Category: State of NJ

NJ, Man, 27, Busted Sending Ride Share To Mercer County To Pick Up 14-Year-Old For Sex

Sent under cover Internet Crimes Against Children Detective posing as a 14-Year-Old Female, multiple sexually explicit messages and photos of an adult male penis, and statements that he wanted to engage in various sexual acts.

March 21, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri reported today that an investigation into online child exploitation has resulted in the arrest of a West Deptford Township man.

Todd Merinuk, 27, West Deptford, NJ, is charged with two counts of second-degree attempted sexual assault, three counts of third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child and one count of second-degree attempted luring.  The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain Merinuk pending trial.

Approximately three weeks ago, detectives with the prosecutor’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit investigating individuals trying to exploit children online connected with a subject via an anonymous social media platform.  The individual, later identified as Merunik, began chatting with a detective who was working in an undercover capacity, posing as a 14-year-old female.  The chat included multiple sexually explicit messages, a photo sent by Merinuk of an adult male penis, and statements by Merinuk that he wanted to meet in person to engage in various sexual acts.

On March 16, 2023, Merinuk sent a ride share vehicle to an address in Mercer County to pick up the “14-year-old female” with whom he believed he was conversing in order to transport her to his location in Gloucester County.  Believing the victim had arrived to his location via ride share, Merinuk appeared and was taken into custody without incident by members of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.

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

Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.  Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Prosecutor Onofri urged anyone with information about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children to please contact his Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit at (609) 989-6568 or the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force tip line at (888) 648-6007.

Todd Merinuk, 27, West Deptford, NJ, is charged with two counts of second-degree attempted sexual assault, three counts of third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child and one count of second-degree attempted luring.  The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain Merinuk pending trial.


ERO Newark Arrests 2 Noncitizens With Criminal Convictions During Nationwide Operation

March 20, 2023

NEWARK — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Newark apprehended two removable noncitizens, one having been convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and the other convicted of felony endangering the welfare of a child (sexual conduct) during a nationwide enforcement effort from March 4 to March 13.

The enforcement effort was implemented to address removable noncitizens identified as having been convicted of attempted murder, murder-second degree, domestic violence, rape by force, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving under the influence who had been released from incarceration on parole or placed on probation into communities under local, state or federal supervision prior to the ICE enforcement action. The apprehended noncitizens will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings before an immigration judge.


“Community safety remains our ultimate priority as the arrests of these dangerous criminals demonstrate,” said ERO Newark Field Office Director John Tsoukaris. “Our officers showed their usual courage and professionalism as they carried out these arrests of these individuals, who were targeted based on the seriousness of their criminal offenses.”


Those arrested include:

  • A 40-year-old citizen of Trinidad and Tobago in Teaneck, convicted by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York of felony conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, felony narcotics — sell/distribute/dispense in November 2022.
  • A 40-year-old citizen of Mexico in Atlantic City convicted by the 13th Judicial District Court in Hillsborough County, Florida, of felony endangering the welfare of a child (sexual conduct) and ordered to register as a sex offender in April 2014.

ICE targets and arrests noncitizens who have committed crimes and other individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws. ICE officers, informed by their experience and training, use their discretion inherent as law enforcement officials to focus enforcement resources on people who threaten the homeland. The effort includes noncitizens with a final order of removal. Cases amenable to federal criminal prosecution may be presented to the appropriate U.S. attorney’s office.

In fiscal year 2022, ERO arrested 46,396 noncitizens with criminal histories. This group had 198,498 associated charges and convictions, including 21,531 assault offenses; 8,164 sex and sexual assault offenses; 5,554 weapons offenses; 1,501 homicide-related offenses; and 1,114 kidnapping offenses.

As one of ICE’s three operational directorates, ERO is the principal federal law enforcement authority in charge of domestic immigration enforcement. ERO’s mission is to protect the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of U.S. communities and the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and its primary areas of focus are interior enforcement operations, management of the agency’s detained and non-detained populations, and repatriation of noncitizens who have received final orders of removal. ERO’s workforce consists of more than 7,700 law enforcement and non-law enforcement support personnel across 25 domestic field offices and 208 locations nationwide, 30 overseas postings, and multiple temporary duty travel assignments along the border.

Members of the public can report crimes and suspicious activity by dialing 866-347-2423 or completing the online tip form. Learn more about ICE’s mission to increase public safety in your community on Twitter @ERONewark.



NJDEP Statement On East Coast Whale Mortalities

March 15, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–In consultation with NOAA Fisheries, the lead federal agency responsible for evaluating potential impacts to marine life and habitats from human activities in federal waters, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been monitoring an unusual humpback whale mortality event that has been affecting Atlantic coast states since January 2016. In January of this year, the DEP began receiving concerns from stakeholders that the development of offshore wind energy infrastructure off New Jersey’s coast is causing whale mortality. All offshore wind survey activities have been permitted by NOAA Fisheries and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and deemed safe for marine mammals, i.e., no injurious activities have been permitted for offshore wind developers.

As of March 2023, no offshore wind-related construction activities have taken place in waters off the New Jersey coast, and DEP is aware of no credible evidence that offshore wind-related survey activities could cause whale mortality. While DEP has no reason to conclude that whale mortality is attributable to offshore wind-related activities, DEP will continue to monitor. 

However, DEP remains concerned that ocean temperatures, which are projected to increase due to human-caused climate change caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, will continue to adversely impact marine mammals, including whales, their food sources, habitats, and migration patterns, as summarized in the New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change (Chapter 5.9). Due to these changes in ocean temperature and water chemistry, populations of marine species – including menhaden, a key whale food source—adapt by moving into new areas where conditions are more favorable. Changes that draw prey fish landward similarly increase the risk that these fish and their predators, including whales, may be drawn into conflict with human activities, such as vessel strikes that may increase whale mortality. 

DEP is dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of all natural resources, including aquatic habitats and the fish and wildlife that rely upon the sound management of marine environments. In fulfilling this mission, DEP administers New Jersey’s Coastal Zone Management Program, regulates certain activities in state waters, including the development of energy-generating facilities and infrastructure, and otherwise coordinates environmental reviews with federal government agencies. DEP expects that all regulated entities, including offshore wind project sponsors, pursue development objectives responsibly, including assessing potential environmental impacts and avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating likely adverse effects upon natural resources, including marine mammals and their habitats.

In addition, the Offshore Wind Research & Monitoring Initiative (RMI), a collaborative effort of the DEP and BPU, has authorized $8.5 million in funding to date for scientific efforts to ensure the safe and ecologically responsible development of offshore wind energy.  As part of the BPU’s second wind energy solicitation, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, LLC, and Ocean Wind II, LLC committed $10,000 per megawatt of project-nameplate capacity awarded – a total of about $26 million – to fund regional research and ecological monitoring of the environmental impacts of offshore wind. The projects are being implemented by a variety of academic and research entities and include work to evaluate and minimize impacts to a variety of marine wildlife, including whales.

For more details on RMI, visit https://dep.nj.gov/offshorewind/rmi/ Click on the “Projects” tab for more information on the various research projects.

For information from NOAA on humpback whale mortalities, visit 2016–2023 Humpback Whale Unusual Mortality Event Along the Atlantic Coast | NOAA Fisheries

For a DEP microsite on whale mortalities, visit https://dep.nj.gov/humpback-whale-unusual-mortality-event/


Photos by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Responce


United States Files Complaint Alleging that Rite Aid Dispensed Controlled Substances in Violation of the False Claims Act and the Controlled Substances Act

March 13, 2023

The Justice Department announced today that the United States has filed a complaint in intervention in a whistleblower lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) against Rite Aid Corporation and various subsidiaries (collectively Rite Aid) alleging that Rite Aid knowingly filled unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances. In addition to alleging claims under the FCA, the government’s complaint also alleges violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Rite Aid is one of the country’s largest pharmacy chains, with over 2,200 pharmacies in 17 states.

“The Justice Department is using every tool at our disposal to confront the opioid epidemic that is killing Americans and shattering communities across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That includes holding corporations, like Rite Aid, accountable for knowingly filling unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances.”

“We allege that Rite Aid filled hundreds of thousands of prescriptions that did not meet legal requirements,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “According to our complaint, Rite Aid’s pharmacists repeatedly filled prescriptions for controlled substances with obvious red flags, and Rite Aid intentionally deleted internal notes about suspicious prescribers. These practices opened the floodgates for millions of opioid pills and other controlled substances to flow illegally out of Rite Aid’s stores.”

“The opioid crisis has exacted a heavy toll on communities across the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Today’s complaint is an important reminder that the Justice Department will hold accountable any individuals or entities, including pharmacies, that fueled this terrible crisis.”

“Pharmacies, physicians, corporations, and other health care entities that have contributed to the proliferation of opioids in our communities and the tragic loss of life from overdose deaths must answer for their role in the crisis we now face,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio. “This complaint is a continuation of the Justice Department’s commitment to hold accountable those entities that aggravated and profited from the opioid crisis.”

The government’s complaint alleges that, from May 2014 through June 2019, Rite Aid knowingly filled at least hundreds of thousands of unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances that lacked a legitimate medical purpose, were not for a medically accepted indication, or were not issued in the usual course of professional practice. These unlawful prescriptions included, for example, prescriptions for the dangerous and highly abused combination of drugs known as “the trinity,” prescriptions for excessive quantities of opioids, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and prescriptions issued by prescribers whom Rite Aid pharmacists had repeatedly identified internally as writing illegitimate prescriptions. The government alleges that Rite Aid pharmacists filled these prescriptions despite clear “red flags” that were highly indicative that the prescriptions were unlawful. The government further alleges that Rite Aid not only ignored substantial evidence from multiple sources that its stores were dispensing unlawful prescriptions, including from certain pharmacists, its distributor, and its own internal data, but compounded its failure to act by intentionally deleting internal notes about suspicious prescribers written by Rite Aid pharmacists and directing district managers to tell pharmacists “to be mindful of everything that is put in writing.” By knowingly filling unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances, the government alleges that Rite Aid violated the CSA and, where Rite Aid sought reimbursement from federal healthcare programs, also violated the FCA. 

Along with Rite Aid Corporation, the government’s complaint names as defendants the following Rite Aid subsidiaries: Rite Aid Hdqtrs, Corp.; Rite Aid of Connecticut, Inc.; Rite Aid of Delaware, Inc.; Rite Aid of Maryland; Rite Aid of Michigan; Rite Aid of New Hampshire; Rite Aid of New Jersey; Rite Aid of Ohio; Rite Aid of Pennsylvania; and Rite Aid of Virginia.

“The action supported today by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) should serve as a warning to those in the pharmacy industry who choose to put profit over customer safety,” said Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the DEA.

“Pharmacies are required to ensure prescription drugs are only dispensed based on valid prescriptions,” said Special Agent in Charge Maureen Dixon of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Prescriptions which are not medically necessary, and not for a medically accepted indication, will not be paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. HHS-OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division to recover improperly paid funds through the FCA.”

Whistleblowers Andrew White, Mark Rosenberg, and Ann Wegelin, who all previously worked for Rite Aid at various pharmacies, filed an action in October 2019 under the qui tam provisions of the FCA. Those provisions authorize private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery. The Act permits the United States to intervene and take over the lawsuit, as it has done here in part. Those who violate the Act are subject to treble damages and applicable penalties. The case is captioned United States ex rel. White et al. v. Rite Aid Corp., et al., No. 1:21-cv-1239 (N.D. Ohio).

The United States’ intervention in this matter illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the FCA. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

This matter is being handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch (Fraud Section) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. The DEA Cleveland Field Division, FBI Cleveland Field Office, and HHS-OIG provided substantial assistance in the investigation.

The United States is represented in this matter by Senior Trial Counsel Christopher Wilson of the Civil Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Berry for the Northern District of Ohio.

The Justice Department is committed to holding responsible those who have fueled the opioid crisis by violating the law. Last week, the Associate Attorney General announced the creation of the Opioid Epidemic Civil Litigation Task Force, which formalizes and enhances coordination of the Department’s existing work and will consider new initiatives. Because of the scope and duration of the crisis, the Task Force includes U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Commercial Litigation Branch (Fraud Section), the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other Department components. The Task Force will steer the Department’s civil litigation efforts involving actors alleged to have contributed to the opioid epidemic, including by diverting prescription opioids.

The claims asserted against defendants are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.



Cherry Hill Man Charged With Murder Died From The Result of Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound On NJ Turnpike

Investigation Yields Cause of Death Determination at Clara Barton Rest Stop on Feb. 28, 2023

March 9, 2023

PEDRICKTOWN — The Attorney General’s Office today announced that the ongoing investigation into the incident that occurred at a New Jersey Turnpike Service Area in Salem County on February 28, 2023, has revealed that Kyle Foggy, 29, of Cherry Hill, died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

As previously announced, Mr. Foggy suffered the self-inflicted wound at approximately 1:45 p.m. at the Turnpike’s Clara Barton Service Area in the Pedricktown section of Oldmans Township, Salem County, while in the presence of law enforcement. He was pronounced dead at 10:16 p.m. later that same night at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware.

A review of the incident is being conducted by the Integrity Bureau within the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4.

That review is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.





Boonton Police Captain Allegedly Steals Computer Towers, Internal Affairs Records from BPD, Conceals Them in Homes in Edison, Toms River

March 8, 2023

BOONTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced charges against a Boonton police captain who allegedly stole his own internal affairs records and computer hardware containing police data from the Boonton Police Department.

Stephen Jones, 42, of Toms River, has been charged by complaint with computer theft, tampering with public records, and other offenses in connection with the April 2022 incident. The charges are a result of an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability’s (OPIA) Corruption Bureau.

The investigation revealed Jones removed at least five computer towers from the Boonton Police Department, three of which contained police information, including files on internal affairs (IA) matters. Additionally, he allegedly stole his own personnel file and IA file, stashing the computer towers in his Toms River home and the files at his in-laws’ home in Edison.

Then the officer-in-charge of the Boonton Police, Jones was allegedly captured on surveillance video late at night on April 13, 2022 removing containers and computer towers from the police department. According to the investigation, Jones removed the computer hardware and files without authorization and in violation of Boonton Police policies.

Jones is charged with one count of each of the following offenses:

• second-degree computer theft

• third-degree theft by unlawful taking

• third-degree tampering with public records

• fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records

Second-degree crimes carry a five- to 10-year prison term with a $150,000 fine upon conviction. Third-degree crimes can carry a prison sentence of three to five years and a $15,000 fine. Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Deputy Attorney General Eric Cohen is prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jeffrey Manis, Bureau Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione and OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher.

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

Defense counsel: John Bruno, Esq., Rutherford


23 Stolen Vehicles Recovered Worth $1.33+ Million; Operation Terminus at the Port of New York/Newark

Five-day Operation with Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Partners nets 23 stolen vehicles worth $1.33+ Million being shipped out of the United States

March 8, 2023

NEWARK, NJ. – On February 13, 2023, U. S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of New York/Newark conducted a five-day operation named “Operation Terminus,” to detect and recover stolen vehicles being shipped out of the United States.  CBP worked with Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, the New Jersey State Police, the NYPD Auto Crime Unit, the Hudson County, NJ Sheriff’s Office, the Port Authority Police Department – Criminal Investigation Bureau, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau leveraging their collective expertise and shared intelligence. 

Operation Terminus concluded on February 17, with a total of 23 stolen vehicles recovered, all of which were destined to Western African countries (Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Monrovia, and Liberia) with an estimated value of $1,333,425.  Additionally, 109 rounds of various caliber ammunition were discovered concealed in a vehicle destined to Nigeria.

On the matter of outbound stolen vehicles, TenaVel T. Thomas, CBP Port Director, Port of New York/Newark said, “Identifying, degrading, and disrupting transnational networks requires a multi-layered approach that includes a focus on analytics and partnerships. CBP is proud to leverage our unique authorities, data holdings, and analytical abilities, combined with our robust collaboration with our federal, state, and local partners to dismantle these networks. These partnerships are the cornerstone of our recent success.”


  • Stolen Vehicles recovered:  23 (value $1,333,425.00 USD)
    1. 2021 Mercedes Benz G55                 $155,850.00
    2. 2020 Mercedes Benz S560                 $73,775.00                          
    3. 2021 Land Rover HSE Sport              $79,995.00       
    4. 2022 Jeep Wagoneer                           $69,990.00
    5. 2021 BMW X7                                   $63,985.00
    6. 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe                      $26,850.00
    7. 2022 Lexus RX 350                            $48,995.00
    8. 2021 Honda CRV                               $30,990.00     
    9. 2021 Audi Q8 S                                  $70,995.00
    10. 2021 Audi Q5                                     $42,950.00
    11. 2019 Land Rover HSE                        $72,995.00
    12. 2016 Lexus LX 570                            $54,490.00
    13. 2020 Hyundai Tucson                         $26,600.00
    14. 2021 BMW 540 XI                             $53,355.00                 
    15. 2020 Jeep Wrangler                            $52,220.00
    16. 2019 Honda CRV                               $28,000.00
    17. 2019 Mercedes Benz GLS                  $42,950.00
    18. 2020 Honda CRV                               $29,000.00
    19. 2022 Chevrolet Suburban                   $74,800.00
    20. 2020 Jeep Wrangler                            $41,700.00
    21. 2022 Jeep Wrangler                            $55,995.00
    22. 2020 Audi Q 5                                    $33,950.00
    23. 2022 BMW X 5M                             $102,995.00

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry.



Brazilian Fugitive Sentenced To 15 Years For Murder Arrested In New Jersey

March 8, 2023

NEWARK, N.J. — On March 3, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Newark arrested a citizen and national of Brazil in Newark who was subject to a foreign arrest warrant and is wanted in Brazil to serve 15 years and six months in prison for murder.

On an unknown date and unknown location, the fugitive entered the U.S without admission or parole.

On Jan. 26, 2010, the Pennsauken Police Department arrested subject for possession of a controlled dangerous substance. On Sept. 28, 2010, the Pennsauken Municipal Court convicted the fugitive of possession of a controlled dangerous substance and issued fines.

On Sept.18, 2018, ERO Newark officers encountered the subject, who was detained at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, and lodged an immigration detainer with the facility.

Two days later, ERO Newark arrested the subject upon release from Essex County Correctional Facility and served them with a Notice to Appear in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. ERO Newark detained the subject at the same facility pending removal proceedings. On Jan. 24, 2019, the subject was released from ICE custody after posting a bond.

ERO Newark confirmed that subject is wanted by the Brazilian Federal Police for murder. The subject was convicted of felony crimes against life in the state of Goias and sentenced in absentia to 15 years and six months of imprisonment on April 5, 2018.

On March 3, 2023, ERO Newark arrested the subject, who was then placed in ICE custody without bond pending removal proceedings. The case is currently pending before an immigration court.

In fiscal year 2022, ERO arrested 46,396 noncitizens with criminal histories; this group had 198,498 associated charges and convictions. These included 21,531 assault offenses; 8,164 sex and sexual assault offenses; 5,554 weapons offenses; 1,501 homicide-related offenses; and 1,114 kidnapping offenses.

Members of the public can report crimes and/or suspicious activity by dialing 866-347-2423 or completing the online tip form.

Regardless of nationality, ICE makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with U.S. law and U.S. Department of Homeland Security policy, considering the individual merits and factors of each case.

ERO is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that protects the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of our communities and the integrity of our immigration laws.

ERO, a directorate of ICE, upholds U.S. immigration law at, within, and beyond our borders. ERO operations target public safety threats, such as convicted criminal noncitizens and gang members, who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-enter the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges. ERO deportation officers assigned to Interpol also assist in targeting foreign fugitives for crimes committed abroad at-large in the U.S. ERO manages all aspects of the immigration enforcement process, including identification and arrest, detention, bond management, supervised release, transportation, and removal. Additionally, ERO repatriates noncitizens ordered removed from the U.S. to more than 150 countries worldwide.

Learn more about ERO’s public safety mission in your community on Twitter @ERONewark


AG Platkin, Division on Civil Rights Take Enforcement Action to Hold Municipalities Accountable for LGBTQIA+ Discrimination in Marriage Licensing

28 Municipalities Receive Notices of Violation for Publishing LGBTQIA+ Exclusionary Marriage License Application Forms On Their Websites


DCR has issued Notices of Violation to the following 28 municipalities: Audubon, Carney’s Point, Chester Township, Commercial, Delran, Fair Haven, Farmingdale, Hi-Nella, Lopatcong, Lumberton, Manasquan, Milltown, Morris Plains, Morristown, Ocean Gate, Oceanport, Old Bridge, Pemberton, Pennsauken, Pohatcong, Raritan Borough, Stockton, Sussex Borough, Vineland, West Cape May, Westhampton, Westville, and Woodlynne.


March 8, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has issued Notices of Violation to 28 municipalities across the state for allegedly violating the Law Against Discrimination by publishing marriage license application forms on their websites that exclude certain LGBTQIA+ individuals seeking to obtain marriage licenses.

The Notices of Violation announced today have been issued to 28 municipalities that have posted marriage license application forms on their websites that do not permit nonbinary people to apply for marriage licenses unless they misgender themselves, under oath, as either “m” (male) or “f” (female). That practice is inconsistent with the marriage license application currently published by the New Jersey Department of Health, which has included a third gender option for nonbinary applicants and other people with undesignated or unspecified gender identities since 2019.

DCR has issued Notices of Violation to the following 28 municipalities: Audubon, Carney’s Point, Chester Township, Commercial, Delran, Fair Haven, Farmingdale, Hi-Nella, Lopatcong, Lumberton, Manasquan, Milltown, Morris Plains, Morristown, Ocean Gate, Oceanport, Old Bridge, Pemberton, Pennsauken, Pohatcong, Raritan Borough, Stockton, Sussex Borough, Vineland, West Cape May, Westhampton, Westville, and Woodlynne.

In each case, the Notice of Violation advises that the exclusionary gender options in the municipality’s marriage application form violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The LAD prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating on the basis of real or perceived sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and gender expression. Under the LAD, it is also unlawful for a place of public accommodation to display or post any communication or notice indicating that any of their offerings are unavailable based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

“Marriage equality is not just the law. It is a fundamental right,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The marriage equality enforcement actions we are announcing today reflect our continued commitment to ensuring that municipal governments do not discriminate against couples seeking marriage licenses on the basis of their gender, gender identity, or gender expression.”

“The law in New Jersey is crystal clear: No one can be denied the fundamental right to marry based on their gender identity,” said DCR Director Sundeep Iyer. “Municipalities have an obligation to ensure that they are not excluding LGBTQIA+ individuals from applying for marriage licenses. Today’s enforcement actions underscore our ongoing commitment to ensuring that marriage equality remains a reality for our State’s LGBTQIA+ residents.”

The Notices of Violation announced today are the latest enforcement actions taken as part of DCR’s Marriage Equality Enforcement Initiative, which was launched in October 2022. The Marriage Equality Enforcement Initiative seeks to ensure that municipal governments across New Jersey comply with the LAD by providing gender-inclusive and non-discriminatory marriage licensing applications and instructions to the general public.

The discriminatory language used by municipalities to describe marriage licensing requirements was first flagged in Marriage Equality in New Jersey: A Latina/o/x Perspective, a joint report issued in July 2022 by the Latino Action Network, Hudson P.R.I.D.E., and Garden State Equality. The report found that the websites of certain municipalities violated the LAD by expressly limiting marriage licenses to “opposite-sex couples.” DCR’s investigation identified other discriminatory language employed by municipalities, including the exclusionary gender options identified in the Notices of Violation announced today.

Among other things, the Notices of Violation issued by DCR warn each municipality that the marriage license application form published on their websites violates the LAD, and that such violations could result in financial penalties of up to $10,000.

The Notices of Violation also contain an offer of settlement. If the municipality does not contest the facts as set out by DCR, it can resolve the matter by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement. That agreement requires, among other things, that the municipality:

  • Update its websites to state that marriage licenses are available to qualifying couples of all gender compositions;
  • Ensure that its website does not contain gender-restrictive language regarding who may obtain a marriage license, and that the services the municipality offers will be open to all persons on an equal basis without regard to sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression;
  • Adopt a written policy prohibiting discrimination against persons using or seeking to use the municipality’s offerings and services;
  • Provide LAD training on compliance with the written anti-discrimination policy to all municipal employees involved in drafting website language and in issuing licenses; and
  • Remit to DCR a payment in lieu of penalty.

The Marriage Equality Enforcement Initiative will continue to investigate other possible violations related to the posting of marriage licensing information by municipalities across the State. The Initiative is being led by DCR’s Strategic Initiatives and Enforcement Unit, including Interim Chief Aarin Williams and Legal Specialist Iris Bromberg.

***

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 New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA).

DCR has developed various fact sheets about the LAD’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression in housing, employment, and places open to the public. To learn more, visit https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-on-civil-rights-home/division-on-civil-rights-resources/

***


Justice Department Sues to Block JetBlue’s Proposed Acquisition of Spirit

Acquisition Would Allow JetBlue to Eliminate Its Largest Ultra-Low-Cost Rival, Further Concentrate the Airline Industry, and Harm American Travelers


March 7, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC — The Justice Department, together with Attorneys General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of New York, and the District of Columbia, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today to block JetBlue Airways Corporation’s (JetBlue) proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of its largest and fastest-growing ultra-low-cost rival, Spirit Airlines, Inc. (Spirit). JetBlue and Spirit compete fiercely today on hundreds of routes serving millions of travelers. By eliminating that competition and further consolidating the United States airlines industry, the proposed transaction will increase fares and reduce choice on routes across the country, raising costs for the flying public and harming cost-conscious fliers most acutely.

The complaint, filed in the District of Massachusetts, alleges that Spirit’s low-cost, no-frills flying option has brought lower fares and more options to routes across the country, making it possible for more Americans – particularly price sensitive consumers who pay their own fares – to travel. JetBlue’s acquisition of Spirit would eliminate the “Spirit Effect,” where Spirit’s presence in a market forces other air carriers, including JetBlue, to lower their fares. The deal also would eliminate half of the ultra-low-cost capacity in the United States. This will lead to higher fares and fewer seats, harming millions of consumers on hundreds of routes.

“As our complaint alleges, the merger of JetBlue and Spirit would result in higher fares and fewer choices for tens of millions of travelers, with the greatest impact felt by those who rely on what are known as ultra-low-cost carriers in order to fly,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Companies in every industry should understand by now that this Justice Department will not hesitate to enforce our antitrust laws and protect American consumers.”

“Our complaint alleges that JetBlue’s acquisition of Spirit would particularly hurt cost-conscious travelers,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Ultra-low-cost carriers make air travel possible so more Americans can take a much-needed family vacation or celebrate or mourn together with loved ones. We allege that the proposed merger would lead to fewer seats and higher prices for travelers.”

“JetBlue’s proposed acquisition of Spirit eliminates a disruptive, low-cost option for millions of Americans. Whether they fly Spirit or not, travelers throughout the United States benefit from an independent Spirit because where Spirit competes, other airlines – including JetBlue – are forced to compete more vigorously by lowering fares, offering greater innovations, and delivering more consumer choice,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “This transaction occurs against the backdrop of years of airline consolidation in the United States.”

The complaint, which seeks to block the acquisition under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, alleges Spirit has been a particularly disruptive force, growing rapidly, introducing innovative products, and allowing customers to choose which services to purchase, all while charging customers very low fares. Spirit has forced larger airlines, particularly the already-low-cost JetBlue, to compete for customers by introducing unbundled, customizable ticket options and lowering their own fares, allowing more Americans to travel. If the acquisition is allowed to proceed, prices would increase on routes where the two airlines currently compete. This is particularly the case on the over 40 direct routes where the two companies’ combined market shares are so high that the deal is presumptively anticompetitive.

As further alleged in the complaint, in the last 10 years, Spirit has doubled its network in size and, before this deal, expected to continue expanding at a quick pace. The acquisition stops this future competition before it starts.

The acquisition would also make it easier for the remaining airlines to coordinate to charge travelers higher fares or limit capacity. JetBlue has already partnered with American Airlines, the largest airline in the world, through the Northeast Alliance, which the Department sued to block. Now, JetBlue is doubling down on consolidation, seeking to acquire and eliminate its main ultra-low-cost competitor, depriving travelers of yet another choice.

If allowed to eliminate the Spirit option, JetBlue would likely increase prices on every route where Spirit flies today. As a result, travelers who previously preferred Spirit’s lower-price, no-frills service would either have to pay more for amenities they do not want, or may no longer be able to afford to travel at all.

JetBlue is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Long Island City, New York. In 2022, it flew over 39 million passengers to approximately 107 destinations around the world, earning about $9.1 billion in revenue.

Spirit is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Miramar, Florida. In 2022, it flew over 38 million passengers to approximately 92 destinations in the Americas, earning about $5 billion in revenue.


The Justice Department, together with Attorneys General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of New York, and the District of Columbia, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block JetBlue Airways Corporation’s (JetBlue) proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of its largest and fastest-growing ultra-low-cost rival, Spirit Airlines, Inc. (Spirit). JetBlue and Spirit compete fiercely today on hundreds of routes serving millions of travelers. By eliminating that competition and further consolidating the United States airlines industry, the proposed transaction will increase fares and reduce choice on routes across the country, raising costs for the flying public and harming cost-conscious fliers most acutely.


AG Platkin and Colonel Callahan Announce Arrest in Shooting of New Jersey State Trooper in Paterson

Suspect Charged with 2 Counts of Attempted Murder for Ambush Shooting of Troopers On Duty

March 3, 2023

TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan today announced the arrest of a man charged with opening fire on two on-duty New Jersey State Troopers in Paterson and hitting one, in the early morning hours of Thursday, March 2.

Jocquise R. Timmons, 28, of Paterson, was arrested in South Carolina today and charged with two counts of attempted murder (1st degree), four counts of aggravated assault (2nd and 3rd degree), possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (2nd degree), and unlawful possession of a weapon (2nd degree). Timmons was apprehended by the U.S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force and is being held pending extradition.

“Each and every day our New Jersey Troopers put their lives on the line to keep New Jerseyans safe from gun violence, but yesterday one of our own fell victim to the very crime he was working to prevent. Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of his colleagues, we announce the arrest of Jocquise Timmons, who is charged with the ambush and attempted murder of two New Jersey State Troopers as they performed their duty to protect and serve the residents of Paterson,” said Attorney General Platkin. “It was only by luck that the defendant only succeeded in injuring one Trooper, who sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, but is expected to make a full recovery. I thank the dedicated members of law enforcement in New Jersey and beyond who stepped up and answered our call for assistance in locating and apprehending this suspect, especially the U.S. Marshals Service who made the arrest. I also commend the fine and fast work of the New Jersey State Police under the leadership of Colonel Callahan. Thanks to everyone’s help, Jocquise Timmons will now be brought back to New Jersey to be held accountable for his violent acts.”

“The brazen ambush attack on our troopers put their lives at risk as well as the lives of Paterson residents. The assault represents not just an attack on law enforcement, but an attack on humanity,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I applaud the efforts of our troopers, detectives, and law enforcement partners well beyond the borders of New Jersey for their relentless efforts in bringing Timmons to justice. We will continue in our efforts to ensure that everyone responsible for the attempted murder of a police officer will be held accountable for their actions.”

Timmons allegedly fired on two Troopers driving unmarked vehicles in the area of E 26th St and 9th Ave. shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday. The bullets hit both vehicles and struck one of the Troopers in the leg. The Trooper, whose name has not been released due to safety concerns, was transported to Saint Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, where he underwent surgery for his injury and is hoped to make a full recovery.

At the time of the shooting, the Troopers were investigating the attempted break-in of a home on East 26th Street hours earlier. Timmons was one of the suspects being sought in that attempted break-in. As the Troopers were attempted to follow a vehicle believed to be involved in the attempted break-in, surveillance footage from a fixed residential location in the area of E 26th St and 9th Ave captured a figure later identified as Timmons stepping out from behind a parked vehicle, assume a shooting stance, and opening fire on their vehicles. 

The first-degree attempted murder charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed, and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed or three years, whichever is greater. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

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


Man Who Died At NJTP Rest Area Charged In Murdering Lawnside Woman

AG’s Office Identifies Decedent Killed at Clara Barton Rest Stop on Feb. 28, 2023

March 3, 2023 – Updated March 4, 2023 (see below)

PEDRICKTOWN — The Attorney General’s Office today announced that the man who sustained a fatal injury in the presence of law enforcement on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, at a New Jersey Turnpike Service Area in Salem County has died of his injuries.

Kyle Foggy, 29, of Cherry Hill, was pronounced dead at 10:16 p.m. that night at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware.

Mr. Foggy suffered a gunshot wound at approximately 1:45 p.m. at the Turnpike’s Clara Barton Service Area in the Pedricktown section of Oldmans Township, Salem County.

The incident involved members of the New Jersey State Police and the United States Marshals Service.

A review of the circumstances of the shooting is being conducted by the Integrity Bureau within the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4.

That review is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.


Cherry Hill Man Charged in Fatal Shooting of Woman in Lawnside

Lawnside, NJ- A Cherry Hill man has been charged for the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old woman in Lawnside on Saturday, February 25, 2023, reported Camden County Prosecutor Grace C. MacAulay and Lawnside Police Captain William Plenty.

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, at approximately 4:07 a.m., Lawnside Police officers and EMS responded to the 100 block of Mouldy Road in Lawnside, where they located a woman who had been shot. The victim was identified as 28-year-old Michelle Cruz of Lawnside. She was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Following an investigation by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit, Kyle Foggy, 29, was charged with Murder, Unlawful possession of a Weapon, and Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose.

All individuals charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

There is no threat to the public as the defendant is deceased.




Dead Whale Removed From Beach In Seaside Park; Cause Of Death Under Investigation

March 2, 2023

SEASIDE PARK, NJ (OCEAN)–The Marine Mammal Stranding Center NOAA was assisted by Seaside Park Fire Department, Seaside Park Police Department and Seaside Park Public Works, Tri-Boro EMS, Seaside Heights Fire Department, New Jersey Fish & Wildlife, NJ Parks, with the removal of a dead wale from the M Street Beach this morning. The whale was spotted yesterday and washed ashore earlier today. A necropsy will be conducted in order to determine the cause of death. 

Seaside Park Police Department are saddened to see the death of such a beautiful creature. Police ask that you please keep your distance and not disturb the whale so that the necropsy team can conduct their investigation.


Rep. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) today issued the following statement in response to another dead whale that washed ashore in Seaside Park in his congressional district earlier this morning:

            “At least 18 dead whales and dolphins have washed ashore or been sighted in our area in the past three months.

Anyone who lives at the Jersey Shore knows that these alarming deaths are unprecedented and likely indicative of a larger environmental problem.

            How much longer will the Biden Administration and Governor Murphy continue to play politics and ignore the extensive calls from me, local residents, fishermen and other stakeholders for a thorough and transparent investigation into this blatant environmental crisis?

            The letters I wrote to the Biden Administration weeks ago urging an immediate pause to all offshore wind activity until ecological safety can be assured continue to remain unanswered.

I will not let up until my constituents get the answers they deserve.”

Smith noted that he is speaking with his colleagues in Congress to advance his bill requiring an investigation into the environmental review process for the offshore wind projects.

“I have already spoken with Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodger,” said Smith. “Congress must pass my legislation—HR 1056—to require an independent investigation into the approval process and environmental impacts of these projects before it’s too late.”

“The scale and speed of these fast-tracked offshore wind developments—with thousands of turbines slated to be installed—calls into question whether due diligence was done to investigate their effect on the environment, fisheries, tourism, and other critical factors that make our Jersey Shore the unique treasure that it is,” said Smith, who spoke at the Save the Whales rally in Point Pleasant Beach last Sunday.

“The fact that these whale deaths are occurring concurrently with the ongoing sound surveys and the underwater noise generated by acoustic vessels—even before construction and pile driving begin—cannot be ignored,” Smith said.



Photos by: Ryan Mack Jersey Shore Fire Response











Smith Vows To Not Let Up Until New Jersey Residents Get The Answers They Deserve Regarding Whale Deaths

March 2, 2023

TOMS RIVER—Rep. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) today issued the following statement in response to another dead whale that washed ashore in Seaside Park in his congressional district earlier this morning:

            “At least 18 dead whales and dolphins have washed ashore or been sighted in our area in the past three months.

Anyone who lives at the Jersey Shore knows that these alarming deaths are unprecedented and likely indicative of a larger environmental problem.

            How much longer will the Biden Administration and Governor Murphy continue to play politics and ignore the extensive calls from me, local residents, fishermen and other stakeholders for a thorough and transparent investigation into this blatant environmental crisis?

            The letters I wrote to the Biden Administration weeks ago urging an immediate pause to all offshore wind activity until ecological safety can be assured continue to remain unanswered.

I will not let up until my constituents get the answers they deserve.”

Smith noted that he is speaking with his colleagues in Congress to advance his bill requiring an investigation into the environmental review process for the offshore wind projects.

“I have already spoken with Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodger,” said Smith. “Congress must pass my legislation—HR 1056—to require an independent investigation into the approval process and environmental impacts of these projects before it’s too late.”

“The scale and speed of these fast-tracked offshore wind developments—with thousands of turbines slated to be installed—calls into question whether due diligence was done to investigate their effect on the environment, fisheries, tourism, and other critical factors that make our Jersey Shore the unique treasure that it is,” said Smith, who spoke at the Save the Whales rally in Point Pleasant Beach last Sunday.

“The fact that these whale deaths are occurring concurrently with the ongoing sound surveys and the underwater noise generated by acoustic vessels—even before construction and pile driving begin—cannot be ignored,” Smith said.



Photos from the dead whale off Seaside Park yesterday from Ryan Mack Jersey Shore Fire Response




AG’s Office Investigating Shooting at NJ Turnpike’s Clara Barton Service Area

February 28, 2023

PEDRICKTOWN, NJ (SALEM) — The Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the circumstances of the shooting of one male civilian today at approximately 1:45 p.m. in the presence of law enforcement at the New Jersey Turnpike’s Clara Barton Service Area in Pedricktown, Salem County, New Jersey.

The incident involved members of the New Jersey State Police and the United States Marshals Service.

This review is being conducted by the Integrity Bureau within the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4.

The review is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.



Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Recognized by New Jersey Sharing Network for Record-Breaking Organ Donation Efforts

RWJBarnabas Health Has Most Donations and Transplants Among All NJ Health Systems in 2022

February 28, 2023

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–The New Jersey Sharing Network, the federally-designated non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of donated organs and tissue in New Jersey, has recognized Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) for achieving the most-ever organ and tissue donations by a New Jersey hospital in a single year in 2022.

According to its end-of-year report, RWJUH worked closely with the NJ Sharing Network to fulfill the wishes of 33 individuals who gave the gift of life donating 102 organs for transplantation. RWJUH is one of the three state-designated Level I Trauma Centers for adults in New Jersey, and The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at RWJUH holds a Level II Pediatric Trauma designation. The hospital has quaternary-level capabilities for the critical care of patients for trauma, stroke, cardiovascular and medical conditions.

As a health system, RWJBarnabas Health hospitals work closely with the NJ Sharing Network and had 68 donors with 195 organs transplanted.

“As a state-designated Level I Trauma Center for Adult Acute Care medicine, a Level II Pediatric Trauma center, a certified Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission, and a regional leader in transplantation for heart, kidney and pancreas, our partnership with the NJ Sharing Network and shared mission of saving and enhancing lives through organ donation runs deep in the RWJUH culture,” said Bill Arnold, President and CEO, RWJUH. “As an academic medical center through our longstanding partnership with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and as one of only seven nursing programs in the world to achieve Magnet recognition six consecutive times, RWJUH is committed to facilitating the gift of life in the face of tragic circumstances. We are deeply honored to support the families of donors through this journey.”

RWJUH has an active Donor Council comprised of leaders across the hospital involved in the care of donor patients and families. The hospital also has a Donor Team, which is a volunteer, nurse-driven committee representing both the adult and pediatric emergency departments and all intensive care units throughout RWJUH. The committee provides specialized training to RWJUH’s clinical care team on the process to facilitate organ donation with the NJ Sharing Network.

Staff never approach patient families about consenting to a donation. Rather, they make a referral to the NJ Sharing Network to work directly with families if the potential exists for organ donation. There are specific criteria developed for when the NJ Sharing Network can be called in for a referral.

The Donor Team also conducts many outreach events to raise awareness and educate staff and the public about organ donation. This includes hosting an information table outside the Employee Dining Room during Donate Life Month. The Team also shares information at Somerset Patriots games, Rutgers Day, JCCs, YMCAs and National Night Out among other events. The Donor Team Committee is co-chaired by Nancy Lipschutz, RN, BSN, CCRN-CMC. and Mary Lynn Dupuis, RN, BSN, CCRN, CNIV.

“I have worked in the CCU forever and I have seen people with end-stage heart failure waiting for hearts,” said Lipschutz. “I have also seen heart transplant patients come back to visit us living and enjoying life. They treasure and honor the gift they have received – it’s never in vain.”

The Donor Team also pays tribute to organ donors and families by illuminating RWJUH’s East Tower in blue and green (the designated colors promoting organ donation awareness) for 24 hours each time a donation occurs. An image of the lit tower will also be pinned on the RWJUH Facebook to acknowledge this profound gift in 2023.

“Whenever people in our communities drive by RWJUH and see those colors illuminated on our buildings, they should know that something profound has occurred here. We can all be proud of this partnership with NJ Sharing Network and our team’s commitment to saving lives amidst grief,” Arnold added. “Publicly acknowledging this gift is healing for both our clinical teams and the donor families.”

For more information about becoming an organ donor, please visit: https://www.njsharingnetwork.org/



Booker Introduces Bill to Protect Farmers and Ranchers

February 28, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Lee (R-UT) led a bipartisan effort to reform agricultural checkoff programs. Joined by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act will make checkoff programs more responsive to the farmers who are required to contribute to them. Checkoffs are mandatory Department of Agriculture fees assessed on a per-unit basis that fund boards designed to promote the commodity as a whole. However, checkoff funds are frequently coopted against the interests of some or even a majority of contributors. Countless farmers, ranchers, and other producers have seen their checkoff dollars squandered or used against their interests. This bill would prohibit certain wasteful, anti-competitive, and deceptive behavior from checkoff boards.

“Farmers and Ranchers are being forced to pay into checkoff programs that often advocate against their best interest and support food system consolidation. These programs need transparency and oversight so a farmer can be sure they aren’t required to fund their own demise,” said Senator Booker. “That is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will help increase transparency and prohibit conflicts of interest and anti-competitive practices in these programs.”

“Checkoff programs are filled with waste and often abuse those who are forced to contribute to their coffers,” said Senator Lee. “These common-sense reforms will ensure that checkoff funds promote and protect all ag producers (big and small) who are meant to be served by these programs.”

“The current checkoff system does not provide enough transparency to our farmers on how their hard-earned dollars are used,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am committed to ensuring the checkoff programs are modernized and reflect the best interests of our farmers.”

“The decades old beef checkoff program is ill-suited to meet the needs of today’s cattle farmers and ranchers,” said Bill Bullard, CEO, R-CALF USA. “In fact, the program promotes corporate control and globalization over the interests of America’s cattle producers. We applaud Senators Lee and Booker for introducing this legislation to meaningfully reform the beef checkoff program so it can begin working for, rather than against, the American cattle producers.” 

“For far too long, America’s farmers and ranchers have been forced to pay into government checkoff programs, only to see their dollars used against them by trade and lobbying organizations representing the world’s largest meatpackers and grain traders,” said Farm Action Fund President Joe Maxwell. “We applaud Senators Lee and Booker for their continued effort to bring transparency and accountability to these corrupt programs.”

“American family farmers are in peril and today, every cent counts,” said Taylor Haynes, president of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “If we’re going to be forced to pay into USDA’s checkoff programs then the very least we should expect is transparency, accountability, and oversight of our hard-earned dollars, and the OFF Act accomplishes just that.”

 “The OFF Act was first introduced in the 115th Congress and here we are in the 118th Congress still working for transparency and accountability to reform the USDA’s commodity checkoff programs,” said Deborah Mills, chairwoman of the National Dairy Producers Organization. “This speaks volumes about what frustrates producers who are paying into checkoff programs. The recipients of the checkoff dollars are the greatest proponents of maintaining the status quo. Producers are being denied the basic right to have their questions about their investment answered.” 

“I don’t want my hard-earned dollars funneled to a quasi-governmental organization that works against my best interest and represents industrial agriculture’s continued movement toward the monopolization of farming,” said Will Harris, past president of the American Grassfed Association and proprietor of White Oak Pastures. “We’ve farmed the same land in Georgia since 1866, and I want to ensure that future generations are able to continue to do the same.”

“We applaud Sens. Lee, Booker, Paul, Warren, and Gillibrand for their tireless work and leadership on the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “USDA’s commodity checkoff programs remain under fire because of their lack of transparency, misuse of funds, and damaging anti-competitive practices that have bankrupted millions of American farmers.” 


New Jersey Receives $995,000 Federal Grant For Wildfire Mitigation Efforts In Area Of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

The award is among 13 given for environmental protection initiatives at military installations

February 22, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is set to receive $995,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to reduce wildfire risk in the areas surrounding Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Warren Grove Range, Naval Weapons Station Earle and Sea Girt National Guard Training Facility, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.

The New Jersey grant is one of 13 projects funded nationally with $24 million from the DOD’s 2023 Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Challenge Program, which facilitates long-term partnerships to improve resilience to climate change, preserve habitats and natural resources, and promote sustainable land uses near military installations and ranges.

”The Murphy Administration is grateful to our federal partners for this grant funding, which will help us mitigate the increased risk of wildfires that are one of the many adverse impacts of climate change in New Jersey,“ Commissioner LaTourette said. ”Partnerships such as this help us ensure healthy forests that provide shade and shelter to visitors, keep open spaces green to sequester carbon, and also limit the greenhouse gas emissions that can increase ocean acidification.“

”Warmer springs and hotter, drier summers may lengthen New Jersey’s wildfire season and increase the occurrence of large fires. Reducing wildfire risk is a key aspect of ensuring that our farms, forests, and communities that are vital to our state’s economy and identity are resilient to a changing climate,“ said Nick Angarone, New Jersey Chief Climate Resilience Officer. ”This REPI Challenge award supports the New Jersey Forest Fire Service in some of its most critical wildfire mitigation and protection projects in the state.“

Funds from this grant round will be used to construct a strategic firebreak adjacent to the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in Bass River State Forest, with project work expected to begin in April 2023. Firebreak work will consist of reducing hazardous forest fuels on a strategic strip of land bordering Allen and Oswego roads, in Bass River Township, Burlington County, and in Egg Harbor Township, Ocean County. By reducing the forest fuels, firefighters may more safely control the forward progress of wildfires that may start in this area. The firebreak will also provide improved access to fight any fires that may occur in the area.

Additionally, forest thinning on 1,305 acres will reduce combustible vegetation known as ladder fuels and improve wildlife habitat. Ladder fuels are small trees and low vegetation beneath the forest canopy. Most large trees in the project area will remain, which will keep the canopy intact. Thinning allows for a healthier forest, reduces competition among trees and provides greater resource availability. The likelihood of a catastrophic wildfire burning through a thinned forest is reduced.

Additional REPI funds will go toward the ongoing Greenwood Triangle Forest Fuels Maintenance Project in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest and Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management area. This project entails firebreak maintenance and underbrush removal to protect residents in Burlington and Ocean counties and to create safe conditions for firefighters during wildfire suppression efforts.

This funding will help the New Jersey Forest Fire Service continue to build a network of strategic firebreaks across the landscape and improve resilience.

Ongoing partnerships like this through the DOD, Naval Weapons Station Earle continues to strengthen the relationship between DOD and DEP. New Jersey’s rich history of cooperation with its military installations is reinforced through the funds the DEP has received through the REPI Challenge Program.

”The wildfire management activities outlined in these projects not only benefit the military installations, but the natural resources and residents of New Jersey,“ said John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites. ”Without funding provided through the REPI Challenge Program and additional funding leveraged through the DEP and other partners, these projects would not be possible.“

The REPI Challenge Program cited a surge in forest fires adjacent to the Joint Base and Warren Grove Gunnery Range properties, in part due to dry weather conditions and dense accumulations of forest undergrowth, that can fuel wildfires. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service responded to 1,175 wildfires that burned 12,664 acres in 2022. When a wildfire encroaches a military installation, operations at the properties must be suspended, impacting various base and range activities and missions.

In 2019 the Spring Hill Wildfire burned 9,021 acres just north of the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in Bass River and Penn State Forest in similar forest fuel conditions. This fire highlighted the potential of a major wildfire threatening surrounding communities and military installations.

Combined, the 13 REPI Challenge projects will benefit 26 installations and their communities across the country. In addition to New Jersey, the DOD is funding projects in Guam, Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, California, Washington and Virginia.

To date, the REPI Challenge Program has leveraged more than $144 million with more than $417 million in partner contributions to protect more than 51 locations. REPI projects promote compatible land use, restore important habitats, promote species recovery and enhance climate adaptation efforts.

Warren Grove Gunnery Range is one of the most heavily used Air National Guard training ranges in the United States, and its location provides operational capabilities for all branches of military service. Naval Weapons Station Earle operates a receipts, storage, segregation and issue ordnance facility to support the Atlantic fleet, which includes the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and DOD conventional ammunition requirements.

For more information about this year’s REPI recipients, visit www.repi.mil/Buffer-Projects/REPI-Challenge

Learn more about the DEP’s Bureau of Climate Resilience Planning at www.nj.gov/dep/bcrp/ and other climate resilience initiatives at www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/resilience.html

To learn more about wildfires in New Jersey, steps to protect property and other resources, visit www.njwildfire.org

Like the Forest Fire Service’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NJForestFireService/

Follow the Forest Fire Service on Twitter @njdepforestfire and Instagram @newjerseyforestfire

Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep


66-Year-Old New Jersey Man Among Three Dead In Washington State Avalanche

February 21, 2023

WASHINGTON STATE — Sheriff Mike Morrison reports on February 20th, 2023 Deputies were contacted at the CCSO Leavenworth substation about an avalanche that occurred near Colchuck Lake the previous day. The reporting party, a 53-year-old Maryland man reported the group he was with had attempted to climb Colchuck Peak on Sunday February 19th. There were six climbers in that group and the reporting party had stayed at their base camp that day.

The lead climber triggered an avalanche while attempting to climb the Northeast Couloir of Colchuck Peak. Four of the climbers were swept down the couloir approximately 500 feet. Three of the climbers died as a result of trauma sustained in the fall. They were a 60-year-old female from New York, a 66-year-old male from New Jersey, and a 53-year-old male from Connecticut. The fourth climber, a 56-year-old male form New York sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was able to hike back to base camp with the remaining two. They were a 50-year-old male from New York and a 36-year-old male from New Jersey. When they arrived at camp, they sent the reporting party for help.

When Deputies took the report, A SAR coordinator started gathering resources. A total of 22 rescuers responded to the trailhead to assist with this effort. They were from Chelan County Mounty Rescue, Chelan County Volunteer Search and Rescue and ORV unit, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Tacoma Mountain Rescue, and Yakima Mountain Rescue. A group of four from Chelan County Mountain Rescue responded to the lake driven part of the way by the CCVSAR ORV unit. They reached the base camp at approximately 1:30 pm. They were able to determine avalanche conditions were too hazardous to continue to the deceased climbers. They escorted the surviving climbers back to the trailhead.

Rescuers were not sent back in to the scene today due to hazardous conditions. CCSO continues to work with Northwest Avalanche Center to assist in a recover plan.

Colchuck Peak sits at the South end of Colchuck Lake approximately 8 miles South of Leavenworth, WA


From the North West Avalanche Center:

Colchuck Peak, WA

A group of six climbers attempted to climb the Northeast Couloir route on Colchuck Peak. At approximately 1:15pm, while ascending the route, the lead climber triggered a slab avalanche that caught and carried four members of the team approximately 500ft to the base of the climb. Three of the climbers suffered fatal traumatic injuries, and a fourth sustained lower extremity injuries. The remaining climbers attempted to evacuate all individuals but were unsuccessful. Subsequent natural avalanches impacted the accident site in the hours following the event. The Chelan County Sheriff’s office was notified of the accident on Monday, February 20th. Chelan County Mountain Rescue traveled to the site and assisted the injured party member to the trailhead.

Recovery efforts will be ongoing this week as weather and avalanche conditions allow. NWAC is working with Chelan County Sheriff’s office, and will provide updates as more information becomes available.



https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/colchuck-lake


Moon over Colchuck Peak at sunrise, with Colchuck Glacier at left file photo from Creative Commons ShareAlike  by: Laurel F

30 New Jersey Mayors Call For Immediate Moratorium On All Offshore Wind Activity

February 21, 2023

The alarming number of recent whale deaths has prompted 30 mayors of New Jersey coastal towns to call for immediate moratorium on all offshore wind activity pending a thorough investigation by federal and state authorities. In a letter to federal and state officials, the mayors express their concern about “the unprecedented number of whales that have washed ashore recently.” Copies of the letter have also been sent to President Joe Biden and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Concerns that acoustic surveys related to offshore wind development may be a contributing factor in the 9 recent whale deaths that occurred since early December – more than has ever been recorded in the State of New Jersey in such a short amount of time – have brought strong opposition from local environmental groups and residents. On February 13th, the 9th dead whale in the New Jersey and New York area washed ashore in Manasquan, New Jersey. The US Coast Guard at Barnegat Light has also reported several more dead floating whales off the New Jersey coast, an indication that not all of the whale deaths have been accounted for.

The mayors’ letter emphasizes that “While we are not opposed to clean energy, we are concerned about the impacts these projects may already be having on our environment.” Offshore wind developers have obtained permits for the “incidental taking” of whales, which would typically be illegal under federal law. This could include potential injury to whales, such as damaging their hearing, or by causing behavioral disruptions in feeding and migration. In response to similar concerns, Benjamin Laws, Deputy Chief for the Permits and Conservation Division with the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, says that “there is an expectation that the work will impact marine life, including whales.” NOAA and other self- described environmental groups denounce the lack of evidence about the cause for these recent whale deaths and nevertheless encourage the wind industry and Governor Murphy to press on with his plan to install 11.5 GW of offshore wind projects in New Jersey.

The mayors, who represent over 359,168 full-time residents in New Jersey and welcome tens of millions of visitors annually to their beaches and communities, call for an immediate moratorium on all offshore wind activity pending a thorough investigation by federal and state agencies “that confidently determines” the offshore wind activities are not a contributing factor in the recent whale deaths.

The officials represent the communities of Atlantic Highlands, Avon by the Sea, Barnegat Light, Bay Head, Beach Haven, Berkley Township, Brick Township, Brielle, Brigantine, Deal, Harvey Cedars, Linwood, Little Egg Harbor Township, Long Beach Township, Mantoloking, Margate City, North Wildwood, Ocean City, Point Pleasant Borough, Point Pleasant Beach, Sea Girt, Seaside Park, Ship Bottom, Spring Lake, Stafford Township, Stone Harbor, Toms River, Ventnor City, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest.



Photos and video by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response


Photos and video by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response


2 Photos above provided


Photos and video by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response






Smith Introduces Bill To Require Investigation Into Environmental Approval Process For Offshore Wind Projects

Nine dead whales in two months and still no answers from the Biden Administration

February 17, 2023

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–Rep. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) today introduced legislation requiring an immediate, comprehensive investigation into the environmental approval process for offshore wind projects as Governor Murphy and the Biden Administration continue to ignore growing calls to pause offshore wind development over concerns about the recent A dead whale washes ashore in Manasquan on Monday, February 13th—the ninth one along the New Jersey-New York coastline since early December.

 “Nine dead whales have washed up on our beaches since early December, and we still have no meaningful answers from Governor Murphy or the Biden Administration on the broader impact of these projects on the marine environment as they rush to build the largest offshore wind farm in the nation,” said Smith, who has yet to receive a response from the Biden Administration after he urged two Biden Administration Secretaries late last month to pause the offshore wind activity.

“As part of a full-court press for answers, my legislation will investigate the level of transparency from federal agencies that greenlighted this aggressive offshore wind development and determine how much scrutiny was implemented in reviewing the environmental and maritime safety of this project, especially given its unprecedented size and scale,” Smith said.

            Smith’s bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—commonly known as the congressional watchdog—to investigate the sufficiency of the environmental review process for offshore wind projects, including the impacts on whales, finfish, marine mammals, benthic resources, commercial and recreational fishing, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, vessel traffic, tourism, and the sustainability of shoreline beaches and inlets.

The study mandated by Smith’s legislation would also examine whether federal agencies adequately consulted major stakeholders including county and local officials, commercial and recreational fishermen, local environmental groups, and Jersey Shore residents, as well as determine the estimated cost of these projects and who pays for them.

Smith, a longtime advocate for marine wildlife and the broader environmental and economic viability of the Jersey Shore, reiterated that “the lack of conclusive evidence disproving the link between offshore wind development and whale deaths is sufficient to require a pause until assurances can be made to the public that the environmental and maritime safety of these projects has been properly reviewed.”



Photos and video by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response


Kidnapping and Aggravated Assault Charges Against Man Accused of Holding a Woman Hostage for Nearly a Year as They Traveled Across Country to New Jersey

February 17, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police today announced the arrest of a man charged with kidnapping a woman he met in New Mexico last year, traveling to New Jersey with her, and assaulting her in the Burlington County residence where they rented a room.

James W. Parrillo Jr., 57, was arrested on February 7, after the woman allegedly escaped from the Bass River Township residence they shared and fled to a nearby gas station. Parrillo is charged with first-degree kidnapping, second-degree strangulation and aggravated assault, and third-degree criminal restraint.

According to information placed on the record during court proceedings and documents filed in the case, the victim met the defendant, whom she knew as “Brett Parker”, at a gas station on Interstate 10 in New Mexico sometime in February 2022. At his request, she agreed to give him a ride to Arizona. The woman said she was in a voluntary relationship with the defendant for about a month when he physically assaulted her while the two were in California, at which point she felt unable to leave the relationship. During their time together, Parrillo allegedly took away the woman’s phone, confiscated and utilized her debit cards, and isolated her from her family. The pair allegedly arrived in New Jersey sometime in December.

Parrillo was detained at the Burlington County Jail pending trial following a hearing before Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Garringer in Burlington County on Wednesday. In successfully arguing for pre-trial detention, Assistant Attorney General Theresa Hilton said information provided by the alleged victim, along with information found on social media and other online sites, indicate that Parrillo may have engaged in similar predatory conduct with individuals in other states and that public safety demands he not be released.

“This is a deeply disturbing case in which the defendant allegedly held a woman against her will for nearly a year, while traveling with her throughout the country, before ending up here in New Jersey where she was able to escape,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We are reaching out to law enforcement across jurisdictions to identify other people who may have additional information on the defendant. Our investigation is ongoing and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure we bring justice to this survivor.”

“The allegations of kidnapping and abuse at the hands of the defendant represent a year-long nightmare endured by the victim that spanned several states across the country ultimately coming to an end here in New Jersey,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The dedication and diligence of the troopers, detectives, and members of the Division of Criminal Justice is to be commended, but the strength and bravery of the female victim who successfully escaped her assailant is nothing short of heroic. We encourage anyone who has information or evidence related to the criminal allegations against the defendant to contact the New Jersey State Police.”

“The allegations, if proven, demonstrate a level of predatory conduct that poses an extreme danger to anyone who crosses paths with this defendant,” said Director Pearl Minato of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice for working together to quickly apprehend this man and ensure that he remains in custody while these various serious charges are pending. If you or someone you know has any additional information regarding this defendant, we urge you to contact the New Jersey State Police at 855-363-6548.”

According to statements made in court and documents filed in the case, Parrillo and the alleged victim had been staying in the rented room in Bass for about two weeks when she managed to escape. Noticing an interior deadbolt on the door of a nearby gas station during a prior visit, the alleged victim planned to flee to safety there when an opportunity presented itself. On February 7, when Parrillo began beating and choking her during an argument inside the residence, which they shared with several other individuals. Parrillo allegedly ceased assaulting the woman when he realized the two were not alone in the house and she ran from the house with nothing on but shorts and a shirt in the 42-degree weather. Once inside the gas station, the woman bolted the

door and told an attendant she had been kidnapped for approximately a year. Footage from the station’s security camera shows Parrillo following the woman to the gas station and attempting to open the door, then leaving when he found it locked. An attendant at the station summoned New Jersey State Police who apprehended Parrillo a short time later as he walked down County Road 542. Parrillo is also charged with third-degree hindering apprehension, and fourth-degree obstruction and refusing to provide a DNA sample.

Assistant Attorney General Theresa Hilton is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.

An ongoing investigation is being led by New Jersey State Police.

First-degree kidnapping carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in state prison and a fine 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, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three of five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

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

The Office of the Attorney General acknowledges the contributions made by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, under the leadership of Prosecutor Lachia L. Bradshaw, to this investigation.

Defense Attorney: Anthony Rizzo, Esq.

James W. Parrillo Jr.

*Known to Go By Different Names*

If You or Someone You Know Has Information on This Man

Please Call New Jersey State Police at 855-363-6548


Are New Jersey’s Windmill Projects Killing The Whales?

Smith’s January 30, 2023 letters to Biden Administration Secretaries Remain Unanswered

Smith renews call to pause offshore wind projects after nineth dead whale in two months washes ashore in Manasquan

February 14, 2023

TOMS RIVER—Two weeks after urging top Biden Administration officials to immediately suspend all offshore wind projects over growing concerns about recent whale deaths, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) today renewed his call for a moratorium after the nineth dead whale in two months washed ashore in Manasquan on Monday:

“The Biden Administration and Governor Murphy continue to ignore the resounding calls for an investigation to address the historic surge of dead whales while offshore wind development ramps up off our beaches.

“Local elected officials, environmental leaders and commercial and recreational fishermen are among the strong coalition who continue to raise concerns about the unprecedented spike in whale deaths and the broader impact of offshore wind projects on the marine environment.

            “As I stated in my January 30th letters to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the lack of conclusive evidence disproving the link between offshore wind development and whale deaths is sufficient to require a pause until assurances can be made to the public that the environmental and maritime safety of these projects has been properly reviewed.

            “How many more whales have to die before there is a serious and thorough investigation into the cause of these deaths?”

            Smith has been a longtime advocate for marine wildlife and the broader environmental and economic viability of the Jersey Shore. He has consistently opposed offshore drilling and coauthored legislation in 2019 to ban seismic airgun testing to protect highly endangered North Atlantic right whales and other marine life in the Atlantic Ocean.


UPDATE 2/16/2023 from Allison Ferreira Communications and Internal Affairs Team Supervisor, NOAA, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.

A dead floating humpback whale was reported to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) on Monday, February 13, and it washed ashore at Manasquan Beach that afternoon. On February 14, necropsy teams from MMSC and Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS) conducted an initial exam on the beach, then the whale was moved to a Monmouth County facility where a necropsy was conducted. The remains were disposed of in the County landfill. The whale was an approximately 35-foot female. It was identified by Gotham Whale as NYC 0298 and was first seen feeding in the area on January 7, 2023. This was the first and only time this whale was documented. 

The animal was in a state of advanced decomposition, which limited the necropsy. However, tissue samples were taken and will be sent out for analysis. The whale was in good body condition and there were no obvious signs of external trauma. However, the internal examination showed evidence of vessel strike. There is not always obvious external evidence of vessel strikes, which is why internal exams are important. The results of the tissue analysis will help us determine if the vessel strike occurred before or after death. 

Humpback whales are frequent visitors to New Jersey waters, where schools of small bait fish are a good food source. Since December 1, six humpback whales have stranded in New Jersey, and have been examined by stranding teams to help determine cause of death. One additional dead humpback whale was reported floating off NJ in January, but was never seen again. NOAA Fisheries stranding network partners are actively investigating these strandings as part of the humpback whale Unusual Mortality Event that was declared in  2016. That investigation is ongoing, and data from this whale will contribute to understanding of the causes of the UME.

We thank the MMSC and AMSEAS stranding response teams for their rapid response, professionalism, and adaptability as changing circumstances unfolded. We would also like to thank the Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Wall Township, and the Borough of Manasquan for their assistance with moving the whale to the County facility. We also greatly appreciate NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and NJ DEP for their on the ground support for this stranding event. 


There are currently active Seasonal Management Areas off all major ports in the mid-Atlantic region, including the ports of New York/New Jersey, which are in effect through April 30, 2023. All vessels 65 feet or longer must travel at 10 knots or less in these areas. Additionally, there are currently three active voluntary SLOW Zones in effect from Nantucket to Chesapeake Bay. Maintaining speeds of 10 knots or less can help protect all large whales from vessel collisions.



Photos and video by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response





New Jersey Forest Fire Service Commences Annual Prescribed Burning Efforts and Launches Online Public Information Tool

February 10, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The New Jersey Forest Fire Service will soon begin conducting prescribed burning to reduce vegetation and debris that may contribute to the start and spread of a wildfire. By actively eliminating sources of fuel that exacerbate forest fire risks through a controlled and prescribed burning program, the Forest Fire Service reduces risk to New Jersey residents, visitors and the environment, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said.

Peak wildfire season in New Jersey begins in late March and continues through early May, depending on rainfall and weather. 

“It may surprise some New Jerseyans to know that there were more than 900 wildfires last year,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “Proactive forest management, including prescribed burning, is vital to protecting public safety and helps to ensure that we protect the long-term health and success of our forests. By reducing forest fire fuels through strategic prescribed burning, our Forest Fire Service protects New Jersey communities and ecosystems and helps to avoid catastrophic releases of carbon during wildfires that would contribute to climate change.”

“Recent events in Colorado, Montana and California have underscored the importance of managing our wildland environments as they interconnect with human development,” said Greg McLaughlin, State Firewarden and Chief of the Forest Fire Service. “We encourage homeowners to visit njwildfire.org to learn how to take steps make their properties safe from wildfire.”
To keep the public informed about prescribed burning in their communities, this year the Forest Fire Service will launch an online tool at njwildfire.org that displays a map where the Forest Fire Service plans to conduct prescribed burns during the next five days.

There are multiple benefits to prescribed burning, which is a safe, effective and efficient means of managing the buildup of forest fuels. Prescribed burns improve habitat for plants and animals, reduce the presence of damaging insects and ticks, and recycle nutrients into the soil. In addition, prescribed burning is an important part of the state’s carbon defense strategy.

Allowing experts to choose intensity, timing and interval of fire across the landscape may help prevent a larger uncontrolled wildfire, which would contribute to significant carbon loss.

Typically, most prescribed burns take place between February and early April.  However, depending on the management objective for a particular area, a prescribed burn may be implemented in the summer or fall. The Prescribed Burn Act, which Governor Phil Murphy signed into law in August 2018, authorized the Forest Fire Service to use prescribed burning as a tool to meet a wider range of management objectives designed to improve forest health and biodiversity. For example, prescribed burning can be an effective tool in managing the spread of nonnative invasive species or to manage grasslands for threatened or endangered bird species. 



This year, the Forest Fire Service intends to treat 25,000 acres with prescribed fire. Meeting this goal will depend on favorable weather conditions. Most of the Forest Fire Service’s burns will occur on state-owned property such as state forests, parks and Wildlife Management Areas, but the Forest Fire Service also assists private landowners, nonprofit organizations, and county and municipal governments to meet their management objectives through prescribed burning.

Several climatological and environmental conditions, all of which influence a burn’s intensity and severity, are considered when conducting prescribed burns to accomplish various resource and ecological objectives, such as reducing hazard fuels and managing habitats. Hazard fuels include excess leaves, pine needles, grasses and groundcover which may act as ‘ladder fuels,’ allowing fire to reach the tree canopy. Further, the Forest Fire Service and Division of Air Quality work together to assess wind speed, humidity and temperature and determine the best days to conduct prescribed burning.

In addition to the new online tool, which may be viewed at njwildfire.org, the Forest Fire Service posts their daily prescribed burn schedule on their Facebook page. Residents can also sign up for text or email notifications of prescribed burns by following this link.

“Keeping the public informed of when prescribed burns are taking place is critical to keeping our firefighters safe when working along roadways, avoiding impacts from smoke and in helping to minimize reports of wildfires,” said John Cecil, Director of the Division of Parks and Forestry. “The Forest Fire Service works closely with DEP’s Air Quality Program ensuring that prescribed burns do not occur on poor air quality days.”

Motorists are reminded to use caution when approaching areas where prescribed burns are taking place, to pay attention to reduced speed limits and to be alert to the presence of Forest Fire Service trucks and personnel that may be working alongside roadways.

Nationally recognized for forest fuels management and prevention, New Jersey has been home to numerous studies conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, some of which focused on the effect prescribed fire has on tick populations and carbon storage. Scientists have also traveled to the Garden State from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to study ember or firebrand production from a wildfire.

In 2021, the Forest Fire Service completed prescribed burns on 11,796 acres of state-owned lands, 4,915 acres of other government-owned land and 1,225 acres of privately owned property, for a total of 17,936 acres.

New Jerseyans are reminded that peak wildfire season often directly follows prescribed burn season. When in doubt about the source of smoke or whether a fire is part of a prescribed burning operation, call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) or 911.

To learn more about wildfires in New Jersey, steps to protect property, and other resources, visit www.njwildfire.org

To view videos on the prescribed burn process, visit https://youtu.be/GBGBxfpltLw and https://youtu.be/CopjLNfxzRE.

Like the Forest Fire Service’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NJForestFireService/. Follow the Forest Fire Service on Twitter @njdepforestfire and Instagram @newjerseyforestfire

Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep.                                                                   



We Must Protect NJ Farmland From Foreign Investors, Sauickie Says

January 31, 2023

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey must protect its precious and valuable agricultural lands from potentially hostile foreign investors, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie says.  
 
Sauickie, the newest member of the Assembly and its Agriculture and Food Security Committee, said he is working hard to protect farmland and recently had a major reform of the state’s farmland preservation program pass the Assembly unanimously.
 
A bill he introduced last week (A5120) would prohibit foreign governments and persons from owning farmland in the Garden State. He said he was encouraged to see that a similar bill was then promptly introduced in the Senate.
 
“The bill doesn’t specifically name a particular country or government, but the Chinese Communist Party is on everyone’s mind on this issue. Their government does not yet own much farmland throughout our country, but like them, we need to take the long view and get ahead of any potential threats to our food security,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “In this case, we need to think more about the green fields that feed our people than the greenbacks that could be had by selling them to foreign powers.  It won’t matter how much money you have if there’s no food to buy. We can view this as nothing less than a national security risk.”  
 
There are 895.3 million active acres of agriculture-related lands throughout the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of that, foreign governments such as Canada, Germany and Italy own more than 35 million acres. The CCP currently owns what looks like only 192,000 acres, or 0.02% of all the farmland in the U.S.
Investing in foreign farmlands is part of the CCP’s “One Belt One Road” economic development plan, which calls for more direct control of its food supply chain.  The country’s ownership exponentially exploded between 2010 and 2020, from $81 million to $1.8 billion in farmland. Controversially, the Agricultural Bank of China, controlled by the CCP, purchased Smithfield Food, the world’s largest pork producer, back in 2013.  
 
“The concern I have, in addition to the fact that China is controlled by a totalitarian Communist regime, is not the exact amount owned at the moment, but the speed with which they have exponentially grown their ownings over the last decade,” Sauickie added. “If this continues unabated, we’ll be beholden to Xi Jinping for our families’ food needs.” 
 
His bill would require foreign governments and persons who already own agricultural land in New Jersey to sell that land five years after the legislation’s passage. The land would have to remain in use for agricultural purposes. 
 
Nine states – Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin – restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land. Iowa, home to nearly 31 million acres of farmland, has among the strictest. And at least eight other states — Alabama, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas – are considering similar bans. (California’s was passed but vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.)
 
“Food security is critical to ensuring that all New Jersey residents have food on the table. That’s why there’s bipartisan support for banning China from owning American farmland,” Sauickie added. “We need to have strict laws like mine on our books to proactively protect New Jersey farmland and ultimately our food supply from harm.” 



New Unit Within Division of Criminal Justice to Investigate and Prosecute Human Trafficking in New Jersey

January 26, 2023

TRENTON – As crimes involving forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation continue to grow nationwide, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced a new unit within the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) that will focus exclusively on investigating and prosecuting these types of human trafficking crimes in New Jersey.

The newly established Human Trafficking Unit will spearhead New Jersey’s fight against human trafficking through aggressive pursuit of criminal networks that trade in people and exploit them for profit. 

 “Human Trafficking is a despicable crime that exploits the most vulnerable members of society, subjecting them to unspeakable emotional, physical, and psychological trauma. Today we are sending a message to those engaged in these heinous acts: your days are numbered,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Our newly created Human Trafficking Unit has but one mandate, to identify and dismantle human trafficking networks operating in New Jersey and bring justice for those they’ve harmed.”

Attorney General Platkin announced the new unit during his remarks at DCJ’s 13th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Event at the Trenton War Memorial today. The day-long event, held each year during January’s National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, brings together members of law enforcement, community partners, advocacy groups, and survivors of human trafficking to educate and raise awareness of this global health issue and collaborate on ways to end it.

“Victims of human trafficking are subjected to the most reprehensible physical and emotional abuse that results in psychological scars that last a lifetime,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP). “The creation of the Human Trafficking Unit allows us to partner with the Division of Criminal Justice and shows our dedication to utilize every resource at our disposal to bring these criminals to justice. We remain committed to working with our partners to aggressively target these offenders, but we remind everyone to remain vigilant and report these heinous crimes to law enforcement.”

DCJ Director Pearl Minato said the creation of the Human Trafficking Unit is a game changer. 

“I want to thank Attorney General Platkin for prioritizing our mission to end modern day slavery in New Jersey by providing DCJ with the resources needed to tackle the problem of human trafficking head on,” said Director Minato. “This team of seasoned litigators and investigators, under the leadership of Deputy Director Theresa Hilton, will be capable of pursuing complex trafficking networks across jurisdictional boundaries and bring charges that result in significant prison sentences.”

Deputy Director Theresa Hilton, a veteran litigator with extensive experience prosecuting sex assault crimes, was brought on by the Attorney General in September to oversee sexual and domestic violence prevention policy and criminal enforcement work – a role General Platkin created within the Division of Criminal Justice. In that role she will also now lead the new unit. Prior to joining DCJ, Hilton led the domestic violence unit at the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, where she revamped policies to remove artificial barriers to justice, including those that unfairly placed the weight of prosecutions on the shoulders of victims. 

“I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to lead the Human Trafficking Unit in spearheading statewide efforts to identify criminal trafficking rings, hold perpetrators accountable, and empower survivors with tools for recovery,” said Deputy Director Hilton. “I look forward to working with all levels of law enforcement, government and community stakeholders, and trafficking survivors to bring an end to the scourge of human trafficking in our state.”

Every year, millions of men, women, and children in the world, including in the U.S., are bought and sold for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Human Trafficking is a crime whose victims are often hidden in plain sight and signs of human trafficking often go unnoticed because the relationship between trafficker and victim masquerades as consensual romantic or familial relationships or as legitimate employment relationships. Often times, human trafficking victims have been so coerced or traumatized they don’t view themselves as victims at all. For these reasons, it’s difficult to estimate the extent to which the problem exists in New Jersey. However, the FBI considers New Jersey to be a “hub” for this type of activity, in part because the state is positioned between several major metropolitan areas including New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

The Attorney General, DCJ, and NJSP work collaboratively to combat human trafficking through education, collaboration, and prosecution. Those efforts include: training and assisting federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to identify the signs of trafficking and its victims; coordinating statewide efforts to identify and provide services to victims; investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases; and raising public awareness through public outreach and educational materials.

NJSP administers a NJ Human Trafficking Hotline to identify and intervene in human trafficking cases. Last year, the hot line received 97 tips on suspected human trafficking. All tips are screened and forwarded to DCJ or other appropriate law enforcement entities, including municipal police departments and county prosecutors’ offices.

To better understand and address the problem of human trafficking in New Jersey, the Attorney General and DCJ convened the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force (NJHTTF) in 2005. Comprised of state and federal law enforcement agencies, state regulatory departments, advocacy groups, and social service providers, the NJHTTF shares intelligence and insight into where and how traffickers target victims in New Jersey. That information is used to coordinate and drive investigations, law enforcement training, and victim outreach and public awareness efforts.

Since January 2018, approximately two dozen human trafficking cases in New Jersey have been prosecuted by county prosecutors’ offices and the Division of Criminal Justice. The new Human Trafficking Unit was created to enhance and expand New Jersey’s efforts to end human trafficking by assembling a select group of professionals within DCJ who are uniquely qualified and experienced investigate and prosecute these crimes.


Deputy Director Theresa Hilton, a veteran litigator with extensive experience prosecuting sex assault crimes, was brought on by the Attorney General in September to oversee sexual and domestic violence prevention policy and criminal enforcement work – a role General Platkin created within the Division of Criminal Justice. In that role she will also now lead the new unit. Prior to joining DCJ, Hilton led the domestic violence unit at the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, where she revamped policies to remove artificial barriers to justice, including those that unfairly placed the weight of prosecutions on the shoulders of victims. 


Coast Guard Rescues 7 From Tugboat Transporting 290-foot Barge From New Jersey

January 15, 2023

BALTIMORE, Md. – The Coast Guard rescued seven people Saturday from a disabled, adrift tug towing a barge 30 miles offshore from Ocean City.

A crew member aboard the tug Legacy notified watch standers at Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday that while towing a 290-foot barge from New Jersey, to Guyana, a 1,000-foot towing line became entangled and fouled their starboard propeller. The vessel continued to make way on one engine when the tow line snapped. The crew attempted to regain tow of the barge at which time the line became tangled in the port propeller immobilizing the vessel.

The tug’s crew member said Legacy was inoperable and that the crew was making preparations to abandon ship.

The 154-foot Coast Guard Cutter Lawrence Lawson, homeported in Cape May, New Jersey, was already underway and diverted to the incident to help. Once on scene, the cutter’s crew was unable to get near the disabled tug or barge due to on scene weather and concern that the loose tow line beneath the water’s surface would foul the Coast Guard cutter’s propellers. The Lawrence Lawson maintained station and provided critical assistance to responding units and ensured safety of the seven crew members. 

Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, and an MH-60 Jayhawk crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to hoist the seven people from the vessel. After all seven people were safely hoisted, the air crews transported them to Ocean City Municipal Airport in Maryland with no reported injuries.

The tug’s crew activated their emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), and the Coast Guard MH-60 deployed a self-locating data marker buoy (SLDMB) for Coast Guard watch standers to track the tug and barge while awaiting commercial salvage.

According to Marine Traffic the boat was departed from the Dorchester Shipyard 13 Front St, Dorchester, NJ 08316, to Kingstown
St Vincent and the Grenadines and was due on January 26, 2023. Current position is off Ocean City, MD




Brooklyn, NY, Man Charged With Aggravated Assault On NJ State Trooper And Other Charges, After 50 Mile Persuit On NJ Turnpike In Stolen Car

December 30, 2022

EDISON, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Sgt. Alejandro Goez from the New Jersey State Police, Public Information Unit told MidJersey.news that yesterday December 29, 2022, at approximately 11:51 a.m., Troopers were alerted by Georgia State Police of a stolen vehicle traveling northbound on the New Jersey Turnpike. In the area of Mile Post 38.8, (prior to the James Fenimore Cooper Service Area in Mt. Laurel) Troopers located the vehicle and attempted to stop it, but driver failed to stop. Using lights and sirens troopers continued to follow the vehicle for approximately fifty miles. Troopers deployed a tire deflation device on the vehicle. Shortly after, the driver veered off the road, struck the concrete barrier and intentionally struck several troop cars. In the area of Mile Post 88.9 (just past Exit 10 and Prior to Exit 11 in Edison) the suspect vehicle became disabled, and Troopers removed the suspect from the vehicle. Isarael Bleier, 37, of Brooklyn, NY was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a trooper, eluding, resisting arrest, and receiving stolen property. He was lodged in the Middlesex County Jail pending a detention hearing.



New Jersey Task Force 1 Deployed To Erie County, NY For Snow Emergency

December 27, 2022

WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ — New Jersey Task Force 1 (NJ-TF1) deployed to Erie County, New York to assist the state of New York in their snow emergency, in Wall, N.J. on Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. Western New York has experienced a record amount snow that has caused major power outages and casualties. Twenty-two members of NJ-TF1 along with a cache of equipment including heavy rescue trucks, snow mobiles, Argo track vehicles and off-road rescue vehicles will join local first responders who have been working throughout the storm and its aftermath.

Photos/Video by: New Jersey State Police / Tim Larsen


New Jersey Task Force 1 (NJ-TF1) deploys to Erie County, New York to assist the state of New York in their snow emergency, in Wall, N.J. on Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. Photos/Video by: New Jersey State Police / Tim Larsen




NRA Affiliate, Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs Files Lawsuit Against New Jersey’s New Gun Law

December 23, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A New Jersey affiliate of the National Rifle Association, Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, Inc. filed a lawsuit yesterday just as the ink dried on A4769/S3214 creating a new law that makes various revisions to requirements for obtaining a firearm purchaser identification card, permit to purchase a handgun, and permit to carry a handgun; codifies sensitive places in which firearms and destructive devices are prohibited.

The lawsuit states, “The State of New Jersey has, apparently, not gotten the message. Having lost the ability to suppress the fundamental right to bear arms in public through its now dead and buried “justifiable need” requirement,1 New Jersey has shifted gears and has made a permit to carry a handgun utterly useless. New Jersey has passed a new law, Assembly Bill A4769, which allows a permit holder to carry almost nowhere in the State. New Jersey has simply changed its approach from one unconstitutional law that allowed “no one” to carry to another unconstitutional law that allows on to carry “nowhere.” Notwithstanding the clear ruling of the United States Supreme Court, New Jersey simply does not want ordinary people to carry handguns in public—as is their fundamental right to do. “

“Plaintiffs seek declaratory and immediate and urgent injunctive relief: a declaration that New Jersey’s brand new law comprehensively suppressing the fundamental right to bear arms in public as set forth in Bruen is unconstitutional and injunctive relief precluding its enforcement.”

“A4769, freshly signed into law, is the State of New Jersey’s blatant refusal to accept the ruling of the United States Supreme Court. On June 24, 2022, the day after the Bruen decision was handed down, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced his plan to undermine the ruling in every way possible, and he and the New Jersey Legislature have made good on that unlawful promise.”

“While the Supreme Court declared that individuals have a fundamental right to carry handguns in most public places, with very limited exceptions such as courthouses, legislative assemblies and polling places, A4769 bans the carry of handguns nearly everywhere in the State of New Jersey. A4769 Section 7.”

A4769 also imposes crushing financial penalties on the exercise of the constitutional right, including forcing a person to purchase liability insurance that does not presently exist and massively raising permit fees.

“A4769 creates onerous new hurdles in the permit process, requiring personal interviews of the applicant and her references, as well as forcing references to prepare what amounts to an essay in support of the application—all this when the Supreme Court plainly prohibited permitting schemes that interfere with the right to carry. 12. A4769 invites arbitrary, subjective action by permitting authorities, through vague discretionary permitting criteria, precisely what the Supreme Court ruled is not allowed.”

A full copy of the lawsuit and bills are posted below:


You can read about the law in yesterday’s story here:


The National Rifle Association said in a Tweet, “NRA looks forward to getting another win vindicating our members constitutional rights in the Garden State. The lawsuit, titled Siegel v. Platkin, lists the NRA’s state affiliate, ANJRPC, as a plaintiff.”







Governor Murphy Signs Gun Safety Legislation


Governor Murphy Signs Gun Safety Legislation with Attorney General Matt Platkin, Senate President Nick Scutari, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Giffords Law Center Chief Counsel and Policy Director Adam Skaggs, Moms Demand Action Shani Nuckols, and Mayor Joshua Losardo in Scotch Plains on December 22, 2022