Category: State of NJ

Ocean County Man Indicted For Allegedly Falsifying His Academic Credentials To Obtain His Position And Promotions

April 16, 2021

Spring Biggest Sale BudgetPetCare 4

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a suspended senior engineer for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) was indicted today for submitting false academic credentials in order to obtain his state position and promotions.

The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Roger Sequeira, 64, of Whiting, N.J., (Manchester Township, Ocean County, NJ) with second-degree official misconduct, second-degree theft by deception, third-degree theft by deception, and third-degree tampering with public records or information. The NJDOT Office of the Inspector General initially investigated this matter and referred it to the OPIA Corruption Bureau.

The indictment alleges that between Nov. 24, 2007 and June 16, 2020, Sequeira created and reinforced the false impression that he had obtained a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from La Salle University. Sequeira allegedly submitted to the state a fraudulent document that purported to be a university transcript. As a result of this deception, NJDOT allegedly sustained losses of over $75,000 in the form of additional compensation paid to Sequeira based on fraudulently obtained promotions.

The indictment further alleges that between Oct. 22, 2018 and March 20, 2020, Sequeira stole more than $500 by fraudulently taking leave time he claimed was for illness or visits to healthcare providers and submitting false documents purporting to be from healthcare providers to support that leave time.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorneys General Jonathan Gilmore and Adam Gerken of the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.

Attorney General Grewal thanked the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General for their investigation and referral.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree charge of official misconduct carries a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison without possibility of parole. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Defense Attorney: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Aletha Sheppard Robinson, Mercer County.


One-Time
Monthly

Make a one-time donation. If you like what you see here help MidJersey.news continue to provide coverage of local news events. MidJersey.news is one of the leading news sources in the center part of the state and could use your donation to support independent journalism.

Make a monthly donation If you like what you see here help MidJersey.news continue to provide coverage of local news events. MidJersey.news is one of the leading news sources in the center part of the state and could use your donation to support independent journalism.

Choose an amount

$25.00
$50.00
$100.00
$15.00
$25.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthly


Spring Biggest Sale BudgetPetCare 4
Bitdefender 2020 300x250

NJ Conservation Police Issue 67 Summonses For Undersized And Over Limit Striped Bass

April 16, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–As anglers take advantage of the ongoing striped bass run, New Jersey’s Conservation Police Officers have been busy enforcing the size and creel limits for this popular game fish. Calls to the 877-WARN-DEP line concerning violations have directed the officers’ attention to individuals whose illegal activities did not go unnoticed by law-abiding sportsmen and women. The officers have also been checking in on past trouble spots.

Between April 8 and April 11, Conservation Police Officer Robert Driscoll and Lieutenant Joseph Kuechler, with the assistance of Deputy Chief Frank Panico, continued their enforcement efforts of the striped bass regulations along the Hudson River and Newark Bay Complex in Hudson and Union Counties. They issued a total of 67 summonses for violations of undersize and over the limit striped bass with potential fines amounting to over $15,000.  

Meanwhile on the Raritan Bayshore, Conservation Police Officers Robert Henderson, Ed Klitz, Christopher Moscatiello and James Woerner patrolled the evening hours of April 9 and apprehended five individuals with multiple striped bass violations. In total, more than 20 sublegal striped bass were seized for undersized and overlimit violations.

On the evening of April 10 and into the early morning hours of April 11, seventeen Conservation Police Officers from across the state participated in an overt and covert operation focusing on the harvesting of illegal striped bass along the Raritan Bayshore in Middlesex and Monmouth counties. Nearly 100 inspections were made resulting in over thirty summonses issued for a variety of striped bass-related violations. The possession of undersized fish was the most common violation.  

The Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Law Enforcement plans to continue targeted enforcement of striped bass fishing activity as long as the schools of “linesiders” continue to tempt unethical anglers.

Striped Bass regulations can be found in the Division’s free New Jersey Marine Digest available at many sporting goods stores and online here: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/digmar.htm

Anglers may catch and keep one striped bass per day. The striped bass must measure between 28 and 38 inches. Recreational anglers aged 16 or older must obtain a free annual Saltwater Angler Registry certificate if they are fishing in the marine or tidal waters of the state. Additional regulations apply. The fine for possession of undersized or overlimit striped bass is $100 per fish plus court costs. 


One-Time
Monthly

Make a one-time donation. If you like what you see here help MidJersey.news continue to provide coverage of local news events. MidJersey.news is one of the leading news sources in the center part of the state and could use your donation to support independent journalism.

Make a monthly donation If you like what you see here help MidJersey.news continue to provide coverage of local news events. MidJersey.news is one of the leading news sources in the center part of the state and could use your donation to support independent journalism.

Choose an amount

$25.00
$50.00
$100.00
$15.00
$25.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthly


justcbdstore.com at Buy CBD Online – CBD Oil, Gummies, Vapes. Use coupon code dennis during checkout. justcbdstore.com at Buy CBD Online – CBD Oil, Gummies, Vapes. Use coupon code dennis during checkout.

Governor Murphy Announces Appointments to Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission

April 16, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy yesterday the appointments of Jennifer Chuang, Robert Nixon, Nicola Bocour, and Timmy Oh to the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission. The Commission is responsible for establishing performance standards for personalized handguns and for approving and maintaining a roster of personalized handguns authorized for sale to the public.

“Personalized handgun technology has the potential to save lives and prevent needless lives from being lost to accidents or gun violence,” said Governor Murphy. “Jennifer, Robert, Nico, and Timmy are leaders in their fields and I am honored to appoint them to the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission.”

Jennifer Chuang currently serves as the Section Chief for Adolescent Medicine at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center. Additionally, she is Associate Director of the Pediatric Residency Program for the hospital. She also serves as an attending physician for the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Chuang also serves as the Camp Physician and Medical Committee Chair at Camp No Worries, a summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings. Dr. Chuang is also the Medical Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. Dr. Chuang previously worked as an attending physician at the Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MD from the Temple University School of Medicine. Dr. Chuang also holds a master’s degree from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

Robert Nixon is the Founder and President of State House Strategies, a government affairs firm based in Trenton. He is also Director of Government Affairs for the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association (NJSPBA). Mr. Nixon has been working in state government since 1993 as a political consultant and aide to elected officials. He also serves on the Board of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, where he is Acting Chairman of the Board of Directors. Additionally, Mr. Nixon currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches a course focusing on governmental relations. He received his undergraduate degree from St. Josephs University and his Master of Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Nicola Bocour currently serves as Government Affairs Director of Giffords, an anti-gun violence organized founded and named for former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. At Giffords, she previously served as State Legislative Director and State Legislative Manager. Ms. Bocour previously worked in Trenton, where she advocated for legislation to stop gun violence. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and received her JD from Seton Hall Law School.

Timmy Oh is the founder and CEO of Vara Safety, a startup which creates innovative safety devices that use biometric and RFID technology to create safe storage and security solutions for firearms. Mr. Oh previously interned with the Knowles Atomic Power Lab and Raytheon Corporation. He has completed research with the Los Angeles Police Department Firearm and Tactics Division. Mr. Oh holds a bachelor’s degree from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 



Governor Murphy Unveils Sweeping Gun Safety Package

Plan Includes $10 Million Proposal for Community-Based Violence Intervention

Package Includes Proposals to Require Firearms Safety Training, Mandate Safe Storage of Firearms, Raise the Minimum Age to Purchase Long Guns to 21, and Establish Electronic Ammunition Sales Recordkeeping 

April 15, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today unveiled a sweeping series of reforms aimed at reducing the epidemic of gun violence. The proposals, when paired with previous steps the Governor and members of the Legislature have taken to reduce gun violence, will further solidify New Jersey’s standing as a national leader in gun safety. 

“Half of New Jersey’s gun homicides occur in only five cities, and the number of gun crimes in these cities has skyrocketed over the last year,” said Governor Murphy. “We cannot sit back when we know there is more to do to address the danger of gun violence in our communities. By taking the steps we are announcing today, we will further commit to making every block and every street in our state safer.”

“Everyday gun violence is a constant burden and threat to the public health and well-being of our communities. To solve this problem, we need actions that are informed by research and data,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “The Gun Safety Package that Governor Murphy has set forth today lays the groundwork for interventions and programs that are designed to save lives and are backed by the necessary funding to help them succeed.” 

“The measures that Governor Murphy and partners in the Legislature are unveiling today would give us new tools and resources to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, to combat illegal firearms trafficking, and to expand our violence intervention program,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “These tools are essential to ensuring that New Jersey continues to do all that it can do to combat the continuing plague of gun violence. As New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer, my message to gun traffickers, distributors, and even manufacturers has been clear from day one: we will hold you accountable when you violate our laws.”

“New Jersey law enforcement is always seeking ways to prevent gun violence before it happens, and the best way to accomplish this goal is through community-driven strategies where law enforcement work hand-in-hand with local government, faith-based leaders, and members of the community to create meaningful intervention programs,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Oftentimes, the greatest obstacle for implementing these strategies is lack of funding and support, which is why today’s announcement is welcome news for a New Jersey law enforcement community that is eager to see its outreach programs realized.”

In partnership with the Legislature, Governor Murphy has already taken significant steps to combat the epidemic of gun violence. Among other things, New Jersey has established a “red flag” law for gun violence protective orders; criminalized firearms trafficking; strengthened background checks; reduced the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines; banned “ghost guns;” and established the Rutgers Gun Violence Research Center to identify evidenced-based solutions to the gun violence crisis. Governor Murphy today announced support for the following additional reforms:

Funding Gun Violence Prevention Measures

  • Increasing Violence Intervention Funding: Cities and states across the country have been demonstrating that we can achieve rapid, sustained reductions in shootings by investing in evidence-based, community-driven strategies like group violence intervention, relationship-based street outreach, and hospital-based violence intervention programs. Though the FY2022 budget process, Governor Murphy proposes an additional $10 million in funding for these initiatives in New Jersey.
  • Dedicating $2 million to Rutgers GVRC:  Governor Murphy established the Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University due to the federal government’s failure to dedicate funding to research gun violence as the public health epidemic that it is. The Governor’s FY2022 Budget proposal will dedicate $2 million to help the DVRC collect much-needed data in this area. 

Supporting Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

  • Requiring Firearm Safety Training: S-2169/A-5030 (Weinberg/Reynolds-Jackson) would modernize firearm ID cards, as well as require completion of a firearm safety course in order to receive a permit to purchase a gun or receive a firearm ID card. Connecticut, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland and the District of Columbia all have laws requiring individuals to undergo safety training prior to being able to purchase. 
  • Mandating Safe Storage of Firearms: Owning a firearm for protection in the home can present a substantial obstacle to safe firearm storage, with individuals often opting to keep weapons loaded and easily accessible. Last legislative session, the Assembly passed A-3696/S-2240 (Downey/Gopal) requiring firearm owners to store the firearm in a securely locked box or container; in a location where a reasonable person would believe to be secure; or to secure the firearm with a trigger lock. 
  • Raising Minimum Age to Purchase Long Guns to 21: Under current law, a person 18 years of age and older may obtain a firearms purchaser identification card and a handgun purchaser is required to be at least 21 years old. The bill (A-1141/S-3605, Freiman/Cryan) increases from 18 to 21 the age at which a person is eligible to receive a firearms purchaser identification card used to purchase shotguns and rifles but would still allow for those at least 18 to possess a long gun for purposes of hunting; military drills; competition; target practice; training; or under the supervision of a parent or guardian.  
  • Promoting Microstamping Technology: Microstamping technology provides law enforcement with the tools to quickly link firearm cartridge casings found at the scene of a crime to a specific firearm, without having to recover the firearm itself.  The technology essentially creates a “license plate” on cartridge casings to identify the gun that was used to shoot the ammunition.  Last legislative session, S-112/A-1098 (Weinberg/Downey) would require within a year that firearm manufacturers incorporate this technology into new handguns sold in New Jersey.
  • Establishing Electronic Ammunition Sales Recordkeeping: The State Commission of Investigation (SCI) issued a report in 2016 finding that straw purchases of ammunition were unchecked because firearm IDs lacked photo identification.  The SCI also found that sales records were often hand-written into log books — a problem for law enforcement, which should be able to consult an electronic database when it investigates questionable ammunition purchases.  A-1292/S-1481 (Greenwald/Weinberg) would require manufacturers or dealers of handgun ammunition to keep a detailed electronic record of ammunition sales, and report ammunition sales to the State Police.  
  • Banning .50 Caliber Firearms: Military-style .50 caliber rifles are banned or restricted in several other states. California has a complete ban on .50-caliber rifles, Connecticut bans specific models and Maryland has some restrictions.  S-103/A-1280 (Gill/Greenwald) would revise the definition of “destructive device” under New Jersey law so that it includes weapons of .50 caliber or greater.  
  • Closing Loophole for Importing Out-of-State Firearms: Individuals who move to New Jersey from another state are allowed to bring their legally acquired guns with them without registering the guns according to New Jersey law.  A-3686/S-372 (Vainieri Huttle/Cryan) would close this loophole by requiring firearm owners who move to New Jersey to obtain a firearm purchaser identification card (FPIC) and register their firearms within 30 days of residing in this State.  
  • Holding the Gun Industry Accountable: In New Jersey, almost 80% of guns used in crimes are originally purchased outside of the state.  However, the gun industry has failed to take any steps to stem the flow of guns to the illegal market through gun shows, flea markets, straw purchasers, and theft.  The industry has also failed to make its products safer and has engaged in unscrupulous marketing.  A bill recently introduced in the New York Senate would hold gun manufacturers liable for the public harm they cause by amending the state’s public nuisance laws to prohibit the gun industry from endangering the safety or health of the public through its sale, manufacturing, importing or marketing of guns.  Governor Murphy proposes similar legislation.  

Additional Measures 

  • Regulating School Shooting Drills: New Jersey schools currently are required to conduct active shooter exercises but guidelines are vague on how drills should be conducted. Governor Murphy proposes authorizing the Department of Education to establish trauma-informed and age-appropriate standards for lockdown drills including encouraging preparation over simulation; barring use of simulated gunshots; advanced notice to parents about planned drills; durational limits; training; and prohibiting rewarding children for fighting off potential gunmen during a drill.   
  • Reconvening Historic “States for Gun Safety” Summit: New Jersey was poised to host a multi-state summit in Newark last year on gun-safety issues — a first-of-its-kind event organized by a coalition of states that formed three years ago in response to persistent inaction on gun control at the federal level.  The all-day summit was expected to draw governors and officials from New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The multi-state effort has involved a sharing of data among the member states, including the exchange of information about illegal trafficking and about those disqualified from owning firearms.  Governor Murphy intends to reconvene the Summit in the Summer of 2021.  
  • Announcing Nominations to the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission: Governor Murphy today announced that he will soon file nomations to the so-called “Smart Gun Commission.” The commission aims to bring together industry experts, business representatives, and advocates for discussion of gun violence in New Jersey.  

“The reduction of gun violence has been one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “I introduced the Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act in Congress to get states and communities the money they need to buy guns from gun owners and get them off the streets.  I applaud Governor Murphy for his actions to reduce gun violence in New Jersey.  We need to do everything we can to make our neighborhoods and communities safe.”  

“Gun violence is an epidemic that has stolen countless lives in our state and across the country,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “I am proud to have spent much of my career fighting for gun safety reforms but there is more work to be done.  Today’s gun safety package will save countless lives and I will help strongly advocate for its passage.”

“Governor Murphy’s announcement today continues to put New Jersey at the forefront nationwide for gun safety efforts,” said Senator Teresa Ruiz. “Far too many lives have been needlessly taken in my district and across the state by the scourge of gun violence. We must do everything we can to not only save lives but also to create programs that will end the cycle of violence and fight back against this national epidemic.”

“Governor Murphy’s gun safety package represents the next step of common sense reforms that will keep New Jerseyans safe from gun violence,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. “No one should have to lose a family member, friend, or neighbor to senseless violence. These measures are needed and long overdue. I look forward to working with the Governor to keep New Jersey at the forefront of the national fight against gun violence.” 

“We have long stated that we cannot arrest our way out of gun violence, crime, and the tragedy it creates,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “In Newark, we have realized that this crisis is a public health issue, and continue to address it that way, reducing shootings through prevention. Our state and federal partners and leaders are realizing the same thing, and we are seeing this manifested today by Governor Murphy’s comprehensive gun safety package. It will do much to improve safety, reduce violence, and save lives not only in Newark, but across New Jersey as a whole.”

“The Newark Community Street Team applauds Governor Murphy’s proposed investment in complimentary community-based public safety strategies to reducing violence when the state and country is experiencing a public safety and public health crisis,” said Newark Community Street Team Director Aqeela Sherrills. “Reimagining public safety is not just a tag line in Newark, resident trained as public safety professional working in tandem with law enforcement has produced our lowest crime rate in 60 years!  Public safety is a shared strategy and can’t be done without the public. Safety is a shared strategy created in communities by the people who live there. I thank Governor Murphy for advocating for investment in community based solutions and employing resident based organization like The Newark Community Street Team to reduce violence and increase wellbeing in the neighborhoods they serve as a direct response to the reimagine public safety narrative.”

“We applaud Governor Murphy for his leadership in gun violence prevention and taking this action to champion another comprehensive gun safety package. In a year where we have seen historic levels of gun violence, it is urgent that we come together to pass life-saving measures including mandating safe storage, increasing firearm safety training, and investing in violence intervention initiatives,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and father of Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “We are proud to continue to work with New Jersey to protect children from violence by passing proven gun safety laws and bringing our evidence-based Know the Signs programming to more schools.”

“We are proud to work with the Governor and New Jersey schools to protect children from gun violence, including bringing our life-saving Know the Signs programs statewide. As schools implement their emergency preparedness plans, including active shooter drills, it is critical that all of these initiatives are evidence-based, account for diverse needs, and do not harm or traumatize students,” continued Darden. “That’s why we commend the state for taking action to require any active shooter drill policies to prioritize a safe and supportive school environments and the mental wellbeing of all students.”

“We are on the verge of a new era of public safety in which it’s clear that traditional law enforcement can no longer be the single point of contact for safety in communities,” said Will Simpson, director of violence reduction initiatives for Equal Justice USA. “This is crucial as gun violence continues to rise around the country. We must invest in proven community-based violence intervention and prevention models that treat violence like the public health issue that it is and that expand the public safety ecosystem to truly include the public. Governor Murphy’s announcement marks an important step in that shift.”

“New Jersey, like the country as a whole, has been plagued by gun violence for too long,” said Shani Nuckols, a volunteer with New Jersey Moms Demand Action. “Our communities have felt this epidemic deeply, from the tragedy of mass shootings to the daily scourge of gun violence. The governor’s action today is another comprehensive step towards tackling gun violence in all its forms, and if passed would make New Jersey a safer place.”

“This is more than thoughts and prayers, this is robust and life-saving action” said Laurence Fine, Student Leader with Bergen County SDA and a member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board. “Governor Murphy’s sweeping package will help prevent gun violence and, most importantly, save lives. We thank the governor for taking these important actions and urge the legislature to follow his lead and prioritize the passage of these laws to protect our communities.”


“We applaud Governor Murphy for championing these comprehensive and ambitious actions to prevent gun violence and confirm New Jersey’s place as a national leader on gun safety,” said Nick Suplina, Managing Director of Law and Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “These policies will help address the crisis of gun violence and the problems New Jerseyans face every day, from city gun violence to firearm suicide. I cannot emphasize enough how important this package would be for New Jersey communities and I hope lawmakers waste no time in voting these bills into law.”

“Thank you Governor Murphy for making an investment to support the community based intervention efforts that have gone uncompensated and unrecognized for far too long.  We in Paterson are facing a public health crisis in regards to violence and our residents in areas most plagued by these tragedies deserve a great deal of resources and support to address the trauma they have faced,” said Dr. Liza Chowdhury, Project Director at Paterson Healing Collective. “Since we have opened our doors here at Paterson Healing Collective, we’ve had the honor of supporting over 40 survivors of violence and providing them with mentorship, therapeutic services, housing stability, ID’s, advocacy and emergency food resources. Efforts that address social determinants of violence and provide community-based Iove and care are examples of public safety. They deserve consistent sustainable infrastructure and political support. Thank you to the several grass roots leaders and advocates who have continued putting their lives on the front line to make sure their community is safe. Today marks the future of public safety investment for the state of New Jersey and I am honored to be a part of this momentous occasion.”

“It is encouraging to see to community based violence prevention included in this important legislation,” said Steven Campos, Community Resource Director for Hudson Partnership CMO. “Cities are experiencing an overwhelming amount trauma and communities need the resources in order to work on healing and prevention.”

“New Jersey leaders understand our work to stop gun violence is not over,” said Nico Bocour, Government Affairs Director at Giffords. “The legislation introduced today is the most comprehensive package championed this year and will make the Garden State’s gun laws even stronger. That’s good news for families and communities concerned about the ongoing gun violence crisis. We applaud New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and leaders in New Jersey for demonstrating what it means to have the courage to act to prevent gun violence.”



Governor Murphy Nominates Shawn LaTourette as New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner

April 14, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today announced his nomination of Shawn LaTourette as the next Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. LaTourette has served as Acting Commissioner of the Department since Catherine R. McCabe announced her retirement in January 2021.

“The decisions made by the Department of Environmental Protection are not just important for today, but will have far reaching impacts across generations,” said Governor Murphy. “The work we do now for cleaner air and water, to meaningfully combat climate change, to ensure that every community is treated with dignity and respect and that the principles of environmental justice serve us every day, will far outlive us all. Shawn’s passion for environmental protection, coupled with his extensive knowledge on climate, energy, and infrastructure, will help build an environmental legacy that exemplifies these principles. I am confident that with Shawn’s leadership, we will create a cleaner, more sustainable New Jersey that we are proud to leave for future generations.”

“To serve the people of New Jersey as Commissioner of Environmental Protection is an honor beyond any I could have imagined, and I am grateful to Governor Murphy for his outstanding environmental leadership, and his confidence in mine,” said Acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “New Jersey has no shortage of environmental challenges—from confronting the climate crisis to modernizing our water infrastructure—challenges that also present us with an incredible opportunity to grow our economy, lift our people, and further the promise of environmental justice. NJDEP is charting a new course for the future in our great state, with a stronger, more just environment at its center. I am eager to lead the Department in supporting Governor Murphy in his vision to make New Jersey a national model for its commitment to a more resilient, fairer, greener future for everyone.”

With twenty years of environmental experience, LaTourette began his career partnering with the Erin Brockovich law firm to organize and defend New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals. Born and raised in New Jersey, LaTourette graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University and earned his law degree summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School, where he was the class salutatorian and the recipient of multiple environmental and governance awards, and published scholarship on environmental law, natural resource damage, and climate issues. Before entering public service, LaTourette specialized in protecting the rights of victims of toxic injuries while also advising infrastructure, transportation, energy, and other industries on compliance with state and federal environmental laws and policies. Prior to joining the Murphy Administration, he was most recently a Director of the Environmental Law Department at Gibbons PC, where he focused on brownfields redevelopment projects and litigated environmental cases in state and federal court. 

LaTourette first joined DEP as chief legal and regulatory policy advisor to Commissioner McCabe in 2018, becoming DEP’s Chief of Staff in 2019 and, in 2020, the Deputy Commissioner responsible for running the operations of DEP while notably leading efforts to craft the reforms necessary to advance the Administration’s climate change and environmental justice priorities. 

A devoted advocate for equality of all people, LaTourette was elected to serve as Chair of the LGBTQ Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, completing his term in 2020, and will be the first openly gay Commissioner of Environmental Protection in the nation. A Middlesex County native, LaTourette resides in Highland Park with his partner and twin daughters.

“New Jersey has taken a leading role in the legal fight for environmental justice, and that’s because of the close working relationship between our office and Shawn’s team at DEP,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “We share a total commitment to holding polluters accountable and making them pay for the destruction they caused. As we continue this fight for clean air and clean water, I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Shawn.”

“At a time when the New Jersey legislature is empty from any representation for the LGBTQ community, this appointment is welcomed and appreciated.  It speaks to Governor Murphy’s commitment to diverse inclusion in our government and also positions New Jersey as the only state in the nation with more than one LGBTQ cabinet member,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “Highly qualified LGBTQ people like Shawn are ready to step up and serve in leadership positions in the Garden State. We are confident that Shawn will lead with professionalism based on his impressive record while at DEP.”

“When Shawn LaTourette puts his mind to something, he gets it done,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action NJ and National Environmental Justice Director. “We’ve seen it happen with the passage of the 2020 EJ law. Now we need the most aggressive EJ and climate pollutant policies implemented as if our life depends on it, because it does. We need to make sure no more burdens come to Black, Brown and lower income communities like mine and we look forward to working with the new NJDEP commissioner to make it so!”

“New Jersey Future congratulates Shawn LaTourette on his nomination for Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” said Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future. “His strong focus and support for climate change adaptation, combined with his understanding of the importance of water infrastructure will enable the department to accelerate its work in making New Jersey a more resilient and healthier state for all of our residents, especially those in historically overburdened communities, while also encouraging economic development in our urban areas and in the coastal and riverine places that are out of harm’s way.” 

“Congratulations to Mr. LaTourette on his “new” role. He has had his sleeves rolled up over the past four years with bold actions like the development of the Energy Master Plan and other pro-conservation initiatives,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV.  “We look forward to working with Commissioner LaTourette to accomplish the Murphy administration’s goals of 100% clean energy by 2050, creating a post-COVID green jobs recovery, and fulfilling our commitment to environmental justice and helping overburdened communities of color.” 

“New Jersey Audubon congratulates Acting-Commissioner LaTourette and looks forward to collaborating on the advancement of science-based wildlife and habitat conservation and environmental protection,” said Eric Stiles, President, New Jersey Audubon. “We are committed to supporting the Acting-Commissioner’s vision to address the existential threat of climate change and secure the right of all people to enjoy a high quality, accessible and welcoming experience in our state’s natural and recreation areas.”


Today, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced the appointment of Shawn LaTourette to the position of Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. LaTourette is the first openly gay man to serve in the New Jersey cabinet and the first openly LGBTQ person in the nation to lead a state environmental protection agency.

His appointment also makes New Jersey the first state to have more than one openly LGBTQ cabinet member, in addition to Sue Fulton, who was appointed Chair and Chief Administrator of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission in 2018.

“At a time when the New Jersey legislature is empty from any representation for the LGBTQ community, this appointment is welcomed and appreciated,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “It speaks to Governor Murphy’s commitment to diverse inclusion in our government. Highly qualified LGBTQ people like Shawn are ready to step up and serve in leadership positions in the Garden State. We are confident that Shawn will lead with professionalism based on his impressive record while at DEP.”

“Governor Murphy chose Shawn because of his extraordinary experience and qualifications, yet the importance of his appointment extends well-beyond the state’s environmental protection efforts alone,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “The governor’s cabinet has tremendous influence over the policies and direction of New Jersey and having two out LGBTQ members ensures our community is considered when the most important decisions are made. Shawn’s appointment is a groundbreaking moment for the state and will inspire other LGBTQ New Jerseyans to pursue careers in public service.”


Governor Murphy Announces Sweeping Set of Appointments to New Jersey – Israel Commission

77 Members Appointed on 73rd Israeli Independence Day

April 14, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today announced the appointments of 77 public members to the New Jersey – Israel Commission. The appointments to the Commission are being announced on Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, in celebration of the friendship and longstanding relationship between New Jersey and Israel.

“I am proud to announce these appointments to the New Jersey-Israel Commission,” said Governor Murphy. “New Jersey has had a special relationship with Israel dating back decades, one that Tammy and I were honored to continue with an official visit to Israel in 2018. I am confident that Mark, Karin, Andrew, and the members of the Commission will continue to strengthen our friendship with the Israeli people and provide further opportunities for collaboration on economic, educational, and cultural initiatives.” 

“In December of 2019 I had the incredible opportunity to visit Israel and see the richness of its land and people up close. Israel remains one of New Jersey’s most important friends and partners, and I am truly proud to join Governor Murphy in welcoming the new members of the New Jersey-Israel Commission,” said New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “I look forward to interacting with all of them as they bring our two states ever closer together.”  

I am enthused with the announcement and release today by the Governor of the names of the incoming members of our New Jersey Israel Commission. The breadth of talent, expertise and individual commitment to Israel, our state of New Jersey and the New Jersey Israel relationship of each and every one of our new Commission members is truly beyond compare,” said Co-Chair Mark Levenson.  I am also especially delighted with the naming of my incoming co-chair Karin Elkis whom I have known for over twenty years.  Karin has had a long and distinguished career in both government service and the private sector as well as significant community involvement  and I  couldn’t be more pleased to have her join me in working with our tremendously effective and energetic executive director Andrew Gross in carrying out the inspirational, important and needed work of the Commission. 

“I am honored to serve as Co-Chair of the New Jersey-Israel Commission,” said Co-Chair Karin Elkis. “New Jersey’s relationship with Israel is truly special and I thank the Governor for nominating me to serve as a steward of this tremendous effort to strengthen our ties and promote economic and cultural exchange. I look forward to working with the Governor, Secretary of State Way, my Co-Chair Mark Levenson, and our Executive Director Andrew Gross on efforts to grow and continue our friendship with the Israeli people.”

“New Jersey and Israel stand together in countless ways, and today’s announcement on Israel’s Independence Day reflects that incredibly special relationship as we usher in a new era with these outstanding Commission Members,” said New Jersey-Israel Commission Executive Director Andrew Gross. “Together with Mark, Karin, and all our members, I look forward to advancing opportunities across business, culture, academia, and beyond that captures the remarkable ingenuity of the State of Israel and pairs it with our state’s exceptional innovative ecosystem.”

“The State of Israel’s friendship with our friends in New Jersey becomes more of a meaningful partnership year after year. But this year, this has been especially true with the establishment of the new dual degree programs from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Ben Gurion University,” said Acting Consul General of Israel in New York, Israel Nitzan. “On behalf of the Consulate General of Israel, we thank Governor Murphy for making this relationship a priority and we offer the new and veteran members of the New Jersey-Israel Commission our congratulations as you work to enhance our friendship in ways that can only make Israel and New Jersey stronger in every way.”

The New Jersey-Israel Commission was established in 1989 to promote the development of trade, culture and educational exchanges; encourage the development of capital investment and joint business ventures; and foster a spirit of cooperation between the citizens of the State of Israel and the State of New Jersey. The Commission is under the purview of the Secretary of State and its Executive Director, with members appointed directly by the Governor. The members include leaders in business, journalism, music, diplomacy, civics, religion, technology, medicine, academia, and other sectors, representing the true spirit of the Commission’s mission. Additionally, Senators Loretta Weinberg, James Beach, Tom Kean, Jr., Robert Singer, and Assembly Members Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jon Bramnick, and John DiMaio serve as legislative representatives to the Commission.

The new appointments reflect an incredible cross-section of individuals who have shown leadership in New Jersey’s special connection with Israel and a dedication to deepening this relationship across the Jewish community and other communities. This major reform of the Commission will move it to a Co-Chair model, with current Chairman Mark Levenson serving as Co-Chair alongside Karin Elkis. The appointments to the Commission set the bar higher for the future and usher in a new era of bilateral cooperation focusing on future technologies and the needs of the state.

The Commission has seen many recent achievements. In March, the Governor announced the Institute for Future Technologies with the Presidents of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Ben Gurion University, which will focus on cyber security and environmental engineering in Newark and Jersey City. In April, the Commission facilitated a relationship bringing Israel Aerospace Industries, the Israel’s largest aviation company, to demonstrate new technologies at Atlantic City Airport designed to keep air travel safe from viruses like COVID-19.

APPOINTMENTS

  • Co-Chair: Karin Elkis
  • Ambassador Dani Dayan
  • Ambassador Michael Oren
  • Dr. Ravit Barkama
  • Ms. Allison Nagelberg
  • Ms. Lori Sackler
  • Mr. Bruce Brafman
  • Ms. Betsy Fischer
  • Dr. Margaret McMenamin
  • Ms. Leslie Dannin Rosenthal
  • Ms. Debra Tantleff
  • Ms. Shari Blecher
  • Ms. Laura Herschlag
  • Ms. Ginger Gold Schnitzer
  • Ms. Tal Shuster
  • Ms. Miri Ben-Ari
  • Mr. Archie Gottesman
  • Ms. Lori Klinghoffer
  • Ms. Angelica Berrie
  • Mr. Elias Mattar
  • Mr. Yoram Elgrabli
  • Hon. Phil Goldfeder
  • Mr. Michael Cohen
  • Mr. Michael Pock
  • Mr. Nathan Herzog
  • Mr. John Frankel
  • Mr. Yoram Behiri
  • Mr. Michael Feldstein
  • Mr. Calvin Souder
  • Mr. Alex Rosemberg
  • Mr. Ido Zairi
  • Dr. Craig Gotsman
  • Mr. Pinakin Pathak
  • Mr. Bob Bendeon
  • Mr. Ari Rabban
  • Mr. Joe Shamie
  • Deputy Mayor Jason Ravitz
  • Mr. Howard Joffe
  • Mr. Leon Sokol
  • Dr. Vivian Fuhrman
  • Mr. Yuri Piltser
  • Ms. Paula Gold
  • Ms. Audrey Wilf
  • Mrs. Sharon Levine Corzine
  • Prof. Janice Harrington Knopf
  • Mr. Norman Rokeach
  • Mr. Daniel Straus
  • County Commissioner Tracy Zur
  • Mayor Michael Wildes
  • Council President Ora Kornbluth
  • Ms. Sarri Singer
  • Mr. Jonathan Frenkel
  • Professor Gary Minkoff
  • Mr. Harry Silver
  • Ms. Ariella Steinreich
  • Ms. Sheri Goldberg

REAPPOINTMENTS

  • Co-Chair: Mark Levenson
  • Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer
  • Ms. Marlene Herman
  • Ms. Wendy Lazarus
  • Ms. Sarah Biser
  • Ms. Karen Small
  • Ms. Harriet Sepinwall
  • Mr. Jason Shames
  • Rabbi Yosef Carlebach
  • Rabbi Menachem Carlebach
  • Mr. Roy Tanzman
  • Mr. Jacob Toporek
  • Rabbi Aaron Kotler
  • Mr. Andrew Getraer
  • Mr. Ralph Zucker
  • Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner
  • Mr. Steven Goldstein
  • Mr. Jerold Zaro
  • Hon. Herbert Klein
  • Mr. Lawrence Lerner
  • Mr. Abe Halberstam

NJ Department Of Health Pauses Administration Of J&J (Janssen) Vaccine In New Jersey

Merry Christmas

Statement from New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli

April 13, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Out of an abundance of caution and following the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the New Jersey Department of Health this morning paused the administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine across all vaccination sites in the state.

The CDC and the FDA are reviewing the data involving six reported cases—among nearly 7 million doses administered in the U.S.—in women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the J&J vaccine. Symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets. Both the CDC and FDA have said that these adverse events are extremely rare. According to the FDA and CDC, individuals who have received the vaccine and develop abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath, severe headache or other unusual symptoms within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider. 

All New Jersey vaccination sites have been told to cancel or put on hold appointments for the J&J vaccine until further notice. For individuals scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine, the Department will work with all vaccination sites to make arrangements for the administration of an alternative two-dose vaccine. We will work with all sites, as needed, to reschedule vaccination appointments.

The Department will await further guidance from the federal government. The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss these adverse events and make recommendations to the CDC on how to proceed.


Thanksgivingday Sale

Global Leader in Performance Marketing Technology

First Bank Announces Participation in the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee To Support Youth Financial Education

Financial Literacy Month student challenge equips young people with money management skills and supports remote learning

April 13, 2021

HAMILTON, NJ (MERCER)–First Bank announced that it is sponsoring the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee, taking place April 1-15, 2021. The EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee is a nationwide financial literacy challenge for high school students.

As families across the country are struggling financially in the wake of the pandemic, from unemployment to career shifts to a reduction in income, the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee provides an opportunity for students to learn the critical importance of saving and budgeting for short-term and long-term financial goals.

The virtual challenge, created by social impact education innovator EVERFI, and supported by leading financial institutions nationwide, features four short digital lessons followed by a capstone essay contest in which students ages 13-18 in the United States and Canada share a short-term or long-term savings goal and outline their plan to achieve that goal. Winners of the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee will receive a total of $20,000 in college scholarships.

“In these times of financial uncertainty for many Americans, First Bank is especially committed to engaging its communities, increasing financial literacy, and driving impactful change,” said Patrick L. Ryan, First Bank President and CEO. “We are proud to be supporting parents and students at this time through the Financial Literacy Bee and hope it will help drive dinner-table conversations about important financial topics.”


Thanksgivingday Sale



By competing in the challenge, participating students will gain new skills to create a personalized financial decision-making framework that they can apply to their lives now and in the future. Topics include how to save, set financial goals, budget, and invest.

“The pandemic has shone a bright light on the financial vulnerability of most Americans, with 40 percent of American consumers reporting that they had trouble paying at least one bill or expense in 2020,” said Ray Martinez, co-founder and president, EVERFI. “We’ve always been committed to helping students increase their financial literacy, and during this historic time, we are also working to help parents feel more comfortable having dinner-table conversations about money. The Financial Literacy Bee is a fun way for students to learn important strategies to increase savings.”

In addition to supporting the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee, First Bank works with EVERFI to provide schools-based financial education to elementary, middle, and high schools across their New Jersey and Pennsylvania communities.

To learn more about the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee, visit https://firstbanknj.blog/2021/03/22/first-bank-partners-with-everfi-in-the-2021-financial-literacy-bee/


Global Leader in Performance Marketing Technology



Heartworm Awareness Month

Man Sentenced To 5 Years In NJ State Prison For “Grandparent Scam”

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Bronx, N.Y., man was sentenced to state prison today for stealing a total of $142,900 from eight older adults in New Jersey using a “grandparent scam.”

Osvaldo Thomas, 41, of the Bronx, N.Y., was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Buck in Middlesex County. Thomas pleaded guilty on Feb. 19, 2021 to a second-degree charge of theft by deception.

In pleading guilty, Thomas admitted that he participated in a scam – commonly known as a “grandparent scam” – in which a caller claimed that the victim’s grandchild was in jail and that he was an attorney representing the grandchild. The caller told the victims that in order to get their grandchild out of jail, they needed to provide him with large sums of money for bail. The thefts occurred in April and May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, in at least one instance, the victim also was told the grandchild had the coronavirus. Thomas or another individual posed as a “courier” to pick up the funds at the victim’s residence. He stole sums from the victims ranging from $10,300 to $27,000. Under the plea agreement, Thomas is responsible for paying full restitution of $142,900 to the victims.

Deputy Attorneys General Derek Miller and Aaron Witherspoon prosecuted the case and represented the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau at the sentencing hearing.

“Grandparent scams cause losses totaling in the tens of millions of dollars each year to victims in the United States,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This prison sentence sends a clear message that we will not tolerate criminals who prey on older adults, particularly con artists who scam victims by exploiting their love and concern for their grandchildren. What is more egregious, this defendant callously took advantage of the victims’ isolation from their families during the pandemic and their fears about the coronavirus.”

“Our Financial and Cyber Crimes Bureau works diligently to investigate all types of scams and bogus investment schemes, so as to guard the financial security of New Jersey residents,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge members of the public to notify us or their local police if they believe they are being targeted in a fraud scheme.”

Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report fraud and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.

Lieutenant Frederick Weidman and Deputy Attorneys General Miller and Witherspoon investigated the case for the DCJ Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jillian Carpenter and Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa.

Attorney General Grewal thanked the following detectives and agencies for their collaborative work on this investigation:

  • Detective Anthony Sorrentino, Cherry Hill Police Department
  • Detective Randy Patner, East Hanover Police Department
  • Detective Joseph Zeppetelli, East Hanover Police Department
  • Detective Thomas Laird, Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Detective Nicholas Aumendo, Gloucester Township Police Department
  • Detective Anthony Zamora, Clifton Police Department
  • Lt. Robert Baracken, Clifton Police Department
  • Detective Peter Ricciardi, Boonton Township Police Department
  • Detective Domenick Delucia, South Brunswick Police Department
  • Sgt. Sasha Higazi, Bound Brook Police Department
  • Detective Jonathan Berger, Essex Fells Police Department
  • Detective Alex Burchardt, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Detective Sgt. M. Braccioforte, New Jersey State Police

Defense Attorney

Thomas Carroll Blauvelt, Esq., of East Brunswick, N.J.


Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal Release Recommendations of Interagency Working Group on Body Worn Cameras

AG’s Office is administering $58 million grant program for police departments to purchase body worn cameras, which must be worn by all uniformed patrol officers by June 1

April 9, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today released the final report of the Interagency Working Group on Body Worn Cameras, which the Governor created by Executive Order 201 to provide advice and recommendations regarding technology solutions to assist with the deployment of body worn cameras by all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey. 

On Nov. 24, 2020, Governor Murphy signed historic legislation, P.L. 2020, Chapter 128, requiring that by June 1 every uniformed patrol officer in New Jersey wear a body worn camera (“BWC”) while on duty. Previously, fewer than half of the law enforcement agencies in the state had BWCs. In January, the Governor signed another law appropriating $58 million for grants-in-aid to support the statewide body worn camera program. The Attorney General’s Office is currently administering a grant program to distribute those funds to eligible police departments on a reimbursement basis.

The price tag to fully equip a police department to use body worn cameras goes beyond the cost of the devices itself, and includes storage, licensing, and maintenance fees. The 14-member Interagency Working Group – which included representatives of state agencies, law enforcement, and the legal and social justice communities – focused its efforts on finding ways to reduce the initial cost of implementing body worn cameras. It issued three recommendations about potential cost-saving methods, and a fourth policy-based recommendation calling for the Attorney General to issue guidance to expand the types of officers who must wear BWCs beyond the law’s mandate.

“We welcome the recommendations of the working group, which focus on ways for government and police to work together to save money in purchasing body worn cameras and the related technology needed to operate them,” said Governor Murphy. “Because of their power to promote transparency and accountability, body worn cameras are a vital tool for building trust between our police officers and the diverse communities they serve— a trust shaken by the racial injustices we have witnessed across the United States. New Jersey proudly leads the nation when it comes to policing reforms designed to serve fairness, justice, and the safety of residents and officers alike.”

Attorney General Grewal will review the Working Group’s recommendations and engage with community stakeholders as he considers revisions to the existing AG Directive governing BWCs. Although another new law will regulate use of BWCs beginning in June, it is generally consistent with the more comprehensive AG Directive, which will remain in effect and be updated as needed.

“We will carefully review these recommendations as we work to support police departments in the statewide deployment of these important devices,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “Body worn cameras have the support of police as well as the public, because the accountability they provide is mutual— everyone behaves better when they know they are on camera. Body cameras not only promote safer and more professional law enforcement interactions, they assist police in gathering evidence and serve to reduce unfounded complaints against officers. Officers report that body-worn cameras can even help to de-escalate volatile situations.”

The Interagency Working Group on Body Worn Cameras made the following recommendations, as set forth more fully in their Final Report:

  1. The Working Group recommended against a single statewide storage system for BWC footage, stating that for the short and medium term, creation of such a system would be time and cost prohibitive. They noted that there may be technological advances in the future to make such a system more tenable.
     
  2. The Working Group recommended that the New Jersey Department of the Treasury aggressively negotiate with the five state-approved BWC vendors for an increased volume discount based on statewide purchasing for both BWCs and the storage to hold BWC footage, specifically focusing on cloud-based storage solutions.
     
  3. The Working Group recommended that law enforcement agencies seek to purchase, through the State’s contract for BWCs, cloud-based storage, as opposed to on-premises storage options, provided appropriate privacy and security systems are in place.
     
  4. The Working Group recommended that the Attorney General issue guidance expanding the types of officers who will be required to use body worn cameras beyond the uniformed patrol officers mandated in P.L. 2020, Chapter 128 to include additional officers who are members of tactical teams, commonly known as SWAT or emergency response teams, or members of proactive enforcement teams, sometimes known as “crime suppression units.

Information regarding the Body Worn Camera Grant Program can be found at: https://www.nj.gov/oag/grants/BWC_Program-Administration-and-Guidelines.pdf.

Application documents for the grant program can be found at: https://www.nj.gov/oag/grants/BWC_Application.pdf.

Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal thank the members of the Interagency Working Group for their devoted work and elucidating report.


Your phone could soon be your NJ driver’s license under Dancer bill

April 9, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Assemblyman Ron Dancer recently introduced a bill requiring the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to create and issue electronic driver’s licenses and identification cards to individuals who voluntarily request one.
 
The bill (A5433) follows up on recommendations from the MVC’s 2016 Mobile Driver’s License Feasibility Study that found the technology exists to create a digital license, and nearly 70 percent of New Jerseyans would be willing to pay for an official ID they could access on their smartphones.
 
“Convenience is a driving factor for many motorists who want to access their driver’s license in their digital wallet. Residents are now able to keep proof of car insurance, health insurance ID cards, airplane boarding passes and so much more in their cell phones. It’s time to make driver’s licenses available in a similar smartphone format,” said Dancer (R-Ocean).
 
More than a dozen states, including Delaware, Virginia, and Florida, have pilot programs or are working to offer electronic driver’s licenses. The demand has grown globally as well, with Canadian provinces, Britain, and India embracing the mobile phone ID.
 
“Mobile driver’s licenses can be a secure and suitable alternative to traditional IDs for modern motorists,” said Dancer. “Most likely, we have at one time or another, forgot our wallet and drove without a driver’s license, but seldom today do we ever leave the house without our smartphone. Additionally, this innovation could cut down on in-person agency visits, something that will appeal to a great many New Jersey drivers.”
 
The MVC annually conducts about 1.8 million driver’s license and ID card transactions each year. Under the bill, a driver with a digital license or ID card could update a personal motor vehicle record electronically and the changes would override the information on a hard-copy license or ID.
 
The bill has been referred to Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.


Governor Murphy Signs Legislation Providing $35 Million in Aid to Restaurants

Legislation is Part of a $100 Million Relief Package for New Jersey Small Businesses



April 9, 2021

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law A-5444, which provides $35 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid for restaurants throughout New Jersey. The bill – sponsored by Senators Vin Gopal and Joseph Lagana and Assembly Members Vincent Mazzeo, Pedro Mejia, Christopher Tully, and Louis Greenwald – provides aid to a particularly hard hit sector of New Jersey’s economy. The bill is part of a five-bill, $100 million relief effort aimed at helping New Jersey’s small businesses recover from the year-long pandemic.

“For the past year, our restaurants have fought the good fight, and we know that fight has not been easy,” said Governor Murphy. “This legislation will provide a much-needed lifeline to small business owners, who, through no fault of their own, have been devastated by this pandemic.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented health and economic tragedy for everyone, but it is hard to think of a sector that has been hit harder than restaurants. Restaurant owners and their employees have faced previously unimaginable challenges with a tenacity and grit that has been inspiring for everyone, but they cannot overcome COVID-19 alone,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “There is now a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a long way to go to get there. The $35 million in new grant funding Governor Murphy has signed into law today will provide vital support these businesses need to bridge the gap and continue reopening safely.”

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more than 19,000 food and beverage establishments throughout New Jersey, with restaurants employing nearly 8 percent of the workers in our state,” said Assembly Members Mazzeo, Tully, Mejia and Greenwald.  “The public health emergency has taken a significant toll on this industry, which so many of us benefit from and enjoy. We must provide support to these establishments to help them get through this crisis and allow them to employ New Jerseyans while continuing to serve residents and visitors alike for years to come.”

“With capacity limitations affecting bars and restaurants, the food and drink industry has been struggling since the start of the pandemic,” said Senator Gopal. “Many of these smaller restaurants and bars have been fraught with the potential of closing down permanently, which would not only have an effect on the local economies, but the job status of many workers within this industry. This funding will help ensure that these establishments can keep their doors open and help restore the jobs that have been lost due to the pandemic.”

“Mom and pop restaurants and bars have always been keystones in our communities, creating multigenerational traditions and shaping neighborhoods. Sadly, many of these institutions have been forced to close or suffered greatly over the last year,” said Senator Lagana. “With this grant funding, we are giving beloved small businesses an opportunity to get through the hard times, hire workers and remain an integral part of their community.”

The relief aid will be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. To date, the NJEDA has distributed more than $250 million in aid to some 55,000 businesses across the state. 

The signing was held at Bourré, an industrial-themed New Orleans pub in Atlantic City.



AG Grewal Launches “Beta Version” of Statewide Use of Force Dashboard

Members of the Public Invited to Test, Provide Feedback on Policing Accountability Project

April 6, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the launch of the “beta version” of an online dashboard that catalogues the use of force by New Jersey’s 38,000 law enforcement officers. Members of the public are invited to test and provide feedback on the dashboard, which allows users to review details of any incident where a state, county, or local law enforcement officer uses force against a civilian. The dashboard is accessible at njoag.gov/force.

Under current policy, all law enforcement officers in New Jersey are required to submit detailed information about every use of force they perform or witness within 24 hours of the incident. Over the past two years, the Attorney General’s Office has partnered with Benchmark Analytics to build a centralized system to collect this data electronically. Starting in October 2020, all of New Jersey’s 500-plus law enforcement agencies began submitting data through the new system.

The beta version of the dashboard launched today allows members of the public, researchers, and reporters to view data that has been collected since statewide electronic collection began in October 2020. The dashboard, which was built in conjunction with SAS Visual Analytics, allows users to review details about each incident, including the name of the officer; the age, race, and gender of the person against whom force was used; whether injuries were sustained and if so, what type; the circumstances that led to the use of force; and the type of force used. The data can be sorted by state, county or individual police department or agency. Taken together, these details provide the most comprehensive statewide data on police use of force anywhere in the country.

In addition, the Attorney General’s Office is making available the raw data underlying the dashboard to the public for download on the beta version of the dashboard. The data—which contains information about all use-of-force incidents since October 2020—will be regularly updated as law enforcement agencies submit reports about incidents in the future.

Visitors to the dashboard are encouraged to submit feedback about the site’s usability and accessibility. The Attorney General’s Office is working with the New Jersey Office of Innovation to solicit public input and incorporate those suggestions on an iterative basis, with the goal of launching an updated version of the dashboard later this spring. Users of the beta version are encouraged to complete a short survey at https://innovatenj.jotform.com/210885101519048.

“We are committed to making New Jersey a national leader on policing reform, and our Use of Force Dashboard is a central piece of that effort,” said Attorney General Grewal. “That’s why we’re so eager to get public feedback. We recognize that true accountability is impossible without transparency, and we want to learn how we can make our Use of Force Dashboard as transparent and accessible as possible.”

“To earn the public’s trust, we must seek the public’s input,” said Thomas Eicher, Director of the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability, which is overseeing the development of the dashboard. “Last year, before revising the state’s Use of Force Policy, we received more than a thousand public comments, and our work was improved enormously by the public’s input. We hope to engage the public in a similar fashion regarding our new Use of Force Dashboard.”

The launch of the dashboard is the latest in a set of sweeping reforms implemented by Attorney General Grewal to strengthen trust in law enforcement. Most notably, in December 2020, Attorney General Grewal overhauled the state’s “Use of Force Policy,” placing new limits on the use of force and mandating de-escalation training for all 38,000 law enforcement officers in the state. In developing the new policy, the Attorney General’s Office sought significant public input, hosting community listening sessions in all 21 counties and creating a website to receive public suggestions.

Other significant statewide policing reforms implemented by Attorney General Grewal include:

Establishing a mandatory 10-step process for conducting independent criminal investigations involving any serious use-of-force or death-in-custody incident in New Jersey;

Requiring that all state, county, and local law enforcement agencies create and maintain an “early warning system” to identify at-risk officers and provide remedial services before their conduct escalates;

Overhauling the statewide protocols for the internal disciplinary process for police departments, imposing new oversight and ensuring thorough investigations on faster timelines; and

Issuing a series of new directives designed to strengthen trust between law enforcement officers and historically marginalized communities, including immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, at-risk juveniles, and victims of sexual assault.

To learn more about other recent policing reforms in New Jersey, visit njoag.gov/policing.

Attorney General Grewal and Director Eicher thank the Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards (OLEPS) under Director Christina M. Glogoff for their invaluable assistance with the Use of Force Dashboard.


NJ State Troopers Help Distribute Food To Communities Across The State

April 5, 2021

EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Troopers Help Distribute Food to Communities Across the State Recently, several New Jersey State Troopers volunteered at various food pantries to help sort and package food, which will be distributed to communities across Mercer, Passaic, and Salem Counties. Troopers teamed up with volunteers at the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing Township, the Father English Food Pantry in Paterson, and St. John’s Pentecostal Church in Salem City. The packaged items will be delivered to other local food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, senior centers, and directly to families in need.

To learn more about Mercer Street Friends Food Pantry, please visit https://mercerstreetfriends.org/

To learn more about the Father English Food Pantry, please visit https://ccpaterson.org/frenglish



It’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Ad campaign provides motorists good reasons to give the road their attention

April 1, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

AG Grewal, Division of Highway Traffic Safety Kick Off Nat’l Distracted Driving Awareness Month with Launch of Ad Campaign Urging Drivers to ‘Take Control Of Your Destiny’ by Making Safe Choices Behind the Wheel

Colorful Ads Remind Motorists “You Have Places to Go. Don’t Drive Distracted.”

TRENTON– As distracted driving continues to claim more lives on New Jersey roadways than any other risky driving behavior, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (“HTS”) today announced the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign aimed at providing motorists with good reasons to give the road their undivided attention.

The “Take Control Of Your Destiny” campaign – and its slogan “You Have Places to Go. Don’t Drive Distracted.” – will begin appearing this month in digital ads throughout the state, as well as on the internet and Pandora Radio. The ads feature images of colorfully decorated steering wheels that remind drivers what is uniquely important to them and sends a message that maintaining focus on the road ahead means they will ultimately get to where they are really going in life.

The campaign launch coincides with the kickoff of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness month, a time when states across the country join together to raise awareness of the dangers of risky behind-the-wheel behaviors like texting, chatting on hand held cell phones, eating, and applying make-up. 

“Driver inattention is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New Jersey and we’re working to change that behavior through a public awareness campaign that uses the power of positive messaging,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We’re reminding people what’s at stake every time they get behind the wheel. We want drivers of all ages to realize that their plans and dreams for the future depend on making safe choices here and now.” 

According to New Jersey State Police statistics, distracted driving was to blame for more than a quarter of the fatal crashes that occurred in New Jersey from 2015 through 2019, claiming the lives of 730 drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. During that same five-year period, more than half of all crashes in the state– both fatal and non-fatal – involved a distracted driver. 

While distracted driving crashes declined for the third straight year in 2019, they still outpaced those caused by any other risky behaviors, including speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

“The real tragedy of distracting driving fatalities is that they are so easily preventable. All it takes is for drivers to keep their minds on their driving and their hands on the wheel,” said Eric Heitmann, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Our campaign encourages drivers to put down the phone and focus on the important matter of what lies ahead – literally and figuratively. In doing so, they will be taking control of their own destinies and protecting those of all others on the road.” 

In addition to digital messaging on display in rest stops along the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, and in select supermarkets across the state, the campaign includes a digital toolkit of resources available in English and Spanish on the Division’s “Take Control Of Your Destiny” webpage. The resources, including shareable graphics, informational palm cards, and a Distracted Driving fact sheet, are meant to be shared widely across the state to spread the campaign message and promote safer driving habits. 

To further commemorate National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, HTS kicked off New Jersey’s participation in the annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign, a national distracted driving enforcement effort sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Starting today, law enforcement agencies throughout the state will join agencies across the country in a three-week high-visibility enforcement campaign targeting drivers who are texting, talking on hand-held cell phones, or engaging in similarly risky behaviors that distract their attention from the road. The campaign will run through April 30, 2021. 

New Jersey is one of only eight states nationwide to qualify for and receive grant funding from NHTSA to combat distracted driving. 

The funding New Jersey received for fiscal year 2021 has allowed the Division to award more than $1.2 million in overtime enforcement grants to 183 law enforcement agencies statewide for this month’s campaign. The money helps agencies pay for additional officers on the road, distracted driving checkpoints, and other enforcement initiatives during the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign. 

All New Jersey police departments are invited to take part in the campaign, whether they received grant funding or not. 

HTS has also commissioned a study on distracted driving through the Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATEs) at Rowan University that looks beyond crash statistics to provide a more fulsome picture of the problem in New Jersey.  

The results of the study, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will be used to develop recommendations and strategies for addressing and mitigating distracted driving through enforcement and education. 

To learn more about the Take Control Of Your Destiny campaign, go to the HTS website at NJSaferoads.com/destiny.

Complete 2020 Bias Incident Data Now Available Online

Publication of full 2020 dataset follows Attorney General’s Office, NJ State Police announcing top line statistics last week

March 30, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Following the release last week of top line, preliminary data regarding bias incidents in New Jersey in 2020, the Attorney General’s Office and the New Jersey State Police today published the complete dataset cataloguing 2020 bias incidents in the state. The data, which remains preliminary, is available online in spreadsheet format on the State Police website.

The complete dataset includes a breakdown of bias incidents by type of offense, victim, and location, and includes municipal-level data, among other information. The 2020 Bias Incident Report, which will be published later this year, will include further analysis of the data.

While releasing the top line data last week, Attorney General Grewal also announced that the Attorney General’s Office and the State Police will soon begin making bias incident data available to the public on a monthly basis, starting in April. These monthly bias incident reports will show breakdowns by bias type and county.

Members of the public are encouraged to report bias incidents to their local police departments, or via the NJBIAS online portal at https://bias.njcivilrights.gov, or by calling 800-277-BIAS.

For purposes of UCR reporting, a “bias incident” is a suspected or confirmed violation of New Jersey’s bias intimidation statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(1) or (2), in which a victim is subjected to harassment, assault, terroristic threats, or other specified acts “because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.”

Because the data captures only reported bias incidents, it is under-inclusive in that it does not capture incidents that were never reported to law enforcement. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, over half of the victims of hate crimes in the U.S. from 2011 to 2015 did not report them.


Governor Murphy Highlights Cover All Kids Initiative to Provide All New Jersey Kids with Health Insurance

Nearly 90,000 Uninsured Children Will Have Access to Health Care Coverage Through the Initiative

Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal Invests $20 million in First Phase of Two-Year Campaign

March 30, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–PASSAIC, NJ (PASSAIC)—Joined by Senate Health Committee Chair Senator Joe Vitale, Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman, Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride, and Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency Director Shabnam Salih, Governor Phil Murphy today visited the North Hudson Community Action Corporation to highlight the $20 million investment in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY2022) budget proposal for Phase 1 of the Cover All Kids campaign. 

“No child in New Jersey should be left without the support and security of health care coverage,” said Governor Murphy. “The proposed investment toward Cover All Kids in our budget continues the progress we’ve made toward advancing health care accessibility, while laying the foundation to ensure that more children are able to receive access to quality health care coverage that they deserve.”  

“As a daughter of immigrants and as someone who grew up with NJ FamilyCare coverage for most of my childhood, I could not be more thankful for the Governor’s leadership here and excited about what this campaign will mean for the thousands of uninsured children in New Jersey,” said Shabnam Salih, Executive Director of the Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency. “Through this work we will not only be ensuring better health care for these children, but removing a significant burden in their lives that will help ensure brighter and healthier futures.” 

“Governor Murphy is committed to supporting New Jerseyans through every stage of life, which is why he’s proposing a new Cover All Kids initiative to provide health care coverage for every New Jersey child,” said Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “New Jersey has been leading the way on health care access for years, and with this plan we will achieve something monumental and fundamental: health care for every child. This is a compassionate and fiscally responsible plan – and it’s realistic. It’s also – most importantly – crucial for our children and our future.”  

“Under Governor Murphy’s leadership, New Jersey has made it a priority to improve access to health care, based on the principle that health care is a fundamental right. Last fall, we opened our state-based exchange, Get Covered New Jersey, where residents who do not have health insurance from an employer or other program can purchase coverage. That alone was transformational for our state,” said Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. “Now with a plan to Cover All Kids, New Jersey will continue to chart a deliberate path forward and deliver improved health care access for residents.”

The campaign further builds on the Governor’s progress in making critical strides in improving access to more affordable health care coverage for New Jersey residents. The launch of the Cover All Kids campaign provides the opportunity to extend coverage to those most in need. This initiative will improve accessibility and remove barriers to cover nearly 90,000 uninsured children in our state.   

Phase 1 of the Cover All Kids Campaign

The first phase will remove barriers and support connections to coverage for nearly 53,000 children through FY2022 by doing the following:

Eliminating the 90-day waiting period for coverage to children newly enrolling into the Children Health’s Insurance Program (CHIP);

Removing premiums families would pay for their children enrolled in CHIP; and

Developing targeted outreach efforts to boost enrollment for currently eligible children who are unenrolled. 

Phase 2 of the Cover All Kids Campaign

The second phase of the campaign begins after Phase 1 implementation and will provide coverage options for children of undocumented immigrants and those whose families’ incomes are over NJ FamilyCare eligibility, but still find coverage unaffordable and out of reach. 

“Governor Murphy’s Cover All Kids initiative is precisely the kind of bold government action we need right now here in Passaic and across this state,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. “Lack of health care during the pandemic has caused tragedy. Fortunately, our state’s local and federal officials are united in our efforts to defeat this virus and strengthen your health care. Thanks to Governor Murphy’s leadership and the additional federal resources we have delivered, the state has launched the Cover All Kids initiative to invest in coverage for the 88,000 children who lack health care. This comes on the heels of President Biden’s massive American Rescue Plan we passed which makes health care more affordable, makes health services more accessible, and cuts child poverty rates in half. As we look to safely reopen schools and help families recover, we must prioritize the solutions that will keep our neighbors healthy.”

“There’s nothing more important than having a kid have access to care. All those families that are here today understand what it means when your kids are sick,” said Senator Joseph Vitale.

“I think we can all agree that one child without insurance is too many and our benchmark for success needs to be covering all kids,” said Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez. “The legislation Senator Vitale and I introduced charts a course to address the issues barring our kids from receiving coverage. We will expand eligibility to all children who meet the income requirement, eliminate the burdensome 90-day waiting period, reestablish the New Jersey Care buy-in program, and ensure a robust outreach program that will target every child in need.” 

“This is the game-changer that we have all been waiting for. This is the difference between not doing and doing. This legislation will make fundamental change, not over there or over there, but right here in this wonderful city, Passaic,” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer. “Whatever your background, your language, culture or religion, we make the difference with this legislation today.

“ACNJ commends Governor Murphy and legislative leaders for their commitment to ensure that all NJ children have access health insurance,” said Cecilia Zalkind, President & Chief Executive Officer of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “NJ has long been a leader in ensuring that children are covered. This will remove the final barriers to reach the goal of covering all kids. Access to health care is essential to child well-being. This is a great day for kids in NJ!”

“Having attainable, affordable health care is not just a health issue – it is a critical component for individuals and families to remain financially stable and for economies to thrive,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO Kiran Handa Gaudioso. “We support making health care coverage accessible so that fewer ALICE households and those in poverty are uninsured or underinsured.”




Governor Murphy Signs Legislation Establishing In-Person Early Voting in New Jersey

Historic Legislation Continues Murphy Administration’s Commitment to Expanding Access to Democracy

March 30, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Murphy, joined by legislators and advocates including national voting rights leader Stacey Abrams, today signed legislation (S3203), which establishes in-person early voting in the State of New Jersey. The legislation is the latest in a series of initiatives by the Murphy Administration and the Legislature to expand access to voting rights and democracy amidst a wave of voter disenfranchisement measures across the country.

“While other states are looking to find ways to keep their citizens from voting, we have consistently worked to ensure that the voices of the people are heard,” said Governor Murphy. “I am immensely proud to sign this legislation today and to remind the nation that our democracy wins when we open the doors of our polling places wide instead of slamming them shut.”

“As New Jersey’s chief election officer, I welcome this opportunity to make our state even more voter-friendly,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “In person early voting will strengthen our democracy by providing voters with more options to cast their ballot.”

Primary sponsors for S3203 include Senators Nia H. Gill, Linda R. Greenstein, Shirley K. Turner, and Assemblymembers Andrew Zwicker, Joseph Danielsen, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.

“Our accountability over government, opportunities to better our lives and the chance to elect our representatives all depend upon our ability to access the ballot,” said Senator Nia Gill. “Preventing voter intimidation, passing early voting and implementing electronic poll books will ensure our fundamental right to have our voices heard. There are few rights more important than a citizen’s ability to vote.”

“Early in-person voting strengthens our electoral process,” said Senator Linda Greenstein. “This law will provide greater accessibility to the polls and encourage greater voter turnout, ensuring the will of the people is adequately heard throughout New Jersey.”

“After the horrific voter suppression law which was enacted in Georgia last week, I am proud we are continuing our efforts to make voting as accessible as possible. This legislation will encourage and increase voter registration and turnout, especially in off-year elections,” said Senator Shirley Turner. “Early in-person voting sites should and will be easily accessible to all individuals in order to ensure a more convenient and fair voting system for all New Jerseyans.”

“Voting must be easy, convenient and accessible; our democracy depends on participation of the people. However, the current system makes it difficult for the people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Heading to the polls on Election Day may require voters to take off work on a weekday, find care for their children or demand hours of their time. It shouldn’t be this hard to cast a ballot,” said Assembly sponsors Andrew Zwicker, Joseph Danielsen, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. “New Jersey must join the ranks of two dozen other states that allow in-person early voting, giving voters more opportunities to cast their ballots at their convenience. More people voting strengthens our democracy.”

“This is a big day for democracy in New Jersey. While state after state across the country is pushing Jim Crow-like voter suppression laws, New Jersey is proactively taking pro-democracy steps to expand access to voting for all of its residents, including Black and other communities of color,” said Ryan Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Early in-person voting will make voting more accessible, including for Black voters who will now be able to participate in the Souls to the Polls tradition of voting on Sunday after church. With laws like this, New Jersey is on its way to becoming a model of an inclusive democracy. We are grateful to legislators and the Governor for making this legislation a reality and look forward to working with them to strengthen our democracy even more.”

“As other states attempt to rollback voting rights and restrict access to the ballot, New Jersey is once again proving that we are a national leader in defending democracy,” said Nancy Hedinger, President of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “We applaud the Governor and Legislature for their recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to voting and that our democracy works better when there are multiple options to participate making the ballot accessible for all.”

S3203 allows registered voters to vote using machines at polling places before the day of certain primary and general elections in New Jersey. In-person early voting will enable a registered voter to vote at a designated polling place before the day of an election using optical-scan voting machines that read hand-marked paper ballots or other voting machines that produce a voter-verifiable paper ballot. Designated polling places must be open for early voting on Monday through Saturday from at least 10 AM to 8 PM, and on Sunday from at least 10 AM to 6 PM.


Colonel Callahan, Governor Murphy, Attorney General Grewal and Many Dignitaries Commemorate 100 Year Anniversary Of State Police

March 30, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Yesterday, Colonel Patrick J. Callahan was joined by Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Senator Paul Sarlo on the steps of the State House Annex for a ceremony to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the State Police Bill.

The State Police Bill, which was introduced on March 29, 1921 by Senator Clarence Case—who is known as the “Father of the State Police.”—officially established a statewide police force.

Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General Grewal, and Senator Sarlo spoke about the proud traditions of the State Police, which has served the citizens of New Jersey with honor for a century, responding to some of New Jersey’s most challenging events such as the Lindbergh kidnapping, the September 11th terrorist attacks, Superstorm Sandy, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colonel Callahan reflected on the evolution of the Division’s mission from patrolling rural farming communities to investigating crimes with forensics and cutting-edge technologies. He stated that as he is excited for our members to begin filling in the blank pages of the next 100 years, he remains confident that our traditions and core values of Honor, Duty, and Fidelity will continue to be the guiding principle of our members for the next 100 years.



Photos by: Brian McCarthy, OnScene News



NJSP Legislation

Indictment Charges NJ State Trooper With Official Misconduct For Allegedly Unlawfully Stopping and Following a Female Motorist in His Patrol Vehicle

March 25, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a New Jersey state trooper was indicted today for allegedly stalking a female motorist in his patrol vehicle while on duty.

The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Trooper Michael Patterson, 29, of Bayonne, N.J., with the following offenses:

  • Official Misconduct (2nd Degree)
  • Stalking (4th degree)
  • Tampering with Public Records (4th degree)

The New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards initially investigated this matter and referred it to the OPIA Corruption Bureau.

The investigation revealed that on January 28, 2020, Trooper Patterson conducted a motor vehicle stop of a female motorist on the New Jersey Turnpike at approximately 9:30 p.m. Patterson let the woman go with a warning, but he allegedly conducted a second, unwarranted stop of her vehicle a few minutes later when she exited the Turnpike at Exit 11.

Patterson allegedly conducted the second motor vehicle stop in order to make advances on the woman. Patterson allegedly disabled the Digital In-Vehicle Recorder (DIVR) in his vehicle to prevent his conduct from being recorded during this second stop. It is further alleged that Patterson subsequently put the victim in fear by following her to her home in his patrol vehicle.

“The New Jersey State Police maintain the highest standards of conduct for their state troopers, standards which the vast majority uphold as faithful and honorable guardians of the public,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Trooper Patterson allegedly violated those standards and the law, using his authority not to act as a guardian, but to put a female motorist in fear.  This indictment reflects our resolve to hold officers accountable if they betray the public’s trust with this type of conduct.”

“One of the primary missions of OPIA is to root out official misconduct that undermines faith in law enforcement and government,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “This is not the first time we have encountered conduct of the type alleged in this indictment involving a law enforcement officer, but we hope that our criminal prosecutions will deter such conduct going forward.”

“The New Jersey State Police holds its troopers to the highest level of professional standards of any law enforcement agency in the country through a robust system of checks and balances that is designed to not only hold its members accountable, but to serve as a tool to provide training and counseling through early intervention,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The alleged conduct revealed in this investigation stands in stark contrast to the core values of the New Jersey State Police and is a betrayal to the public and to the entire law enforcement community.”

Second-degree official misconduct carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of five years parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $150,000. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The fourth-degree charge of tampering with public records carries a mandatory minimum term of one year of parole ineligibility.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Deputy Attorneys General Adam Gerken and Jonathan Gilmore are prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione. Attorney General Grewal thanked the New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards for their investigation and referral.

Defense Attorney: Jeffrey Ziegelheim, Esq., Dvorak & Associates LLC, Metuchen, N.J.

Related MidJersey.news story here: NJ State Trooper Charged With Unlawful Stopping And Following A Female Motorist In His Patrol Vehicle



AG Grewal announces first-in-the-nation settlement with Ghost Gun company

March 18, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

Distributor agrees to pay $70,000 and stop shipping untraceable weapons into New Jersey

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced a first-of-its-kind settlement with a ghost gun company that the Attorney General and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs sued over the company’s advertising and marketing of ghost guns to New Jersey residents and delivery of an assault firearms kit to a New Jersey buyer.

The March 2019 lawsuit against James Tromblee, Jr. d/b/a U.S. Patriot Armory (U.S. Patriot Armory) also was the country’s first such lawsuit against a ghost gun distributor.

“Ghost guns” are partially assembled firearms sold with the parts needed to create a fully-operational gun, often with the instructions on how to do so. Because “ghost guns” are incomplete when sold, companies do not require purchasers to go through background checks, allowing prohibited persons—including terrorists, fugitives, and felons—to obtain firearms that they otherwise would not be able to purchase.

Completed “ghost guns” lack traceable serial numbers, making it harder for law enforcement to trace them to their owners and solve gun-related crimes.

In a final consent judgment approved by the court today, U.S. Patriot Armory has agreed to stop advertising and shipping ghost guns and untraceable parts to New Jersey consumers, and to pay $70,000 to resolve the State’s lawsuit, among other relief.

“Protecting New Jerseyans is one of my primary responsibilities as chief law enforcement officer, and to do that, we must keep untraceable firearms off our streets,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We put ghost gun vendors on notice about the consequences of violating our State’s laws over a year ago. Many responded by blocking ghost gun sales to New Jersey residents. Companies that refuse to comply with our laws voluntarily will be held accountable in court.”

Today’s settlement is the latest development in the State’s ongoing efforts to keep ghost guns out of New Jersey.

In November 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation making it illegal in New Jersey to purchase parts to manufacture or distribute information to print “ghost guns,” homemade or 3D printed firearms that are untraceable by law enforcement.

In December 2018, Attorney General Grewal sent cease-and-desist letters to ghost gun companies across the country, ordering them to stop advertising and selling their products to New Jersey buyers and promising to sue any that failed to comply. In response to the cease-and-desist letters, fifteen ghost gun companies agreed to block all New Jersey sales.

The State’s complaint against U.S. Patriot Armory alleged that the California-based distributor continued to deceptively and unconscionably advertise, offer and sell ghost gun kits to New Jersey residents without warning them that untraceable firearms are illegal in New Jersey, exposing buyers to criminal prosecution. To the contrary, U.S. Patriot Armory represented on its website, “Is it legal?: YES!” The lawsuit also alleged that on February 14, 2019, an undercover investigator for the Division of Consumer Affairs accessed the U.S. Patriot Armory website and purchased a ghost gun kit for the creation of an AR-15 assault rifle, which was delivered to an undercover New Jersey address the following month.

In addition to making a monetary payment and agreeing to stop advertising and shipping ghost guns to New Jersey buyers, U.S. Patriot Armory has agreed to include on its website’s home page and checkout page a conspicuous disclaimer making clear that it does not ship ghost guns or parts to New Jersey.

In addition to today’s ghost gun settlement, Attorney General Grewal recently resolved two lawsuits against firearms dealers over their advertisement and sale of large capacity magazines (LCMs). In September 2020, a Nevada-based firearms dealer agreed to stop advertising, offering for sale, and selling LCMs to New Jersey residents, and to pay the State $50,000, to settle the State’s civil lawsuit against the company. And in January 2021, a Florida company agreed to stop advertising, offering for sale, and selling LCMs anywhere in the United States, and to pay $135,000 in civil penalties after the company sold LCMs to an undercover investigator and delivered the prohibited ammunition to a New Jersey address.

Deputy Attorney General Jesse J. Sierant, Assistant Section Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group represented the State in the matter. Investigator Aziza Salikhova of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.

Study: Smith is most effective Republican lawmaker on healthcare in House

March 18, 2021

By: Tyler Eckel

Independent study by UVA, Vanderbilt measures legislative effectiveness in 116th Congress

A newly published, independent analysis on the legislative effectiveness of members of Congress ranks Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) as the most effective Republican lawmaker on healthcare issues in the House of Representatives. The study also shows that Rep. Smith is the second most effective House Republican lawmaker overall.

The Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL)—a nonpartisan, joint partnership between the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Vanderbilt University—said Smith “can be effective at lawmaking, even in a Democratic-controlled House.” They added that Smith has continued his streak of “exceeding expectations” in Congress compared to his colleagues, ranking in the top five for the longest streak of all members in the House.

“Effective law making requires working across the aisle in good faith—and respecting others even when there are fundamental disagreements—in order to achieve fair and sustainable solutions to problems,” said Rep. Smith. “I have always searched for areas of agreement to enact laws that make a positive difference, and I will continue to work tirelessly to help the people of New Jersey and those across the country on a wide-range of important issues.”

The CEL measures the effectiveness of congressional lawmakers by using a combination of fifteen metrics that track the number of bills sponsored by a member, the substance of the proposed policies, and how far they move through the lawmaking process.

Smith—who has the second most bills enacted into law out of the 435 members of the House according to a compilation of the data available through the  Library of Congress—has a notable reputation for working across the aisle to pass laws that protect the vulnerable, especially women, children, individuals with autism, veterans and others in need.

The study is not the first to show that Smith has a keen ability to get things done in Congress. Last year, Smith received recognitions from two other independent groups—Georgetown University’s Lugar Center and McCourt School of Public Policy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—for his bipartisanship and leadership in working across party lines on important legislation.

When Smith received the inaugural Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship from the U.S Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Vice President Jack Howard said: “Many are looking to our nation’s government and elected leaders for answers during this time. We need pragmatic political leaders who have the courage to solve huge business and economic growth issues through common sense solutions built from a durable political center, not ideological corners.”

And when the Lugar Center and McCourt School ranked Smith as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, Georgetown’s McCourt School Dean Maria Cancian said: “While hyper-partisanship continues in Congress, our latest Bipartisan Index––a nonpartisan and data-driven tool––points to a crosscurrent of cooperation among lawmakers. This offers hope, as our future depends on our ability to work together across the aisle and across differences for the common good.”

Zebra Mussel Alert

March 8, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is joining fish and wildlife agencies nationwide to alert consumers about aquarium products that may be infested with invasive Zebra Mussels. Zebra mussels are regarded as one of the most destructive invasive species in North America.

For more information about the consumer alert and disposal/cleaning methods visit the US Fish and Wildlife Site.

Zebra mussels can quickly take over once they get established in a waterbody and cause significant damage including disrupting the food chain, changing the chemistry of the water, clogging water intake and delivery systems and damaging boats.

Several major pet product retailers, including Petco and PetSmart, have proactively removed these products from their shelves.

The Division urges anyone who has purchased a moss ball within the past several weeks to strictly follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) guidance on how to properly disinfect them and clean aquarium systems. 

Guidance can be found on the USFWS Zebra Mussel Disposal webpage.

Please spread the word and not the zebra mussel!

Updated: Yardley PA Man Arrested In Connection With Theft From Vehicles In PA and Central NJ

Robbinsville Township Police Department is assisting with the investigation.

On March 5, 2021 Keith Johnson from Yardley PA, W/M 32 yrs. old was arrested and charged with Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and related crimes. It is believed that Johnson is responsible for over 1000 reported offenses. The investigation is continuing as more information is developed.


BUCKINGHAM TOWNSHIP, PA (BUCKS) –In mid-February 2020 Buckingham Township began to experience overnight thefts from unlocked vehicles.  Several of these thefts occurred between the hours of 3:00 am and 6:00 am.  Surveillance video from these thefts was obtained and the actor was seen wearing a “gaiter” type mask, dark sweatpants, gloves, and carrying a satchel.  Over the next months many Bucks County municipalities were also experiencing the same type of thefts with the same actor being caught on surveillance video.  Information on these thefts was shared with police departments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was found that ten municipalities in New Jersey had similar overnight thefts from vehicles. A cooperative effort between several agencies was formed with Law Enforcement from both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. State, County, and Local agencies worked together in attempting to identify the suspect(s) from these incidents.  Countless hours were invested in stopping these crimes.  These thefts continued through August of 2020 in thirteen (13) Bucks County Municipalities.  Some of these cars were parked in garages, where the suspect entered the dwellings with intent to access the vehicles inside.

In September of 2020 the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office put out a Press Release that contained a photo of the suspect.  It was at this time that the thefts stopped occurring in Bucks County.  New Jersey again began to experience these same types of thefts.  In October of 2020 members of the task force found a stolen credit card from New Jersey was used in a convenience store in Pennsylvania.  In January of 2021 the investigation identified, Keith Johnson of Yardley PA, as a possible suspect.



Information was developed that led to the execution of two (2) search warrants, the last one being at Johnson’s residence in Yardley.  Currency, handbags, gift cards, and dozens of other pieces of property were seized as a result of the search warrant.

On March 5, 2021 Keith Johnson, W/M 32 yrs. old was arrested and charged with Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and related crimes. It is believed that Johnson is responsible for over 1000 reported offenses. The investigation is continuing as more information is developed. The arrest of Johnson was made possible with the cooperation of many law enforcement agencies including but not limited to:  The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, The Buck’s County District Attorney’s Office, Robbinsville Police Department, Newtown Township Police Department, Central Bucks Regional Police Department, Yardley Borough Police Department, Lower Makefield Township Police Department, and Bedminster Township Police Department.

Anyone with information related to this case is asked to contact Detective Tim Johnson at 215-794-8813.


Update: Rep. Smith asks National Guard chief to provide food per diem, other safe food options for Guard personnel

MARCH 5, 2021

WASHINGTONN D.C. –One day after learning that members of the New Jersey National Guard were sickened by raw and tainted food, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today asked General Hokanson, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, to provide food per diem and other safe food options for Guard personnel deployed at the Capitol.

“I urge you to provide food per diem to help ensure safety,” Smith said in a letter to General Hokanson. “And, I respectfully request that you explore the feasibility of using one of the congressional cafeterias currently closed for the exclusive use for food service for the Guard.”

Smith requested a meeting with the General and reiterated his urgent call to immediately terminate the current food provider’s contract.

On Wednesday, Smith asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate the matter and called for the contractor providing the bad meals to be immediately terminated. Speaker Pelosi’s spokesman reportedly indicated that the House Speaker agreed.

Smith had heard from his constituents—relatives of NJ National Guard members—of tainted food that had made several Guard members sick, including at least 30 from his home state. Some reportedly were vomiting in the Senate parking lot.

            “This is outrageous,” Smith said. “The women and men deployed here from New Jersey—and frankly from every state—to protect the Capitol deserve meals that are absolutely safe and healthy.”

            “The tainted food appears to be the exclusive fault of the private sector vendor, not the Guard,” Smith continued. “Many of the members of the Guard are now purchasing their own meals, underscoring the need for a food per diem.”

Prior MidJersey.news story here: NJ Guard deployed at Capitol sickened by bad food

Sardi’s Catering company released a statement as follows:

“We have the greatest respect for the men and women of the National Guard who bravely serve our
country and continue to protect our nation’s capital. We are proud to serve our food to the National
Guard troops who have deployed to Washington from around the U.S., and we stand by the quality and
safety of the food we deliver to the National Guard troops.

As a trusted provider of nutritious and safe meals for the National Guard, Sardi’s Catering adheres to our
own rigorous standards for food safety and quality, and we are in full compliance with all standards and
requirements in our National Guard Bureau contract as well as state and District requirements.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are required to pre-package individual meals for each recipient at our
own facilities, rather than setting up a kitchen on site. National Guard inspectors visit our facilities and
supporting kitchens regularly to conduct spot checks, ensure our supplies are up to their standards, and
that our food preparation and packaging is clean, safe, and fully compliant with federal regulations. No
issues have been recorded from these inspections.

Every delivery is inspected by an authorized representative of the National Guard and approved for
distribution. We have very clear timestamps on all deliveries indicating the exact time the food is
packaged and leaves our controlled environment, and we instruct the recipient to discard unused food
after four hours. We have no further control over the meals after they have been dropped off to the
National Guard’s Armory.

We are currently providing approximately 5,300 meals three times a day to the National Guard Armory.
When we receive a complaint referred to us by the National Guard, we investigate and take immediate
corrective action. The National Guard has estimated about less than .01 percent of the 1.2 million total
meals we have served since January 2021 have been undercooked. The National Guard has reported no
confirmed cases of foodborne illness. We have received requests from the National Guard to change the
menu — such as adding more protein to the breakfast menu and accommodating special dietary needs
— and we have made every effort to fulfill those requests.

We deliver the meals to the National Guard Armory in bulk, which are then allocated to the units by the
National Guard, so we have no control over the distribution process or the timing. It is not clear why or
how one particular state unit has recorded so many complaints, while there have been comparatively
few complaints from other state units, according to the National Guard. We are committed to providing
exceptional service to all our meal recipients, and we will continue to work closely with the National
Guard to address these concerns.

All of us at Sardi’s deeply appreciate the men and women who are participating in the essential mission
of protecting our nation’s capital. We are a trusted family business and an institution in the Washington
area, with a spotless reputation for quality, service, and integrity. The National Guard continues to
closely monitor the quality and safety of meals provided to its personnel, and we are working closely
with them to ensure our troops continue to have delicious and nutritious meals during their deployment
to Washington.”


New Jersey Joins FTC, 37 Other States in Shutting Down Massive Robocall-Driven Charity Fund Raising Scam

March 4, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today that a lawsuit filed by New Jersey, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 38 states and the District of Columbia has permanently shut down a charitable fundraising scam operation that made 1.3 billion deceptive fundraising calls – the bulk of them illegal robocalls – while collecting more than $110 million dollars from trusting donors.

A complaint and series of settlement agreements filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan center on deceptive fundraising activities by Michigan-based Associated Community Services (ACS), as well as a number of related defendants. ACS and the other defendants have agreed to settle claims by the FTC, New Jersey and the other participating states and jurisdictions that they duped generous Americans into donating to charities that failed to provide the services they promised.

Under the settlements announced today, money surrendered by the defendants will eventually be contributed to one or more legitimate charities that support causes similar to those for which the defendants solicited. Those causes include supporting homeless veterans, victims of house fires, breast cancer patients, and children with autism, among others in need of assistance.

“The conduct of these defendants was outrageous, as they took advantage of the trust and compassion of people in New Jersey and across the U.S. by persuading them that they were raising money to aid some of our most vulnerable Americans,” said Attorney General Grewal. “In collecting more than $100 million in donations nationwide – most of which went into their own pockets — the defendants hammered hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents multiple times per hour with disruptive and annoying robocalls. In fact, the investigation showed that New Jersey residents were among the most frequently targeted by this sham operation, and we’re proud to have worked with the Federal Trade Commission and our partners in other states to end it. We’re also glad to join an effort that will see the defendants’ ill-gotten funds redirected to charities that do great work on behalf of those in need.”

The lawsuit names as defendants ACS and its sister companies Central Processing Services and Community Services Appeal, as well as their owners Dick Cole, Bill Burland, Barbara Cole, and Amy Burland, and ACS senior managers Nikole Gilstorf, Tony Lia, John Lucidi, and Scot Stepek (collectively, the “Associated Community Services defendants”).

In addition, the complaint names two fundraising companies allegedly operated by Gilstorf and Lia as spin-offs of ACS: Directele, Inc. and The Dale Corporation (which, collectively with Gilstorf and Lisa, are the “Directele defendants”).

According to the complaint filed today, the defendants were fully aware the organizations for which they were fundraising spent little or no money on the charitable causes they claimed to support. In some cases, that amount was as little as one-tenth of one percent. The defendants kept as much as 90 cents of every dollar they solicited from generous donors on behalf of the charities.

New Jersey was a favorite target of the bogus fundraisers, as ACS placed nearly 68 million solicitation calls to New Jersey residents between 2016 and 2019 – a number surpassed only by the scam operations’ call volumes in California, New York and Texas.

Of the calls to New Jersey targets, more than 125,000 individuals were called more than three times a day, more than 422,000 individuals were called two or more times in an hour, and more than 12,000 were called three or more times in an hour.

“These predatory fund raisers profited by robocalling thousands of New Jersey residents, just to exploit their trust and that of compassionate people all across the country,” said Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Kaitlin Caruso. “More than one million New Jersey residents give to charity each year, supporting causes they believe in. We at the Division of Consumer Affairs take a dim view of those who would prey on that generosity, and are committed to holding accountable any individual or group who does so.”  

Today’s announcement comes five-and-a-half months after Attorney General Grewal joined the FTC and other States in announcing the shutdown of a sprawling, New-Jersey-based charitable fundraising operation that scammed donors out of millions of dollars.

That case resolution – announced on September 15, 2020 – closed down the deceptive fundraising activities of multiple companies controlled by Mark Gelvan, a Florida resident who once lived in Montville, New Jersey. Gelvan’s network of sham charities claimed to use donations to help homeless veterans, retired and disabled law enforcement officers, breast cancer survivors and others in need, but kept most of the funds raised.

“Deceptive charitable fundraising can be big business for scammers, especially when they use illegal robocalls,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC and our state partners are prepared to hold fraudsters accountable when they target generous consumers with lies.”

The ACS complaint filed today alleges that the defendants began making their deceptive pitches no later than 2008 on behalf of numerous organizations that claimed to support a number of causes that well-meaning individuals were enticed to help fund through the defendants’ high-pressure tactics.

ACS was also the major fundraiser for the sham Cancer Fund charities that were shut down by the FTC and States in 2015.

In many instances, the complaint alleges, ACS and later Directele knowingly violated the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by using soundboard technology in telemarketing calls.

With that technology, an operator plays pre-recorded messages to consumers instead of speaking with them naturally. Each soundboard operator routinely handled three calls at once, allowing the defendants to contact more would-be donors much more frequently than a live agent working in a conventional telemarketing setting.

Use of such pre-recorded messages in calls to first time donors violates the TSR. Use of the technology in calls to prior donors also violates the TSR, unless call recipients are affirmatively told about their ability to opt out of all future calls and provided a mechanism to do so.

The defendants did not make that disclosure.

Today’s complaint also alleges ACS made harassing calls, noting that ACS called more than 1.3 million phone numbers more than ten times in a single week and 7.8 million numbers more than twice in an hour. More than 500 phone numbers were called 5,000 times or more.

The ACS defendants were the subject of 20 prior law enforcement actions for their fundraising practices. They stopped operating in September 2019.

Defendant Nikole Gilstorf purchased Directele and The Dale Corporation in October 2019 and, with defendant Tony Lia, the Directele defendants allegedly continued their deceptive fundraising and illegal telemarketing practices.

In addition to alleging violations of the TSR, today’s complaint alleges the defendants violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the New Jersey Charitable Registration and Investigation Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act, among other laws in the participating States.

The terms of the settlements, which are currently pending court approval, are as follows:

Associated Community Services Defendants

Each of these defendants will be permanently prohibited from conducting or consulting on any fundraising activities, and from conducting telemarketing of any kind to sell goods or services. In addition, they will be prohibited from using any existing donor lists and from further violations of state charitable giving laws, as well as from making any misrepresentation about a product or service. The defendants will also be subject to the following monetary judgements:

  • Associated Community Services, Inc.; Community Services, Inc.; Central Processing Services, Inc.; and Richard “Dick” Cole are subject to a monetary judgment of $110,063,843, which is suspended due to their inability to pay.
     
  • Community Services Appeal, Inc. and Barbara Cole are subject to a monetary judgment of $110,063,843, which is partially suspended due to inability to pay. Barbara Cole will be required to turn over the proceeds of the sale of a vacation home in Michigan.
     
  • Robert W. “Bill” Burland and Amy J. Burland are subject to a monetary judgment of $110,063,843, which is partially suspended due to an inability to pay. Amy Burland will be required to turn over $450,000.

Directele Defendants and ACS Senior Managers Scot Stepek and John Lucidi
 

Each of these defendants will be permanently banned from any fundraising work or consulting on behalf of any charitable organization or nonprofit organization that claims to work on behalf of causes similar to those outlined in the complaint. They will also be prohibited from using robocalls for any form of telemarketing, using abusive calling practices, or making misrepresentations about a product or service. In addition, the defendants will be required to clearly and conspicuously disclose when a donation they are requesting is not tax deductible.

In addition, the two corporate defendants—Directele Inc. and The Dale Corporation—will be required to cease operations and dissolve. The defendants will also be subject to the following monetary judgments:

  • Scot Stepek will be subject to a monetary judgment of $110,063,843, which is partially suspended due to an inability to pay. Stepek will be required to sell a ski boat in his possession and turn over the net proceeds from the sale.
     
  • Directele Inc., The Dale CorporationNikole Gilstorf, and Antonio Lia will be subject to a monetary judgment of $1.6 million. Gilstorf and Lia also will be subject to a judgment of $110,063,843. The judgments are partially suspended due to an inability to pay. Gilstorf and Lia will each be required to turn over $10,000.
     
  • John Lucidi will be subject to a judgment of $110,063,843, which is partially suspended due to an inability to pay. He will be required to turn over $25,000.

Other state agencies joining in today’s complaint and settlement with New Jersey and the FTC include the Attorneys General of Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia,  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Also joining are the Secretaries of State of Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

Deputy Attorney General Monisha A. Kumar, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section of the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, handled the ACS matter on behalf of the State.  


NJ Guard deployed at Capitol sickened by bad food

Update: Smith asks National Guard chief to provide food per diem, other safe food options for Guard personnel

March 3, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today asked the Speaker of the House to investigate and take immediate action on credible reports of tainted food that has made several National Guard members sick, including at least 30 from New Jersey.

            “This is outrageous,” Smith said. “The women and men deployed here from New Jersey and elsewhere to protect the Capitol deserve meals that are absolutely safe and healthful.

            “I’ve learned that dozens of National Guard members from New Jersey have gotten sick from tainted food—with some vomiting in the Senate parking lot.

“The provision of this bad food—whether intentional or not—must be thoroughly investigated.

            “The tainted food appears to be the exclusive fault of the private sector vendor, not the Guard. It is my understanding that Sardi’s Catering has the contract for food service, and a new provider of food needs to be found immediately.”



Sardi’s Catering company released a statement as follows:

“We have the greatest respect for the men and women of the National Guard who bravely serve our
country and continue to protect our nation’s capital. We are proud to serve our food to the National
Guard troops who have deployed to Washington from around the U.S., and we stand by the quality and
safety of the food we deliver to the National Guard troops.

As a trusted provider of nutritious and safe meals for the National Guard, Sardi’s Catering adheres to our
own rigorous standards for food safety and quality, and we are in full compliance with all standards and
requirements in our National Guard Bureau contract as well as state and District requirements.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are required to pre-package individual meals for each recipient at our
own facilities, rather than setting up a kitchen on site. National Guard inspectors visit our facilities and
supporting kitchens regularly to conduct spot checks, ensure our supplies are up to their standards, and
that our food preparation and packaging is clean, safe, and fully compliant with federal regulations. No
issues have been recorded from these inspections.

Every delivery is inspected by an authorized representative of the National Guard and approved for
distribution. We have very clear timestamps on all deliveries indicating the exact time the food is
packaged and leaves our controlled environment, and we instruct the recipient to discard unused food
after four hours. We have no further control over the meals after they have been dropped off to the
National Guard’s Armory.

We are currently providing approximately 5,300 meals three times a day to the National Guard Armory.
When we receive a complaint referred to us by the National Guard, we investigate and take immediate
corrective action. The National Guard has estimated about less than .01 percent of the 1.2 million total
meals we have served since January 2021 have been undercooked. The National Guard has reported no
confirmed cases of foodborne illness. We have received requests from the National Guard to change the
menu — such as adding more protein to the breakfast menu and accommodating special dietary needs
— and we have made every effort to fulfill those requests.

We deliver the meals to the National Guard Armory in bulk, which are then allocated to the units by the
National Guard, so we have no control over the distribution process or the timing. It is not clear why or
how one particular state unit has recorded so many complaints, while there have been comparatively
few complaints from other state units, according to the National Guard. We are committed to providing
exceptional service to all our meal recipients, and we will continue to work closely with the National
Guard to address these concerns.

All of us at Sardi’s deeply appreciate the men and women who are participating in the essential mission
of protecting our nation’s capital. We are a trusted family business and an institution in the Washington
area, with a spotless reputation for quality, service, and integrity. The National Guard continues to
closely monitor the quality and safety of meals provided to its personnel, and we are working closely
with them to ensure our troops continue to have delicious and nutritious meals during their deployment
to Washington.”

Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez, Paterson Councilmen Indicted on Charges of Election Fraud and Related Offenses

Four men are charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the election.

March 3, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that Paterson City Councilmen Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez have been indicted by a state grand jury on charges of election fraud and other offenses related to the May 12, 2020 special election in the City of Paterson.

Jackson, 49, who is First Ward councilman, and Mendez, 45, who is Third Ward councilman, were initially charged by complaint summons on June 25, 2020, along with Shelim Khalique, 52, of Wayne, N.J., and Abu Razyen, 23, of Prospect Park, N.J. The original charges filed by complaint against Khalique and Razyen remain pending. All four men are charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the election.

The investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) began when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the Attorney General’s Office that numerous mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Haledon. Hundreds of mail-in ballots were also found in a mailbox in Paterson. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all voting in the May 2020 elections in New Jersey was done by mail-in ballots.

“These indictments are an important step in our prosecution of these two sitting city councilmen on charges including second-degree election fraud,” said Attorney General Grewal. “As we have seen all too clearly in recent months, public confidence in our democratic process is critical. If anyone tampers with an election in New Jersey and threatens that process, we will hold them accountable.”

“New Jersey’s criminal code includes various indictable offenses related to election fraud and, in particular, fraud involving mail-in ballots,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “With these indictments, we’re using those laws for their intended purpose— defending free and fair elections by prosecuting those accused of seeking to undermine them.”

Jackson and Mendez were charged by the state grand jury in separate indictments, Jackson on Feb. 17 and Mendez on Feb. 24.  They are charged with the following crimes:

  • Election Fraud (2nd Degree)
  • Fraud in Casting Mail-In Vote (3rd Degree)
  • Unauthorized Possession of Ballots (3rd Degree)
  • Tampering With Public Records or Information (3rd Degree)
  • Falsifying or Tampering with Records (4th Degree)

Mendez is also charged with False Registration or Transfer (3rd Degree) and Attempted False Registration or Transfer (3rd Degree).

Additional details regarding the alleged conduct of the defendants, as set forth in the criminal complaints initially filed against them, are contained in the press release posted at this link:

https://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases20/pr20200625a.html

The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty 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, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The investigation was conducted by prosecutors and detectives in the OPIA Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Eric C. Cohen is prosecuting the case, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.

Defense Attorneys

For Jackson: Theodore E. Kyles, Jr., Esq., of Clifton, N.J.

For Mendez: Paul Brickfield, Esq., Brickfield & Donahue, River Edge, N.J.

For Khalique: S. Emile Lisboa, Esq., Galantucci & Patuto LLC, Hackensack, N.J.

For Razyen: Brian Neary, Esq., Law Offices of Brian Neary, Hackensack, N.J.


Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried Along With Police Chief Nitti Release Joint Statement On Recent Marijuana Legalization Law

March 2, 2021

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried and Township Police Chief Chris Nitti released a combined statement in regards to recently signed marijuana legalization law. In addition below are statements from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and the NJ State PBA on the marijuana law. Information also provided below from NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and a link to the resource page for NJ police officers.


Statement from Mayor/Public Safety Director Dave Fried and Robbinsville Township Police Chief Chris Nitti on the Recently Signed Marijuana Legalization Law:  

Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed three bills into law decriminalizing marijuana and directs convictions and/or pending cases for marijuana possession be dismissed.

None of this came as a surprise, since an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents recently voted to have marijuana legalized in our state. As an elected official and the Director of Public Safety for Robbinsville Township, I fully support the will of the people – as does Chief Chris Nitti.

As loving parents, we have the right to know when our children are involved in dangerous situations. Like many of you, we are concerned about some of the other aspects of the legalization bill. When officers now encounter juveniles who are in possession of marijuana and/or alcohol, the following restrictions now apply:

– The odor of marijuana and/or alcohol no longer constitutes “reasonable articulable suspicion” to initiate the stop of a person under the age of 21, and it no longer provides probable cause to search that person’s personal property and/or vehicle.- The unconcealed possession of an alcoholic beverage and/or marijuana observed in “plain sight” shall no longer constitute “probable cause” to initiate a search of a person under the age of 21, or that person’s personal property and/or vehicle to determine a violation of any law.- A person under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana and/or alcoholic beverages shall no longer be arrested, detained, or otherwise taken into custody “except to the extent required to issue a written warning.”- For any person under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana and/or alcoholic beverages as a first offense, these new laws forbid officers to contact his/her parent or guardian to advise him or her of such.To apply these new laws to a “real-life” situation, if an officer observes a juvenile of any age consuming alcohol and/or smoking marijuana in violation of the law, that officer CAN NOT contact the juvenile’s parent or guardian unless this behavior has been previously documented. Unless that child chooses to share this information, his or her parents or guardians will never know.Most problematic is the inability of the police to freely communicate with the parents and guardians of our children. The Robbinsville Township Police Department has always sought to divert juveniles from the criminal justice system by pursuing “non-punitive” measures for the vast majority of offenses. Only in the most serious of situations does it ever pursue juvenile delinquency complaints against children.

Statewide mandates regarding transparency required from law enforcement no longer apply regarding police interaction with kids. The RTPD has always worked closely with school officials to keep our children safe, to ensure there are open lines of communication with parents and guardians, and to provide referrals and access to programs and services that empower healthy, sound and safe decision-making. Aspects of this new law are counterproductive to years of relationship and trust-building. Most importantly, it is a serious detriment to safety and well-being of our children.

One of the RPD’s greatest strengths has been its renewed ability to foster positive relationships within the community, our juveniles in particular. Full-time School Resource Officers (SROs) are in all of our schools, in addition to the implementation of initiatives such as Coffee With a Cop, the Good Behavior Citation program, the RTPD Youth Academy and the S-T-A-R (Stop, Think, Act, Reflect) program, formerly known as D-A-R-E- (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).The priorities of the RTPD will never change, even if the means of achieving its goals of safety and security for all just may have to.
Thank you all. Please stay safe.



Statement of New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police


Today, the NJ Legislature approved, and Governor Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill
5342 in an attempt to decriminalize the use and possession of cannabis. The New Jersey State
Association of Chiefs of Police has been supportive of the decriminalization of cannabis for
adults and has recognized the importance of eliminating racial disparities that
disproportionately impact individuals of color in the context of antiquated drug
laws. However, the enactment of this legislation requires the Association to object strongly.
This legislation will severely impair the ability of law enforcement to surveil and police the
illegal drug market, underage possession and consumption of alcohol and tobacco and
criminalize very common and overwhelmingly non-controversial policing strategies. Under
this new law, a law enforcement officer is subject to criminal prosecution if he or she even
asks a minor or young adult under the age of 21 to consent to a search or otherwise conducts
such a search despite reasonable suspicious activity, such as the odor of alcohol or
marijuana. However, there are no tools available for an officer to know the ages of
individuals that may be encountered. An honest mistake in ascertaining someone’s age,
intentions or degree of impairment subjects the officer to prosecution for a crime. As a result,
an officer risks criminal liability for engaging with a class of individuals who may be breaking
the law or who may be engaged in the illegal drug market by utilizing persons under the age
of 21. We believe this severely limits the ability of our agencies to police our parks, schools,
beaches, and communities effectively, thereby increasing the risks to public safety, the risks to
children from illicit drugs and alcohol and the risks to society from criminal drug activity
cloaked by cannabis.
Although far from perfect, New Jersey has long been a progressive policing jurisdiction. This
Association supports decriminalization for adult use cannabis and our members work daily
across the state to increase positive interactions between law enforcement and the
communities we serve. We strive to increase the professionalism and training of our officers
and agencies while recognizing that there are bad actors in all occupations and walks of life
and such individuals deserve to meet the consequence of the law. However, criminalizing
honest and well-intended law enforcement is not the way to cure our society from the ills of
racial disparities and hundreds of years of systemic racism. Simply put, our communities will
be less safe and our children more at risk.


Marijuana Decriminalization & Cannabis Legalization



NJ State PBA Document: Frequently Asked Questions – Marijuana Decriminalization & Legalized Cannabis As of February 23, 2021

This document contains frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address some of the substantial issues, concerns, and situations that will arise for law enforcement as we all strive to understand, implement, and apply the new cannabis legalization and marijuana decriminalization laws. We anticipate expanding the FAQs as we encounter additional, and more subtle and complex, issues and gain experience and insight into the challenges presented by the new laws.

  1. What should an officer do if they smell marijuana coming from a vehicle during a motor vehicle stop?

    First, the officer should take the traditional investigative steps to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the driver is operating the vehicle while under the influence, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. If so, the driver may be arrested and the vehicle may be searched. If the driver is not found to be under the influence, the new laws are clear that the odor of marijuana, either burned or raw, by itself does not establish reasonable suspicion to justify a continued stop, nor probable cause to conduct a search of the vehicle or the person, in a marijuana possession case or even in a low-level (fourth-degree) possession with intent to distribute marijuana case. As a result, the vehicle and occupants must be released once the initial reason for the stop has been addressed.
     
  2. May an officer initiate or continue a pedestrian stop of an individual based on the officer detecting the odor of marijuana?

    No, the new laws are clear that the odor of marijuana, either burned or raw, by itself does not establish reasonable suspicion to justify or continue a pedestrian stop. In addition, the odor of marijuana by itself does not establish probable cause to conduct a search in a marijuana possession case or even a low-level (fourth-degree) possession with intent to distribute marijuana case. The age of the person being stopped is irrelevant in these situations.
     
  3. What happens when a law enforcement officer encounters an individual under the age of 21 who is in possession of marijuana, hashish, cannabis, or alcohol?

    Law enforcement officers must be cautious when they encounter an individual under the age of 21 who is in possession of marijuana, hashish, cannabis, or alcohol. The officer can seize the marijuana, hashish, cannabis, and alcohol and issue the appropriate written warning. However, the new law also sets forth the following prohibitions on officers when investigating possession or consumption of marijuana, hashish, cannabis, or alcohol by an underage individual to determine a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15:
    • Officers may not request consent from an individual who is under the age of 21;
    • Officers may not use odor of marijuana to stop an individual who is under the age of 21 or to search the individual’s personal property or vehicle;
    • Officers who observe marijuana in plain view will not be able to search the individual or the individual’s personal property or vehicle.
    • Officers may not arrest, detain, or otherwise take an individual under the age of 21 into custody for a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 except to the extent required to issue a written warning or provide notice of a violation to a parent/guardian
     
  4. Does the new law alter the use of my body worn camera (BWC) in any way?

    The law requires that whenever an officer is equipped with a BWC, the BWC must be activated when responding to or handling a call involving a violation or suspected violation of the amended N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, which addresses the underage possession or consumption of alcohol, marijuana, hashish, or cannabis. The BWC may not be deactivated for any reason throughout the entire encounter. Underage refers to people under the age of 21.
     
  5. How does decriminalization and legalization change fingerprinting?

    Marijuana is still by definition pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-2 a “controlled dangerous substance,” and, therefore, appropriately charged violations involving marijuana or hashish are still subject to fingerprint compliance under N.J.S.A. 53:1-18.1. However, when law enforcement officers encounter an individual who has violated N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(12)(b) (distribution/possession with intent to distribute 1 ounce or less) or N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(3)(b) (possession of more than 6 ounces), the officer is prohibited under the law from arresting, detaining, or otherwise bringing that individual into the station, which means the officer will be unable to fingerprint the violator at the time of the incident. Therefore, those individuals must be fingerprinted at their first court appearance.

    Individuals under the age of 21 who are in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15(a)(1) are precluded from being fingerprinted under the new law

A21 – Legislation Act

A1897 – Marijuana Decriminalization

S3454 – Underage Possession & Use

AG Directive 2021-1 (Directive Governing Dismissals of Certain Pending Marijuana Charges)

Interim Guidance Regarding Marijuana Decriminalization

FAQs

New Jersey Lottery and the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey Raise Public Awareness of Problem Gambling

March 2, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a Proclamation declaring March 2021 Problem Gambling Awareness Month in New Jersey.

“We are pleased to support this initiative and to be an integral part of spreading the Responsible Play message to the general public and to our Lottery retailers by launching the Lottery’s March 2021 Problem Gambling Awareness Month Campaign,” said New Jersey Lottery Executive Director James A. Carey, Jr. “’Awareness + Action’ is the theme for this month-long campaign.”

Throughout the month, the New Jersey Lottery will be working with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc. (CCGNJ) to educate the general public and health care professionals about the importance of playing responsibly and the warning signs of problem gambling.

As part of that effort, the Lottery and the Council have developed a video to raise awareness about Problem Gambling Awareness Month and to provide information about the help available both locally and nationally for anyone who may experience a gambling disorder. The video is available for viewing on the “Responsible Play” page of the Lottery’s website.

To reinforce that message, the Lottery launched an advertising campaign based on the message, “Dream big. Play responsibly. Life is about balance. The New Jersey Lottery is a provider of fun and entertaining games that should be played responsibly. The Lottery should not be considered or played as an alternative source of income.”

According to Neva Pryor, executive director of the CCGNJ, “The Lottery is a valuable partner with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey in efforts to reinforce the message about the importance of playing responsibly and to share information about the warning signs that gambling is becoming a problem. We are pleased to partner with the Lottery in producing this video to raise awareness about gambling disorders. Call 1-800-GAMBLER if you or someone you know has a gambling problem: we offer support, treatment and hope.”