Day: August 28, 2023

New Jersey Task Force 1 Deploys Ahead of Tropical Storm Idalia

August 28, 2023

WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–NJ-TF1 is on the road! We received orders from FEMA to deploy our Type 3 Team (45 personnel and 16 vehicles) to Columbia, South Carolina ahead of Tropical Storm Idalia.

Further details to follow.


AG Platkin And The Division on Civil Rights Announce a $575K Settlement Resolving Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Jackson Township

Township Used Zoning and Land Use Powers to Discriminate Against Orthodox Jewish Residents

August 28, 2023

TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has reached a settlement resolving a lawsuit it filed alleging that Jackson Township violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by discriminating against Orthodox Jewish residents through, among other things, the use of zoning and land use powers that made it harder for Orthodox Jews to practice their religion.          

The settlement, which is memorialized in a consent order and approved by the Superior Court, provides broad equitable relief prohibiting the Township from discriminating against Orthodox Jews. Among other things, the consent order requires the Township to adopt new policies and procedures that protect religious freedom and to repeal prior ordinances that discriminated against Orthodox Jewish residents. It also requires ongoing monitoring of the Township’s compliance with the LAD.          

The $575,000 settlement includes $275,000 in penalties, a $150,000 restitution fund for individuals harmed by the Township’s actions, and an additional $150,000 in suspended penalties that will be assessed if the Township violates the consent order.           

DCR’s complaint against Jackson Township, which was filed in 2021, alleged that the Township adopted discriminatory zoning and land use ordinances and enforcement practices that targeted the Township’s growing Orthodox Jewish population.         

“No one in New Jersey should face discrimination for their religious beliefs,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We are firmly committed to eliminating discrimination and bias across our state, and we expect local leaders to comply with our robust antidiscrimination laws. The settlement announced today is a powerful testament to our commitment to protecting residents’ right to religious freedom.”           “Religious freedom is a bedrock principle of American democracy, and we are deeply committed to protecting it here in New Jersey,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “As hate and bias – including against the Jewish community – continue to rise, it is critical that we call out religious discrimination when we see it, and it is especially important that we hold public officials accountable when they treat people differently based on their faith. Today’s consent order sends a strong message: We will not tolerate religious discrimination here in New Jersey.”          

According to DCR’s complaint, Jackson Township, and its officials and employees allegedly:        

  • engaged in discriminatory surveillance of the homes of Orthodox Jews, selectively targeting communal Jewish prayer gatherings;
  • engaged in discriminatory application of land use laws to inhibit the erection of sukkahs – temporary open-air structures constructed to mark Sukkot, a weeklong Jewish holiday;
  • discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting zoning ordinances in 2017 that essentially banned the establishment of yeshivas and dormitories;
  • discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting a zoning ordinance in 2017 that targeted and effectively banned the creation of eruvim, which are symbolic, boundary-defined areas in which observant Orthodox Jews are permitted to engage in certain activities otherwise prohibited on the Sabbath and during the holiday of Yom Kippur.

        As part of the consent order announced today, Jackson Township agreed that all of the Township’s powers, policies, laws, and practices affecting land use and zoning will comply with the LAD. Additionally, and pursuant to the consent order, the Township is permanently enjoined from discriminating against any residents or prospective residents of the Township on the basis of protected characteristics under the LAD.          

Under the consent order, Jackson Township is also required to notify DCR of any decision, policy, practice, rulemaking, or vote that may affect religious land use within the Township or the free exercise of religion within the Township, including, but not limited to, sukkahs, schools, dormitories, eruvim, or the ability of Orthodox Jewish people to freely exercise their religious beliefs and practices. DCR will have the opportunity to object to any such decision, policy, practice, rulemaking, or vote.          

Jackson Township also agreed to repeal zoning ordinances that were allegedly enacted to prevent Orthodox Jews from establishing religious schools and eruvim in the Township, as well as to publish a written description of the Township’s permitting requirements and procedures for sukkahs.          

The consent order includes the following additional remedial measures:        

  • Jackson Township will create a $150,000 restitution fund for the purpose of compensating any person who has been harmed by the conduct alleged in DCR’s complaint against the Township. Individuals who believe they have been harmed can contact DCR at JacksonRestitutionFund@njcivilrights.gov.
  • DCR will monitor Jackson Township’s compliance with the consent order for three years. The Township will share with DCR any complaint brought to the Township that alleges discrimination in zoning or land use law.
  • Jackson Township will establish a multicultural committee, comprised of residents, which will work in partnership with the Township to address issues impacting Orthodox Jewish residents and to combat other discriminatory behavior within the Township. The committee will represent and reflect the demographics of the Township and will create a public education campaign and organize community events to promote diversity and cultural and religious sensitivity. It will meet quarterly and provide reports to the Township and DCR. 
  • Jackson Township officials, including the mayor and elected members and staff of the Jackson Township Council, the Jackson Township Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Jackson Township Planning Board, will undergo training on discrimination in land use and zoning. They will also attend DCR trainings annually during the three-year term of the consent order.

The matter was handled by Deputy Attorneys General Eve Weissman, Renee Greenberg, Marc Peralta, and Loren Miller, and former Deputy Attorneys General Noemi Schor, Micauri Vargas, and Joanna Loomis of the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, under the supervision of Assistant Attorneys General Mayur Saxena and David Leit, and Deputy Director Jason W. Rockwell, as well as DCR Legal Specialist Lubna Qazi-Chowdhry, under the supervision of Associate Director for Affirmative Enforcement Malcolm Peyton-Cook and Chief Advisor to the Director Aarin Williams.


DCR is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (e.g., places open to the public like schools, businesses, hospitals, etc.). DCR enforces the LAD, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act.



Lakehurst Man Pleads Guilty To Theft By Deception

August 28, 2023

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on August 28, 2023, Robert Cohan, 36, of Lakehurst, pled guilty to Theft by Deception before the Honorable Kimarie Rahill, J.S.C.  At the time of his sentencing on October 27, 2023, the State will be seeking a term of eight years New Jersey State Prison, along with approximately $220,000 in restitution to multiple victims.        

An investigation by the Toms River Township Police Department revealed that between February 2022 and May 2022, Cohan – oftentimes posing as a relative of someone who owns a legitimate contracting business – targeted residents of the Gardens of Pleasant Plains, an age-restricted community in Toms River.  Specifically, Cohan solicited individuals to engage his services to perform work on the exterior of their residences; he then performed little to no work – stealing approximately $200,000 from more than 10 victims in the process.  On June 23, 2022, Cohan was charged with Theft by Deception and taken into custody by Detectives from the Toms River Township Police Department without incident.  Cohan was subsequently released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.         

A subsequent investigation by the Berkeley Township Police Department revealed that in September 2022, Cohan approached an elderly victim at a bank in Berkeley Township – using a false identity – and solicited a small amount of money.  In exchange, the victim allowed Cohan to perform a small task on her property in lieu of being paid back. With knowledge of the victim’s address, Cohan continuously visited the victim and solicited larger sums of money for multiple reasons, including funeral expenses for his purportedly deceased father-in-law.  Cohan would also accompany the victim to several banks – convincing her to withdraw large sums of money from her account or by way of credit card cash advances – which totaled approximately $20,000.  Further investigation determined that Cohan’s father-in-law was, in fact, alive and that Cohan received the money from the victim under false pretenses.  As a result, Cohan was again charged with Theft by Deception; consequently, his previous release under Bail Reform was revoked by the Court.  On October 5, 2022, Cohan was taken into custody by Detectives from the Berkeley Township Police Department, and he has been lodged in the Ocean County Jail since that date.          

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Heisler and Assistant Prosecutor Taylor Toscano who handled the case on behalf of the State, and commends the Toms River Township Police Department, Berkeley Township Police Department, and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, their collective assistance in connection with this investigation.


Coast Guard Rescues 4 People, Dog From Sinking Boat in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey

August 28, 2023

BARNEGAT LIGHT, NJ (OCEAN)–The Coast Guard rescued four people and a dog from a boat taking on water Sunday near the Forked River in Barnegat Bay.  

A 29-foot Response Boat – Small crew from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, in New Jersey, discovered the sinking 30-foot recreational boat while already underway for operations.   

 
The Coast Guard crew transferred the four people and their dog aboard the Coast Guard rescue boat. The recreational boat capsized moments after completing the personnel transfer. 


“The boat’s owner believes the boat was taking on water due to a loose plug, but the compartment was not accessible to confirm,” said Chief Warrant Officer James B. Corbisiero, Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light’s commanding officer. “The timing of this rescue was fortunate; I commend the Coast Guard boat crew’s attentiveness and fast actions to aide these people and their dog.”

The Coast Guard crew took the rescued people and dog into a marina in Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey. A commercial salvage company righted the boat and towed it into the same marina.  

There are no reported injuries.       

To learn about safe, responsible boating visit boatus.org


A recreational boat is capsized near the Forked River in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2023. A 29-foot Response Boat – Small crew from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light was already underway when the crew discovered the sinking boat and rescued the four people and dog aboard. (U.S. Coast Guard photo) Photo by Chief Petty Officer Cynthia Oldham


Acting Governor Scutari Signs Firefighters Chaplain Bill Into Law

August 28, 2023

Acting Governor Nicholas Scutari today signed A-5275/S-3671, providing municipal governing bodies more flexibility in appointing chaplains to their fire departments.       

Under current law, the governing body of any municipality, by ordinance, may provide for the appointment of one or more ordained members of the clergy as chaplains to the paid or part-paid fire department and force of the municipality, with the rank of battalion chief and their salaries fixed by the governing body. The bill provides that, for any municipal fire department and force chaplain initially appointed after enactment, the municipality may specify in the ordinance appointing the chaplain whether the chaplain will have a rank and salary. The bill also codifies job protections for any chaplain employed prior to the bill’s enactment; they cannot be dismissed, nor can their salary be diminished, except for specified causes.       

“Chaplains provide an invaluable service for local fire departments and the communities they serve,” said Acting Governor Scutari. “They support the men and women who put their lives on the line when protecting the safety of the residents. This law enables local government to appoint fire chaplains that meet their needs without undue expense.”      

Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Linda R. Greenstein and Shirley K. Turner and Assemblymembers Daniel R. Benson and Reginald W. Atkins.      

“Fully supporting our first responders is a top priority for me, including making changes to increase opportunities for the critical role of chaplain,” said Senator Linda Greenstein. “Now, fire houses can expand this role, or have the flexibility to tailor this role to the needs of their communities.”  

“New Jersey is home to people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs,” said Senator Turner. “By creating the position of Fire Chaplain and allowing greater flexibility for municipalities, we can help ensure firefighters around the state have access to a chaplain that shares their faith.”      

“This law will enable municipalities in New Jersey to determine the most appropriate compensation for chaplains or those who volunteer in their fire departments to offer spiritual and personal counseling to the men and women who come to our aid on our worst days,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson. “The new measure will enable local governments to make the best decisions for their communities and first responders.”       

“Whether they are volunteers or paid staff, fire chaplains perform an important job aiding and comforting firefighters and their families during trying times,” said Assemblyman Reginald Atkins. “Giving municipalities the flexibility to decide the job parameters for a newly appointed fire department chaplain is the right thing to do.”      

“Fire Department chaplains are an integral part of New Jersey’s fire service,” said Eddie Donnelly, President, NJ FMBA. “Whether supporting our members and families in times of need or being that consoling voice at a memorial service the NJ FMBA appreciates our Fire Chaplains. Thank you Senator Greenstein and Assemblyman Benson for sponsoring our Bill.  Thank you, Acting Governor Scutari for memorializing this piece of legislation today.”       


“This bill amends the law to allow municipalities to create the position of Fire Chaplain without a requirement of salary or rank. This gives municipalities the freedom to create the position of Fire Chaplain without financial concerns and civil service requirements,” said Deacon Bob Tharp. “The Fire Chaplain can be an important lifeline to firefighters in dealing with the stresses that are inherent in their daily work as well as being there to support them in dealing with situations involving severe trauma or loss of life. They can also be there to offer support to members of the community when faced with life changing situations.”      


“At a time when it is challenging to attract and retain people to serve as firefighters, particularly volunteers, this bill provides necessary flexibility regarding fire chaplains,” said Robert Ordway, President of the NJ State Firemen’s Association.  “As the relief association for 54,000 members of career and volunteer firefighters, we support smart public policy to recruit, train and protect the safety of firefighters at all ranks, and which, in this case, also brings equal treatment under the law of both police and firefighter chaplains.  We commend the Legislative sponsors, Governor’s Office and Acting Governor Scutari for their efforts to enact this law.”



College Student Indicted After Allegedly Impersonating Woman on Social Media to Obtain Lewd Footage of Children

August 28, 2023

TRENTON — The Office of the Attorney General today announced a state grand jury has voted to file criminal charges against a college student who allegedly deceived children he contacted online into providing him sexually explicit videos of themselves, then used the internet connection of his Essex County-based university to upload the videos online.        

A grand jury in Trenton has returned a 12-count indictment against Keyon Luff, 21, of Edgewater Park in Burlington County, N.J. Luff was indicted on charges including manufacturing child sexual exploitation and abuse material. The defendant is being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark pending trial.        

According to the investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Cybercrimes Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce, between January and July 2021, Luff used a popular social media platform to contact at least three children between the ages of 14 and 16 online, directed them to engage in sexual acts, told the victims to record themselves on video, and instructed them to send the lewd videos to him.        

Luff allegedly created fictitious social media accounts to contact underage children and engage in sexually explicit conversations. According to the investigation, the defendant impersonated an adult female on one platform and utilized that false identity to obtain sexual files of others, including minors.          

Detectives seized numerous digital devices from Luff’s dorm room during the execution of a search warrant on May 3, 2023. Investigators determined the defendant was allegedly in possession of illicit, unlawful images of child sex abuse.        

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant assumed a fraudulent identity, posing as a woman with the specific intent of deceiving and manipulating children. The grand jury determined this individual utilized this charade to induce victims to produce footage that would later be shared online without their knowledge or consent,” said First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo. “Such material should not exist, let alone circulate. And the manner in which it was allegedly obtained from the victims is not only abhorrent — it illustrates the alleged predatory premeditation that went into these crimes.”

“This case illustrates that the Division of Criminal Justice will stop at nothing to investigate and prosecute those who exploit children over social media platforms,” said J. Stephen Ferketic, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge parents to be vigilant, and to be aware of who their children are communicating with on social media platforms.”          

The criminal investigation leading to Luff’s arrest was launched following a cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a private nonprofit that assists with the location of missing children, reduction of child sexual exploitation, and prevention of child victimization.         In this investigation, NCMEC reported that a cloud-based file hosting service reported that several files depicting suspected child sex abuse were uploaded to its platform. Investigators determined that the Internet Protocol (IP) address used to upload the files was associated with the university Luff was attending, and further investigation identified him as a suspect.        

Luff has been indicted on the following charges:        

Manufacturing Child Sexual Exploitation/Abuse Material– three counts, 1st Degree Sexual Assault — 2nd Degree Photographing or Filming a Child in a Prohibited Sexual Act or in the Simulation of Such an Act – three counts, 2nd Degree Impairing or Debauching the Morals of a Child – three counts, 3rd Degree Possession of Child Sexual Exploitation/Abuse Material (less than 1,000 items) – 3rd Degree Impersonation — 4th Degree          

First-degree charges are punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000 Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree charges carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.          

The investigation was led by the DCJ Cybercrimes Unit under the supervision of Lt. Richard DaSilva. Deputy Attorney General Robert Guarni is prosecuting the case for the DCJ Cybercrimes Unit, under the Supervision of Deputy Unit Chief Lisa Rastelli, Unit Chief Jillian Carpenter, and Interim DCJ Director Derek Nececkas.          

These charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.          

Defense attorney Dorion B. Morgan, Esq., Mount Holly


Save LBI: “Promises and Realities -Wind Turbine Projects Off LBI Shores”

August 28, 2023

BARNEGAT LIGHT, NJ (OCEAN)–Save LBI.org held an event last night called “Promises and Realities -Wind Turbine Projects Off LBI Shores” at the Bay Breeze Park Pavilion in Barnegat Light. Speakers at the event were: Kirk Larson Mayor of Barnegat Light, Craig Osten, SaveBLI, Jim Gutowski, A Fisherman’s Perspective, Chris Placitella, Attorney, Thomas Stavola, Attorney, Bob Stern, Ph.D., President Save Long Beach Island, Inc.

Save LBI is “a group of citizens working together to save Long Beach Island and the ocean from the destructive impact of the proposed wind project, and offer sensible renewable energy alternatives. We are a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization and do not endorse any candidates or politicians, but we do aggressively pursue programs, policies, and actions to protect the Island.

Full video and information provided below:

Video: Save LBI in Barnegat Light 8/27/23

https://www.facebook.com/savelbi/videos/315413530956328/


The post above was created by Denise Barclay Boccia.
Save LBI took the turbine photo from developer’s DEIS – added the Washington DC Monument, Barnegat Lighthouse, and a 6 ft man standing at the shoreline.
357 Turbines Across Long Beach Island
1,047 Total Height for each Turbine
**starting 8-12 miles offshore, will be the largest and most visible wind turbine project in the entire world!


Simulation above of Holyoke Ave. in Beach Haven provided by project developer in BOEM (DEIS).