. Please check back we will have more to add to this story soon.

February 18, 2021 updated with additional reflections from the community, more to follow.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Yesterday, Hamilton Township, Mercer County, and the State of New Jersey lost one of the greats, John K. Rafferty.  Jack Rafferty, as everyone knew him, was a well-respected man who dedicated 24 years of his life as Hamilton Township’s first full-time Mayor.  Prior to his time as Mayor, Jack served six years on what was then the Hamilton Township Committee (now Council).  Jack’s love of public service did not end there, as he also served one term in the New Jersey General Assembly.

Jack’s tenure as Mayor saw Hamilton Township become one of New Jersey’s largest municipalities.  Under his stewardship Hamilton Township welcomed Hamilton Hospital (now RWJ Hamilton), the Hamilton Train Station, and the development of Veterans Park.  Jack will forever leave his mark on Hamilton Township as Hamilton’s main post office on Route 130 and the YMCA facility on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road each bear his name. 

Jack continued to give back to Hamilton Township after retiring from his position as Mayor – serving as the Executive Director of the Hamilton Partnership and remaining active in the New Jersey Republican Party where he served on the New Jersey Republican State Committee.  A mentor to many and a friend to all, Jack’s legacy will live on through his children and grandchildren as well as all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.

“As Mayor of Hamilton Township and on behalf of our entire community, I wish to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to his wife Doris and the entire Rafferty Family during this very difficult time,” said Mayor Jeff Martin. “I trust his family, friends, and loved ones will find solace in knowing Jack’s many years of dedicated service to our community will live on in Hamilton Township, Mercer County and New Jersey for eternity.”

Former Mayor Kelly Yaede commented, “Hamilton Township lost a truly good man, a dedicated public servant who loved his family and his community.  He led a growing town into a thriving community during his tenure. He was beloved by residents regardless of party affiliation; a true leader who put the needs of residents first. The collective sadness realized today in Hamilton with the passing of Mayor Jack is palpable.” 

In remembering Jack Rafferty, former Mayor John F. Bencivengo stated, “Mayor Jack Rafferty, his name and his life will never be forgotten. We lost our shining star, a friend to all, a great public servant, a family man, and our mayor for more than two generations. Once a mayor, always a mayor. To me, he was my mentor, friend, and a blessing in my life. Hamilton will forever be in his debt. He turned a place into a township, a township into a strong community of families, parks, schools, and thriving businesses – “Safe, Clean and Beautiful.” We shall miss him; I will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Former Mayor Glen Gilmore expressed his condolences, stating, “Mayor Rafferty’s legacy of leadership will forever loom large over Hamilton.  He always cared about people more than politics – which is what we could use more of now.  He was always a friend to me and I will miss his smile.” 

“Mayor Rafferty left an indelible mark on Hamilton Township.  We can all learn from his example and strive to be more like Jack,” said Mayor Martin.

Norman Smith, Robbinsville resident and co-founder of Project Freedom said, “Jack Rafferty was a friend; he was a friend to me, a friend to Project Freedom, and a friend to the disability community. I was a small part of Jack’s gubernatorial campaign, and this opened doors for me to co-found Project Freedom. When Jack was in the legislature, he secured seed money that enabled our first complex to be planned. Jack established one of the first Mayor’s Office for Disabilities in New Jersey during a time when we had very limited community visibility. He truly was an angel to Project Freedom, and for that reason we gave Jack our first Angel Award.”

U.S. Representative Chris Smith said, “Jack Rafferty was an extraordinary leader—a visionary and doer of great deeds—especially for the people of Hamilton Township.  He was smart, tenacious, selfless and had a sense of humor that always brought a smile to anyone he met. He was kind and caring—and had a great big heart. As the can-do mayor, Jack made Hamilton a great place to live and improved the quality of life for all. All Hamiltonians were his priority I was privileged to work with Jack on many projects including establishing the Hamilton train station and securing Hamilton’s postal identity. Like a great quarterback, he knew how to effectively lead the Rafferty team of dedicated professionals. He and first lady Doris made all of us Hamiltonians proud.

My wife Marie and I considered Jack a good friend who lent his political expertise to many of my campaigns. We mourn Jack’s passing but celebrate a life that has made all the difference in the world. Rest in peace, our friend.”

Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said, “Jack Rafferty was not only a giant among men in the political arena, he was a husband, a father, a mentor and a friend. Jack was the mayor I always wanted to be. He was a larger-than-life personality who garnered the respect of his friends, as well as his opponents on each side of the political aisle. I was extremely fortunate that he took me under his wing very early in my career and was always there to lend advice, or a helping hand at any hour of the day or night. My deepest condolences and those of my entire Administration and Township Council go out to his family and many friends. Jack was a true legend, and he will be greatly missed.”   

Former Senator Bill Baroni said, “Today, a big part of the heart and soul of Hamilton – my hometown – is gone.  Perhaps no person since our namesake Alexander Hamilton has done more to make our town what it is today than our Mayor Jack Rafferty.

I have known Mayor Rafferty my whole life.  I remember him in my living room at a meeting of our neighborhood association; he came to our little block parties, our school assemblies, our soccer league openings.  He was there when my Mom died – and he performed the wedding when my Dad married my stepmom.  Everyone in Hamilton knew him – because he knew us.  He made our town the perfect place to grow up.  Today, because we have lost Jack Rafferty, our town is a little less perfect.

It seems we are losing Hamilton’s greatest generation.  Jack Lacy, Jack Zoller, Franny McManimon, Maury Perilli, Paul Kramer, and now our Mayor Jack Rafferty.  All of us in politics follow in their footsteps and can only hope to do a fraction of the works they did.

Mayor Rafferty loved the theatre.  In the hit musical Hamilton – our towns namesake – the last line sang by all the cast is, “Who tells your story?”  Mayor Rafferty, we will tell your story.  A story that takes us to Sayen Gardens and Veterans Park; to a library we never had, parks we could only imagine; a police station that helps keep us safe; and the fact that we can use “Hamilton” on our mail.  There are thousands of stories we will tell – because you made our town.

Jack Rafferty, Rest in Peace.  Or in his beloved Irish, Seán Ó Rabhartaigh, Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam.” — Bill Baroni

Governor Phil Murphy said, “Over 24 years in office, former Hamilton Mayor Jack Rafferty helped transform the town into a thriving and growing community. We send our condolences to his family and to every Hamiltonian whose life he impacted.”

UPDATE: Rider University Email To Students Faculty and Staff About Earlier Stay In Place Order Involving Credible Threat

This is still a developing story keep checking for further updates:

February 17, 2021

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)– An email from Rider University to students, faculty and staff about the incident brought to you earlier:

This afternoon we issued a stay in place order to students, faculty and staff after receiving a threat we deemed credible and dangerous to the campus community. 

A former employee of a campus contractor called the University this afternoon and made a direct threat to harm former colleagues on campus. This was the same individual whom we contacted students, faculty and staff about yesterday, believing he potentially posed a risk to our community after he issued a related threat of violence on Feb. 16, one that was not specific to any individual. 

After receiving this more direct threat today, Lawrence Township Police and Trenton Police, working with Public Safety, immediately responded and quickly placed the individual in custody at his place of residence. The swift action of law enforcement led to Rider lifting the stay in place order in less than an hour.

Rider has also issued a Persona Non Grata letter to this individual, which prohibits them from entering or being on University property. Public Safety will continue to have an increased presence on campus.  

Rider’s top priority is to keep our campus community safe. The precautionary and protective measures taken over the past two days were meant to achieve that goal. We’re grateful for the work of law enforcement and Public Safety and the cooperation of our campus community during this incident. 

Please know that if we conclude it is not safe to come to campus or to be moving about campus, we will communicate that to you. The first message we sent last night was based on less specific, but still concerning, information. Our assessment of that information led to our putting our community on notice of a person of concern. Today’s threat was much more directed and imminent, such that we issued a shelter in place order, directing everyone on campus to remain in place until further notice so as not to potentially be in harm’s way.

In an emergency situation, when information is often not available in abundance, we will always err on the side of caution and issue immediate directives via RiderAlert to students, faculty and staff to help ensure their safety. We will make our best assessment in that moment, focusing on immediate safety, and provide additional information as it becomes available.  

Our main way to communicate urgent information during an emergency is through Rider Alert, our electronic notification system for students, faculty and staff. We will almost always utilize text messaging in an emergency, as it is the fastest and most efficient way to disseminate information. If you did not receive a Rider Alert message during this incident, please contact Debbie Stasolla at

Thank you again for your cooperation, patience and understanding. We will continue to share relevant new information as it becomes available. 

Earlier MidJersey.News story here: DEVELOPING: Shelter In Place Order At Rider University Has Been Lifted, Sources Say One In Custody, PD Says Criminal Charges Expected

Links to The Rider News a student run news organization:

DEVELOPING: Shelter In Place Order At Rider University Has Been Lifted, Sources Say One In Custody, PD Says Criminal Charges Expected update here: UPDATE: Rider University Email To Students Faculty and Staff About Earlier Stay In Place Order Involving Credible Threat

February 17, 2021

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–The Lawrence Township Police Department can confirm that there were shelter in place instructions given to the Rider University community by the school administration on 02 17 2021. The shelter in place order has since been lifted by the school administration and there is no longer any type of threat to the Rider University community. The Lawrence Township Police Department can confirm that both incidents are connected. The investigation is ongoing at this time and criminal charges are expected to be filed, Lawrence Township Police told a reporter.

The Rider News, a student run news paper, has reported on a potentially dangerous ex-employee of campus contractor involved in this shelter in place order. has several sources confirming that one suspect is in custody involved in this incident. is expecting a press release from Rider University soon on the situation so please check back as this is a developing story.

Trenton to Launch Electric Vehicle Solution to Improve Transportation Access and Public Health

February 17, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The City of Trenton, in collaboration with Isles Inc., a nonprofit community development and environmental organization that works to foster self-reliance and healthy, sustainable communities, will soon launch a multi-service electric vehicle program to improve resident mobility and increase access to jobs, healthcare, and new opportunities while addressing public health challenges imposed by greenhouse gases and air pollution.

The program seeks to provide transportation services in three phases:

  • An electric carsharing service that will allow residents to rent vehicles for designated periods.
  • An electric ridesharing service that will hire local drivers, support local businesses and improve residents’ mobility and access to essential resources.
  • An electric shuttle service that will connect residents to jobs and create a network of community organizations to expand social, health, and financial services.

The project includes modifying infrastructure for Trenton and installing charging stations at site locations, identified in partnership with the City of Trenton Planning Board. The installation of these charging stations also received unanimous support by City Council on April 2, 2020.

This ambitious project has been possible due to collaboration with ChargEVC, the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, and Environment New Jersey. These statewide organizations were awarded an opportunity to workshop an e-mobility project with Rocky Mountain Institute. The workshop brought together brainpower from all over the country to help chart a plan to make Trenton’s e-mobility a reality. Today, the project is one step closer thanks to support from the Murphy Administration and the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), which recently announced awards of $883,000 to support the project.

According to the Trenton 250 Master Plan, approximately 30 percent of Trenton households are car-free, and 21 percent of residents reported relying on carpooling as a primary mode of transportation for commuting to work. While the program is open to all, its development will prioritize providing reliable and affordable transportation options to low-income residents who may not have access to a personal vehicle.

“We are thrilled to work with Isles on addressing what has historically been one of our community’s greatest challenges,” said Mayor Gusciora. “Many of our residents lack reliable transportation, which prevents them from accepting employment opportunities, getting their children to school on time, or even seeing a healthcare provider. I believe this project will meaningfully address those needs and possibly serve as a model for other cities to follow. I’d like to also thank ChargEVC, the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, Environment New Jersey and the NJDEP for lending critical expertise and funding for the project.”

“I’m so excited to see this program launched here in Trenton; we know from many years of community meetings and engaging residents in various plans that access to transportation is a major challenge for Trentonians,” said Dan Fatton, Chair of the City of Trenton Planning Board. “This program provides one solution to that problem and the City can expand access to clean transportation options, giving people more options to get around without increasing pollution.”

Notably, the program will reduce air pollution in the city, where residents face health challenges at a higher rate than their Mercer county counterparts. “Trenton’s asthma rate is three times the state average, and accounts for 76% of all asthma-related ER visits in Mercer County, despite being only 23% of the population,” says Isles CEO Sean Jackson. “This program is an important step towards making Trenton’s air cleaner while increasing transportation options for Trenton residents. And while this program is local to Trenton, we see this pilot as an opportunity to inform future clean transportation investments that prioritize building equity throughout the state.”

The City of Trenton and Isles will issue RFPs later this month and welcome vendors to apply. While the city will own the charging infrastructure, Isles will spearhead the project’s program development and operations.

To inform the development of this community-driven program, Isles has solicited feedback from residents and community organizations for the past year. “We learned that similar to our experience, many community organizations throughout the city struggle with extending their social, health, and financial services to residents due to lack of affordable and reliable transportation options,” says Katharina Miguel, Clean Energy Advocate who is leading the program at Isles. “Our goal is to close that gap and build wealth and health in the city. We encourage community organizations that believe this would be helpful for their services to reach out to us, and we will also be executing an extensive outreach plan.”

Isles also hosted the program’s first listening session earlier in January and will continue to host sessions within the upcoming months to learn how these services can best benefit Trentonians. Both Katharina Miguel and Peg Hannah from NJDEP will speak about the program at Environment New Jersey’s webinar on Wednesday, February 17 at 2 p.m. ChargeEVC, Environment New Jersey, and the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition will continue to support the development of the project by providing technical assistance, research, and organizing expertise.

When available, RFPs will be posted on the City of Trenton website at and Isles website at

Representatives Chris Smith, Tom Suozzi to fight for ‘Sami’s Law’ in new Congress

Bipartisan legislation would improve ride-share safety

February 17, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC — With an eye toward a post-COVID easing of restrictions and a return to economic normalcy, a group of bipartisan lawmakers are determined to establish timely and much-needed safety protections for Americans who will be using rideshare companies to help them get to work, school, appointments or social events.

   Authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) with lead Democrat cosponsor, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Sami’s Law will require transportation networking companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft to deploy a verifiable digital access system to match drivers with passengers before the ride begins to enhance safety for the ride-hailing public. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Ben Cardin (D-MD) later this month.

   The legislation, HR 1082, is named in honor of Samantha “Sami” Josephson—who was kidnapped and brutally murdered by a predator pretending to be her Uber driver near the University of South Carolina just months prior to her graduation in 2019.

   “We must establish safety protocols and accountability in the system to protect rideshare customers who remain extremely vulnerable,” said Smith, who represents Sami’s hometown of Robbinsville, NJ.  “As the nation looks to emerge from COVID restrictions, there will likely be a surge in travel and general activities, and thus a corresponding urgency to protect those who rely on Uber and Lyft services.”

   Underscoring the dangers, Smith cited Sami’s tragic murder and pointed to a report released by Uber that found over a two-year period, 2017 to 2018, the company received 5,981 allegations of serious sexual assault in the United States, and 19 people were killed in physical assaults during or soon after an Uber ride.  He also cited a 2019 CNN report that revealed that Lyft has been hit with multiple driver rape and sexual assault allegations. 

   “No family should have to endure what the Josephson’s have” Rep. Suozzi said. We can’t stop every family tragedy, but hopefully Sami’s law will establish safety protocols that protect Uber, Lyft and other rideshare customers.”

   Seymour and Marci Josephson, Sami’s parents, created the #WHATSMYNAME Foundation in ‘‘honor of their daughter to educate the world on rideshare safety.” They also came up with the idea for the legislation to help ensure no one else loses their life or is assaulted by a rideshare driver or a predator pretending to be their driver.

   Last year, after painstaking negotiations with Smith, the Josephsons, congressional leaders, and  Uber and Lyft, Sami’s Law unanimously passed the House with the strong support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. The bill garnered the support of key Senate leaders, but time ran out in the Senate before unanimous consent could be achieved.

   “Lives are at stake and people, especially women, who use rideshare services are vulnerable to sexual assault and other crimes,” Smith said. “The Josephsons have made great progress educating rideshare customers about potential dangers, but none of us will rest until the modest and effective Sami’s Law protocols are enacted and the public is better protected.”

   Sami’s Law not only sets safety requirements for today’s technology and a process for successor technology performance standards, it also:

  • establishes a 17-member advisory council that reports to the Secretary of Transportation—SAMI’s Council—comprised of federal agency and public stakeholders to advance safety standards in the rideshare industry;
  • makes it unlawful to sell, or offer for sale, ride-share signage, making it more difficult for imposters like Sami’s murderer to pose as a driver;
  • requires a GAO report on the incidence of assault and abuse of both passengers and drivers;
  • requires that the GAO also examine the nature and specifics of “background” checks conducted by companies and the varying standards set by States regarding background checks.

   Other original cosponsors of the bill include: Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC), the Democratic Whip; Joe Wilson (R-SC); Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ); and Albio Sires (D-NJ).  The new bill is already endorsed by two groups which originally opposed the legislation last Congress.

   “We thank and commend Representative Smith for working closely with us in crafting this legislation, which will provide a fully nonvisual method for blind and deafblind passengers to identify and verify rideshare trips,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Personal safety is a top priority for our movement and we urge the House to swiftly pass this legislation.”

“The National Sheriffs’ Association supports Sami’s Law… all users of ridesharing programs should have a reasonable expectation of safety, which this bill addresses for both passengers and drivers,” said Jonathan F. Thompson, Executive Director and CEO of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

RWJ University Hospital Hamilton Welcomes New Leadership To Foundation Board

February 17, 2021

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Hamilton, 1 Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton, NJ, is pleased to announce new RWJUH Hamilton Foundation Board leaders and members, who assumed their new roles in January 2021. Yolanda Zaffutti Stinger, formerly the Foundation Board’s Vice Chair, ascended to the position of Chair; Foundation Board member Mary Pucciarelli took on the role of Vice Chair; and the Board welcomed two new members, Ryan Kennedy and Christina Spinelli.

Lifelong Hamilton resident Yolanda Zaffutti Stinger has been a committed member of the RWJUH Hamilton Foundation for over a decade; as Vice Chair, she was a natural fit for the Chair position. In addition to her work with RWJUH Hamilton, Stinger is involved in a variety of other community-oriented organizations.  “Giving back to the community is so important to me,” she says.

In her new role as Vice Chair, Mary Pucciarelli of Brielle, NJ, a decade-long Foundation Board member, enthusiastically continues her dedication to the RWJUH Hamilton Foundation, which supports the programs and patients of the hospital. “I’ve been so proud,” says Pucciarelli of her tenure with the Foundation, “to work with so many people from the Hamilton community.”

New Board members Ryan Kennedy of Hopewell Borough, NJ, and Christina Spinelli of Hamilton, NJ – a former member of the hospital’s Young Professionals Group (YPG) – are enthusiastic about their upcoming efforts on behalf of the Foundation, as well. With the ascensions of Stinger and Pucciarelli to their new positions and the additions Kennedy and Spinelli, the Foundation Board will continue its work to contribute to the evolution of RWJUH Hamilton in order to best serve its community.  Former Foundation Board Chair and Chair-elect of the hospital Board, Nina Melker, says, “I know we have built a strong Foundation Board. These changes will continue to bring us forward and help us grow.”

Workers Making Roof Repairs Set Roofing Materials Ablaze Quickly Extinguished

February 17, 2021

MILLSTONE TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Just after 11:00 am Millstone Township Fire Department was dispatched to 532 Route 537-Monmouth Road for a fire on a roof of a commercial building with reported smoke and flames visible. Mutual Aid fire departments from Hope Fire Company-Allentown, Plumstead Township-New Egypt Fire Company, Jackson Township and Monroe Township were dispatched to the scene. Upon arrival firefighters reported light smoke and fire from the roof and were able to quickly knock the fire down bringing it under control within minutes. Initial radio reports are that workers on the roof making repairs caught the roofing materials on fire using a torch. The fire is under investigation by the Millstone Township Fire Marshal’s Office and no additional details are available at this time. Firefighters remained on scene for at least an hour for overhaul and checking for hot spots. Thanks to a quick response and extinguishment by firefighters, the business was expected to reopen shortly with almost no business interruption.

Hamilton Fire Department quickly knocks down Schiller Avenue house fire

February 16, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER)– The Hamilton Fire Department responded to 356 Schiller Avenue around 10:25 pm Tuesday night on a reported house fire. Companies arrived on scene with smoke showing from the second floor and called the “all-hands,” sending additional apparatus, manpower, and resources to the scene. Two hose lines were stretched in operation, quickly knocking down the fire. Command placed the fire under control around 10:37 pm. It is unknown if anyone was injured. The cause of the fire is under investigation

Serious Crash On I-295 In Hamilton

February 14, 2021

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–A vehicle lost control and crashed though a guardrail and down an embankment seriously injuring at least one occupant this afternoon around 2:25 pm. on Interstate 295. NJ State Police, Hamilton Township Fire Department, RWJ EMS, and Capital Health paramedics responded to the area of mile marker 59 North Bound for a person trapped and unconscious in a vehicle with a reported fire under the hood of the vehicle. The person was extricated and transported to the Trauma Center at Capital Health Regional Medical Center, EMS alerted the trauma center they were en route with a person with serious injuries. NJ State Police are investigating the crash, no other information is available at this time.

UPDATE: Another serious crash in Hamilton sends multiple people to the hospital

February 14, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

See MidJersey.News breaking article here: Another serious crash sends 5 to the hospital in Hamilton

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER)– Hamilton Police are investigating a serious crash that sent multiple people to the hospital that occured at about 10:31 am on February 14.

According to police, a 2013 Toyota Prius, operated by Natacha Andujar-Cordero, of Trenton, was traveling East on Sylvan Avenue when she entered the intersection of Cedar Lane. Andujar-Cordero’s vehicle was then struck by a 2008 Kia Sedona, operated by Gina Desamours-Joseph of Hamilton. The Kia was traveling South at the time of the crash.

Andujar-Cordero was trapped inside of her vehicle and Hamilton Fire Department responded to the scene for extrication.

Andujar-Cordero was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center along with her passengers for serious injuries. Desamours-Joseph was transported to St. Francis Medical Center along with his passenger.

This crash is being investigated by Officer Christopher Clugsten and Officer Bryan Wood. Any witnesses are asked to contact the Hamilton Police Traffic Unit at 609-581-4000. Information may also be left anonymously through the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at 609-581-4008.

See MidJersey.News breaking article here: Another serious crash sends 5 to the hospital in Hamilton

Another serious crash sends 5 to the hospital in Hamilton

February 14, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

See update by MidJersey.News: UPDATE: Another serious crash in Hamilton sends multiple people to the hospital

BREAKING NEWS REPORT: This report is based off of radio reports, close sources, and on scene information. Once more information comes available, the post will be updated.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER)— Two cars were involved in a crash at Cedar Lane and Sylvan Avenue around 10:30 this morning.

Hamilton Fire Department responded for reported entrapment, and performed a “door pop” to free the patient from their vehicle.

Robert Wood Johnson EMS, Nottingham First Aid Squad, Trenton EMS, and Capital Health Paramedics responded to the scene and transported 5 people to the hospital. Three patients were transported to the Trauma Center at Capital Health Regional Medical Center with “trauma alerts” called. Two patients were transported to St. Francis Medical Center with minor injuries.

Hamilton Police Division’s traffic unit is investigating. Cedar Lane remains shut down between Newkirk Avenue and South Olden Avenue.

UPDATE: Medical emergency results in four car crash in Hamilton Marketplace

February 13, 2021

See previous MidJersey.News article here: Serious accident in Hamilton Marketplace sends two to the hospital

By: Tyler Eckel

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER)– At about 2:59 pm, Hamilton police received a call for a motor vehicle crash with entrapment in front of the Party City in Hamilton Marketplace.

Hamilton Police say the driver of a 2005 Nissan Altima, Ernest Seubert, 91, of Monroe Township, suffered a serious medical episode, which resulted in a four car collision at the Hamilton Marketplace in front of the Party City store.

Seubert, along with his passenger, were transported by EMS to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital at Hamilton for their injuries. No other injuries were reported at the scene by the occupants of the other vehicles.

The crash investigation is ongoing and any witnesses are asked to contact Officer Christopher Clugsten of the Hamilton Police Traffic Unit at (609)581-4000 or the Hamilton Police Crime
Tip Hotline at (609)581-4008.

Serious accident in Hamilton Marketplace sends two to the hospital

February 13, 2021

See MidJersey.News update here: UPDATE: Medical emergency results in four car crash in Hamilton Marketplace

By: Tyler Eckel

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP(MERCER)– Around 3:00 pm, Hamilton Police Department, Hamilton Fire Department, Robbinsville Fire Department, Robert Wood Johnson EMS, and Capital Health Paramedics responded to the Petsmart in Marketplace for a motor vehicle crash with entrapment. One patient was extricated from the vehicle and transported to the Trauma Center at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in very serious condition. Another patient was transported to Robert Wood Johnson Hamilton in stable condition.

Hamilton Police Division’s Traffic Unit is investigating the crash. The area is shut down for investigation and cleanup.

BREAKING NEWS REPORT: This report is based on radio reports and on scene information. Once more information becomes available, the story will be updated and corrections will be made.

Trenton man charged with spree of armed carjackings and armed robberies

February 11, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

TRENTON (MERCER)– A Trenton man has been charged with committing a string of armed carjackings and armed robberies, including the armed robbery of a commercial establishment in Trenton, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig announced today.

Joshua Perez, 22, of Trenton, is charged by complaint with one count of Hobbs Act robbery, two counts of carjacking, three counts of possession of and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and one count of possession of a firearm after previously being convicted of a felony offense. Perez is currently in custody on unrelated charges. He will make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman at a date to be determined.

According to the criminal complaint filed today:

Law enforcement officers investigated a series of armed robberies and carjackings in and around Trenton in late 2020. The investigation revealed that Perez, a previously convicted felon, and other individuals committed at least three of those armed carjackings and robberies.

On Oct. 10, 2020, law enforcement responded to a report of an armed robbery and carjacking of a vehicle in Trenton. The victims reported that they were exiting their car when three men got out of a white sedan, pointed handguns at them, and demanded their money and cell phones. Two of the subjects fled in the white sedan and one drove away in the victim’s car. The armed carjacking was captured by security cameras in the area. After the white sedan was found abandoned, a search of it revealed, among other things, a victim’s cellular telephone, and a latent fingerprint belonging to Perez.

On Dec. 5, 2020, law enforcement responded to a report of another armed robbery and carjacking in Trenton. The victim reported sitting in a car when two men ran up and pointed handguns at the victim. The men ordered the victim out of the car at gunpoint, stole money and a cell phone, and the victim’s car.

Approximately one hour later, that victim’s carjacked vehicle was used in connection with an armed robbery of a nearby Trenton gas station. Law enforcement officers responded to a report of an armed robbery in progress at the gas station. The victims reported that three males pulled up, one subject ordered them to the ground at gunpoint and pistol-whipped them. Another subject, later identified as Perez, entered the gas station, and robbed the attendant at gunpoint. Security camera footage recorded the armed robbery in progress. During a court-ordered search of Perez’s residence, Perez pointed a firearm at law enforcement officers. Officers arrested Perez and recovered the firearm, and seized other evidence linking Perez to the Dec. 5, 2021, carjacking and armed robbery of the gas station.

The Hobbs Act robbery count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The two carjacking counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The three counts of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence each carry a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of seven years in prison, which must run consecutive to each other and to any other sentence imposed, and a maximum term of life in prison. The felon-in-possession count carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark Field Division, Trenton Satellite Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson; officers of the Trenton Police Department (TPD), under the direction of Police Director Sheilah Coley; and detectives of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The case was investigated as part of the Violent Crime Initiative (VCI) in Mercer County, New Jersey. The VCI was formed in August 2020 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Trenton Police Department for the purpose of combatting violent crime in and around Trenton. As part of this partnership, federal, state, and local agencies collaborate and pool resources to prosecute violent offenders who endanger the safety of the community. The VCI is composed of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Trenton Police Department, and the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center/Real Time Crime Center.

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katie Magee Lee of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations against the defendant are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Princeton man facing multiple charges following disturbance at a Lawrence CVS

February 10, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP (MERCER): On February 9th 2021, the Lawrence Police Department responded to the area of the CVS store located at 2971 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ on a report of a male acting erratically and harassing customers.

Responding Lawrence Police officers located the male, later identified as Byung Yu, a 50 year old male from Princeton, NJ operating a 2017 Honda Accord. Lawrence Police officers attempted to conduct a motor vehicle stop on the 2017 Honda Accord, however the operator, Yu failed to comply with officer’s commands and continued to elude officers in an unsafe manner on Brunswick Pike in Lawrenceville, NJ.

Yu was later apprehended by Lawrence Police officers a short distance away on a residential street. During the apprehension a Lawrence officer sustained an injury.

Yu was charged with Complaint Warrant 2021-0088-1107 with the below listed offenses:

1 count of Eluding: 2C:29-2B (2nd degree)
1 count of Aggravated Assault: 2C 12-b1 (3rd degree)
1 count of Resisting Arrest: 2C:29-2A(1) (4th degree)
1 count of Obstructing the Administration of Law: 2C:29-1 (Disorderly Person)

A subsequent investigation conducted by Lawrence Police identified Byung Yu as the suspect responsible for committing the offense of Criminal Mischief from an incident that occurred earlier in the day in the a 2600 block of Lawrence Rd, Lawrenceville, NJ.

In that incident, Yu was captured on surveillance video vandalizing a residents lawn sign. Yu was charged with 1 count of Criminal Mischief and issued Complaint Summons 2021-000089-1107.

Please contact LT Joseph Lech of the Lawrence Police Department if you have any additional questions.

Monmouth County man sentenced to 18 months in prison for unlawfully possessing a firearm

February 10, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

KEYPORT (MONMOUTH)– A Keyport man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for illegally possessing an assault rifle, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Ahmed A-Hady, 36, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Katharine S. Hayden to an information charging him with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Judge Hayden imposed the sentence by videoconference today.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Dec. 10, 2019, there was a mass shooting in Jersey City in which a Jersey City Police Officer and three civilians were shot and killed by a male (Individual 1) and a female (Individual 2). After the shooting, law enforcement recovered a handwritten note from Individual 1’s right rear pants pocket that contained a telephone number ending in 4115 and a Keyport, New Jersey, address. Law enforcement also recovered several weapons possessed by Individuals 1 and 2, including an AR-15 rifle.

FBI agents determined that the phone number ending in 4115 contained on the note belonged to A-Hady. Law enforcement also determined that the Keyport address listed on the note was a storefront for a pawn shop. On the evening of Dec. 13, 2019, law enforcement officers traveled to the pawnshop and interviewed A-Hady and two of his relatives.

Law enforcement officers lawfully searched both the pawnshop and A-Hady’s private residence and recovered multiple rifles, handguns, and one shotgun. During the searches of the pawnshop and A-Hady’s private residence, law enforcement also recovered over 400 rounds of ammunition, including a large number of hollow point bullets.

One of the weapons recovered from the pawnshop was a Sig Sauer .22 caliber rifle capable of accepting a large capacity magazine. Records showed that A-Hady purchased this rifle in Florida on Oct. 23, 2012, approximately five months after A-Hady was convicted in New Jersey Superior Court of a crime that was punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than one year.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced A-Hady to three years of supervised release. A-Hady forfeited his interest, if any, in the firearms recovered during the search of the pawnshop.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI and task force officers of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson in Newark; the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, under the direction of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal; and the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. Acting U.S. Attorney Honig also thanked the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Esther Suarez, and the Jersey City Police Department, under the direction of Director James Shea, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Ronnell Wilson, Chief of the National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dean C. Sovolos and Thomas S. Kearney, of the National Security Unit.

Monmouth County Father and Son Sentenced for Orchestrating Scheme that Defrauded Life Insurance Companies of Over $4 Million

February 10, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

ASBURY PARK/HIGHLANDS (MONMOUTH)– Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that two Monmouth County men have been sentenced for engaging in a fraudulent scheme, pursuant to which they unlawfully issued free life insurance policies to individuals and recouped more than $4 million in fraudulent commissions on those policies from various insurance companies.

Frank Pescatore, 73, of Asbury Park, was sentenced to three years in State prison by Superior Court Judge Lourdes Lucas in Monmouth County on Monday. Pescatore pleaded guilty to second-degree insurance fraud on December 3, 2020. He was sentenced as a third-degree offender under a plea agreement.

“Frank Pescatore will serve time in prison for his lead role in a scheme that defrauded the insurance system of millions for his personal gain,” said Attorney General Grewal. “His crimes not only involved issuing policies that should not have been issued and that lapsed prematurely, but are also the type of offenses that contribute to higher insurance costs in the long run for all of us. This sentence sends a strong deterrent message that we will hold accountable those that cheat the system.”

Pescatore’s son, Evan Pescatore, 38, of Highlands, a former life insurance agent, was sentenced to three-years of non-custodial probation on Monday for participating in the scheme. He pleaded guilty to third-degree insurance fraud on December 3, 2020.

In pleading guilty, the two men admitted to defrauding insurance companies in a scheme to provide high-value life insurance policies at no cost to applicants in order to obtain commissions from the insurance companies. Eighteen policies – with face values totaling $61.5 million – were caused to be issued by eight insurance companies in the scheme.

This process of providing applicants and insureds with an inducement to apply for life insurance policies by paying their premiums, known as “rebating,” is prohibited by the insurance industry, as well as by New Jersey law.

The FBI estimates that the total cost of non-medical insurance fraud is more than $40 billion per year, costing the average U.S. family between $400 and $700 per year in the form of increased premiums.

“My office will continue to pursue these cases to protect the integrity of New Jersey’s insurance industry,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Tracy M. Thompson. “These crimes affect every policyholder who must pay higher insurance costs to cover the losses suffered by insurance carriers.”

Deputy Attorney General Jennifer L. Menjivar represented the State at sentencing. Detectives Natalie Brotherston, Taryn Seidner, and Matthew Armstrong coordinated the investigation with assistance from analyst Kelly Celenza.

Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson noted that important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.

Female arrested for robbery of Circle Deli in Hamilton

February 10, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER)– A 31 year old Hamilton woman was arrested yesterday following a robbery that occurred at the Circle Deli located at 3212 South Broad Street.

The customer entered the family owned and operated small business on February 9 around 3:30 pm, and began to argue with the employee about payment over merchandise. During the argument, the female grabbed the glass tip jar and threw it to the ground. She took the money from the tip jar off the floor, told the employee she was keeping the money, and attempted to leave. The employee blocked the exit door to keep the female from leaving, when the female began to repeatedly strike her with a closed fist.

The female stopped striking the employee when she was informed the police were called. She then dropped the money on the floor. Once police arrived on the scene, she was placed under arrest. The employee refused any medical attention.

The arrestee was identified as Melissa Williams, 32, of Hamilton. She was charged with Robbery.

MidJersey.News had a chance to speak to one of the 911 callers at the scene. The 911 caller stated she attempted to call the Deli to order food, when it was taking a while for the phone to be answered. Once the phone was answered, she states no one acknowledged the call, but a female was heard in the background yelling, “Give me the f*cking money b*tch.” That’s when she disconnected with the Deli and called 911.

Another employee that was at the Deli at the time of the robbery told MidJersey.News that this is not the first time this lady has caused a disturbance in the business, however it has never gotten physical and was usually quickly resolved among themselves.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Detective Nick Schulte of the Hamilton Police Division’s Criminal Investigation Section at 609-689-8525 or the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at 609-581-4008.

Hamilton Police remind the public that despite having been charged, every defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

2020 Data Shows NJ Fatalities Increased Despite Reduced Traffic Amid Pandemic

AG Grewal: Division of Highway Traffic Safety to Focus on Promoting Safe Driving Habits Following Uptick in Fatal Crashes Last Year

February 9, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– As preliminary data shows fatal crashes and collisions in New Jersey increased by more than five percent in 2020 despite fewer cars on the road amid COVID-19 restrictions, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal is focusing on new initiatives led by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (“HTS”) to address what are the leading causes of crashes nationwide – distracted driving and other risky behaviors.

HTS’s actions follow a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), which studied the causes of nationwide upticks in fatal crashes during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that fewer Americans drove, but those who did took more risks and were involved in a higher number of fatal crashes.

“That risky driving increases the likelihood of accident and injury is not news,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “But what we’re learning from the 2020 data is extremely concerning: even with less cars on the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic, irresponsible drivers caused more fatal accidents last year. That’s why in 2021 we’re focused on changing driver behavior to make the roads safer for everyone.”

In response to the 2020 crash statistics, HTS will launch a #SafeDriversSaveLives social media campaign to raise public awareness of the integral role each driver plays in preventing the loss of lives on New Jersey’s roadways. HTS will also use new web-based crash analysis technology to implement data-driven strategies targeting communities most in need of education, enforcement, and public outreach programs, and will also launch a statewide multimedia campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. 

“We’re working on some very exciting initiatives and programs aimed at improving driver behaviors through education and public awareness,” said Eric Heitmann, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “The 2020 crash data indicates that now, more than ever, we need every driver working with us to keep New Jersey’s roadways safe.”

Preliminary data from the New Jersey State Police (“NJSP”) shows that there were 552 fatal crashes on New Jersey roads in 2020, up from 524 the prior year. The uptick came at a time when traffic volumes were down in the State as a result COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders, curfews, and widespread transition to work-from-home.

It’s a scenario that mirrors a nationwide trend.

Data released by NHTSA in October 2020 showed a 30% rise in fatality rates nationwide from January through June of 2020 even though there was a decrease in the number of cars on the road for at least three of those months. 

While NJSP and HTS are still compiling and analyzing underlying 2020 fatal crash data to better understand the reason for the rise in traffic fatalities in this state, NHTSA has suggested that driver behavior is to blame for the increase nationwide.

Reviewing nationwide fatal crashes in the first half of 2020, NHTSA found that driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly; drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to NHTSA:

  • One report showed a median 22% increase in speeds in select metropolitan areas.
  • Sixty-five percent of drivers in trauma centers after a serious crash tested positive for drugs or alcohol. 
  • In April, double the average number of people were thrown from vehicles during crashes, indicating no seat belts. 

This year, HTS will spend more than $15 million on programs and initiatives to enhance traffic safety and improve driver behaviors, including law enforcement training, public outreach and educational materials, and grant funding for statewide mobilizations to enforce laws on   impaired driving, distracted driving, and seatbelt usage.

In a separate campaign to be launched this spring, HTS will address the issue of distracted driving, which is the number one cause of traffic fatalities in the State.

The initiative is HTS’s latest effort to target key audiences in promoting traffic safety.

Last year, HTS focused on promoting safety among its youngest drivers through a “Stick to It” public awareness campaign to educate parents and young drivers about New Jersey’s nationally acclaimed teen driver laws.

The campaign commemorated milestone anniversaries “Kyleigh’s Law”, which requires teens to affix stickers to their vehicles to identify them as novice drivers, and the 20-year anniversary of New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License (“GDL”) program, a three-tiered licensing process considered one of the most progressive and stringent teen driver measures in the United States.

The laws are widely credited with helping to reduce fatal crashes among teen drivers. According to data from NJSP, crash fatalities involving a teen driver (age 16 to 20) decreased by more than 47 percent between 2008 and 2018, dropping from 101 to 53. During that same period, the number of passengers under the age of 20 killed while riding in a car driven by a teen plummeted nearly 60 percent from 19 to 8. 

One Mercer, One Morris and One Ocean County Tickets Split $925,659 Jersey Cash 5 Jackpot

February 9, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Three lucky tickets matched all five numbers drawn splitting the $925,659 Jersey Cash 5 jackpot from the Monday, February 8, drawing. Each ticket is worth $308,553. The winning numbers were: 25, 28, 35, 36, and 45 and the XTRA number was: 04. The retailers will receive a bonus check for $2,000 for each winning ticket sold. Those tickets were sold at the following locations:

  • Mercer County: Tony’s Deli Grocery, 755 Hamilton Ave., Trenton;
  • Morris County: SHK Food Store, 321 Route 15, Wharton; and,
  • Ocean County: Route 88 Fuel LLC, 1441 Ocean Ave., Lakewood.

UPDATE: Reports indicate up to 3 different stabbings at Mercer County Correctional Facility since Friday

February 8, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP (MERCER)– A County official has confirmed two violent cases that took place at the Mercer County Correctional Facility, sending three inmates to the hospital.

At about 11:30 Monday morning, four inmates engaged in a physical altercation. Two of these inmates were transported to the hospital, however the extent of injuries are unknown. The incident remains under investigation.

This comes just three days after a separate incident sent one inmate to the hospital. On February 5 at approximately 4:30 pm, two inmates engaged in a physical altercation, which left one with a stab wound. The inmate was transported to Capital Health Trauma Center. This incident also remains under investigation.

A close source also tells MidJersey.News that there has been three separate stabbing incidents since Friday, however we are waiting for confirmation on the incident.

This story is still developing and if more information becomes available, the story will be updated.

See MidJersey.News’ breaking news story here: BREAKING: Person stabbed at Mercer County Correctional Facility, 2nd victim this week