NEWARK, NJ –A Colorado man will make his initial appearance today on charges that he smuggled approximately two kilograms of cocaine into the United States, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Leandre Kemont Jefferson, 23, of Denver, Colorado, was arrested on Oct. 23, 2020. He is charged by complaint with one count of importation of controlled substances and is scheduled to appear by videoconference today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On Oct. 23, 2020, Jefferson arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport aboard a flight from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. During a screening, law enforcement officers discovered that Jefferson possessed approximately two kilograms of cocaine concealed inside of 12 vacuum packed bags, which were themselves wrapped in foil, and which was further concealed inside of clothing.
The count with which Jefferson is charged carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a potential maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina; and officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Troy Miller, director of Field Operations, New York Field Office, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean M. Sherman of the Criminal Division in Newark.
The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Peter Carter Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark
Bills Establish Minimum Staffing Ratios and Require Policies to Prevent Social Isolation of Residents
October 23, 2020
RED BANK, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Governor Phil Murphy today signed two bills (S2712 and S2785) ordering reforms to the long-term care industry. The bills implement recommendations from the Manatt Health Report, released on June 3, 2020.
S2712 requires minimum direct care staff-to-resident ratios in New Jersey long-term care facilities. Additionally, the legislation will establish the Special Task Force on Direct Care Workforce Retention and Recruitment. S2785 requires long-term care facilities to institute policies that prevent social isolation of residents, addressing issues experienced by LTC residents and their families as a result of prohibitions and limitations on visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sadly, too many nursing homes are run by companies more interested in making money than protecting patients,” said Governor Murphy. “These long-sought reforms will help bring accountability to the industry and protect residents, staff, and family members with a loved one living in a long-term care facility. I am proud to have worked with our partners in organized labor, health care advocates, and legislative sponsors to finally implement safe staffing ratios in our nursing homes, as well as other long overdue reforms.”
“Staff caring for our most vulnerable residents in long-term care settings are the backbone of these facilities,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “As a nurse, I know there is no more important role than as a caregiver and all of those working in these facilities are healthcare heroes. We have to support this workforce and give them an opportunity to grow and advance in their careers, so it is not only a more rewarding job, but also results in improved care.”
Primary sponsors for S2712 include Senators Brian P. Stack, Patrick J. Diegnan, and Joseph F. Vitale, and Assemblymembers Angelica M. Jimenez, Gordon M. Johnson, and Pedro Mejia.
“New Jersey got an F rating and was ranked 43 out of 50 in direct care staffing hours per nursing home resident. These gaping problems have become even more apparent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is unacceptable and we all know we can do better,” said Senator Brian Stack. “These are our parents and grandparents and soon, they will be us. This law will ensure that every resident in our nursing homes receives the care and attention we all deserve.”
“Increasing the amount of staff in nursing homes will improve the quality of services provided to the elderly in the state,” said Senator Patrick Diegnan. “Because nursing home patients often need close supervision, increasing the amount of staff will ensure that these senior citizens have the attention and care they need.”
“By establishing a task force, we will be able to develop the best strategies for recruiting new direct care staff,” said Senate Health Committee chair, Senator Joseph Vitale. “It is imperative to develop a viable and robust pipeline of workers in order to meet the requirements of this bill and provide better care to the senior citizens of this state.”
“There isn’t a more important time than now to act to ensure New Jersey’s nursing homes have adequate staffing of direct care professionals for their residents. The onset of Covid-19 quickly illuminated the numerous inefficiencies in staffing, preparedness, and medical equipment in our nursing homes. They were dangerously unprepared for the rapid response needed to address the demands of a public health crisis,” said Assemblymembers Angelica Jimenez, Gordon Johnson, and Pedro Mejia in a joint statement. “Nursing home care has, for far too long, been under scrutiny in the state and it’s time now to address the concerns. A mandatory minimum for staff-to-patient ratios in these facilities will be critical to fixing the long term healthcare system in the state.”
S2712 establishes minimum direct care staff-to-resident ratios in nursing homes. The Manatt Report cited longstanding staffing shortages as one of the systemic issues that exacerbated the industry’s COVID-19-response challenges. Specifically, the law requires:
One CNA to every eight residents for the day shift;
One direct care staff member (RN, LPN, or CNA) to every 10 residents for the evening shift; and
One direct care staff member (RN, LPN, or CNA) to every 14 residents for the night shift.
The bill also establishes the Special Task Force on Direct Care Workforce Retention and Recruitment, which will evaluate job supports and incentives, training opportunities, wages and benefits, educational initiatives, and certification reciprocity rules. The Task Force will be required to submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its first meeting, which must occur within 180 days of signing.
Primary sponsors for S2785 include Senators Vin Gopal and Nellie Pou, and Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angela V. McKnight, and Carol A. Murphy.
“One of the debilitating effects of the spread of the coronavirus has been the heightened sense of isolation it has placed on residents of long-term care facilities. There is little doubt that the limits on physical visitation have had a harmful effect on residents’ mental and physical well-being,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “Many residents in these facilities are already susceptible to loneliness and potential isolation. Facilities should act now to implement plans to prevent such isolation in the event of a public health emergency and be able to mitigate its worst effects on both residents and their loved ones.”
“Long term care facilities can be lonely places for our elderly residents. The limitations we saw on visitation early on in the pandemic, while in the best interest of patients, had an immense impact on their mental wellbeing,” said Senator Nellie Pou. “This program will help to ensure our facilities are better equipped to prevent feelings of social isolation in the event of future public health emergencies that require them to go into lockdown to prevent the spread of illness.”
“For months at the start of the pandemic, family and friends were not allowed to visit their loved ones in long-term care facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle,chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee. “Though this precaution was intended to protect the physical health of residents, for many the sustained social isolation took a toll on their mental health. Eight months into this crisis, we’ve learned social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation or loneliness. Whether it be a natural disaster or a public health crisis, we must ensure that residents in these facilities can stay connected to their families and loved ones remotely when in-person visits are not feasible.”
“Even before COVID-19, many residents in long-term care felt socially isolated and lonely,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. “The pandemic has exacerbated this problem. Most of us at one point or another have leaned on family and friends for support in these uncertain times. We must make sure those in long-term care – many of them elderly or disabled – are able to stay in touch with their support systems.”
“Mental health and physical health are equally important. During COVID-19 and beyond, the mental health of long-term care residents must be a priority,” said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. “Now more than ever, we must keep residents connected to their families, both for the sake of their mental health and to ensure families are able to advocate for their loved ones.”
The bill requires long-term care facilities, as a condition of licensure, to implement policies to prevent social isolation of residents. The bill is intended to address the tremendous strain experienced by long-term care residents and families of residents as a result of the prohibition of and limitation on visitation during the pandemic. The bill requires facilities to create social isolation prevention policies to authorize residents of the facility to engage in in-person contact, communications, and religious and recreational activities with other facility residents and with family members, friends, and other external support systems, except when prohibited, restricted, or limited. The bill further requires policies to consider means to promote virtual visitation and resident recreational activities during periods where in-person engagement is limited/prohibited, and requires facilities to maintain the appropriate technology to implement that mandate.
“Today New Jersey enacts one of the most meaningful pieces of nursing home legislation our state has seen in decades,” said Milly Silva, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “This law will fundamentally improve standards of quality care in nursing homes by ensuing that facilities hire sufficient frontline staff to meet the basic needs of residents. We commend Gov. Murphy and our legislative leadership for taking this step which establishes New Jersey as a national model for compassionate staffing levels in nursing homes.”
“Today I care for nearly twice as many residents as I did when I became a CNA seventeen years ago,” said Margaret Boyce, certified nursing assistant and member of 1199SEIU. “This law means that I will again be able to give my residents the type of care that they deserve. After all they have gone through during this pandemic, no nursing home resident should ever again have to miss a meal, or a shower, or feel lonely because there’s no one available to assist them.”
On behalf of the members I represent, I applaud Governor Murphy and the NJ Legislature for their support of long term care patients and workers. This has been a very difficult time for patients and their caregivers at NJ nursing homes,” said Susan Cleary, President of District 1199J, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees. “It is my sincere hope as President of District 1199J, representing 10,000 workers which include 35 long term care facilities, that as a State we will protect our most vulnerable citizens, recognize and compensate those who provide quality and compassionate care, and continue to work toward policies that keep our long term care community safe and strong.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–MidJersey.News is aware of a few incidences of people getting “unemployment notices” in the mail. We contacted the NJ Governor’s Office and NJ Department of Labor on what actions you can take. They suggest using the link below and/or calling the numbers below to report fraud:
Report a case of suspected fraud via phone or email by visiting:
Out-of-state claims: 888-795-6672 (you must call from a phone with an out-of-state area code)
New Jersey Relay: 7-1-1
Also file a police report for identity theft with your local police department. Take the usual steps to protect your credit though credit bureaus, etc.
Since there is a lot of personal information in the document it would not hurt to take standard identity theft precautions while this is worked out. Once identity theft occurs it is good to contact your local police department since they can file an official report of the incident. The local police are good sources of other information and tips on how to protect your identification.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s bill to allow housing for employees at facilities that board horses passed the Assembly Agriculture Committee Thursday.
The bill (A2768) would amend the Right to Farm Act to allow housing for equine-related farm employees as long as the newly constructed housing is in a separate area or level from the horses and meets all Uniform Construction Code standards, including fire ratings.
The bill also makes providing this housing an act that falls under Right to Farm protections.
“Farm employees often need more access to the horses they care for,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “They will be able to take better care of these animals if they can live on the same farm.”
Dancer’s bill will require the state agriculture development committee to adopt rules and regulations to implement the bill. The committee would adopt an agricultural management practice that permits the housing of equine-related farm employees in the same building where the horses are boarded either in a separate area or level from the horses.
“Taking care of a horse is one of the most demanding and worthwhile jobs one could do,” said Dancer. “The horse industry is important to New Jersey’s economy, and we must keep this industry thriving.”
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today announced his nomination of Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, Ed.D., as the next Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education.
“From day one, I pledged to select a Commissioner of Education with experience in public education. We fulfilled that promise through the nomination of Dr. Repollet, and maintain that promise today,” said Governor Murphy. “A product of New Jersey’s public schools, Angelica has worked at all levels of education and knows exactly what our teachers and students need to succeed. She is an exemplary educator and I’m confident she is the leader we need to carry our school communities through the remainder of this pandemic and beyond.”
“I’d also like to thank outgoing Interim Commissioner Kevin Dehmer for his tireless service during an unprecedented time for the Department and our state,” continued Governor Murphy. “He’ll continue to serve the DOE as CFO and Assistant Commissioner and will work alongside Angelica to advance an agenda that puts our students’ health, achievement, and well-being first, and maintains our state’s reputation as home to the nation’s best public education system.”
“I am a proud product of New Jersey’s magnificent public education system and I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the children of this state continue to get the type of education I received,” said incoming Acting DOE Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan. “I am extremely proud the Governor has put his faith in me to continue New Jersey’s tradition of educational excellence.”
“Thank you, Governor Murphy for the opportunity to serve as Interim Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education during this period of transition,” said Interim Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education Kevin Dehmer. “It has been a great honor to serve New Jersey school administrators, educators, students and parents. Together we developed a strong framework that continues to put student success in a safe environment as our top priority. Best wishes to the incoming Commissioner as she continues to build upon the New Jersey education system as the best public schools in the nation.”
“We look forward to working closely with Dr. Allen-McMillan in her new role. Strong leadership is more important than ever right now as New Jersey’s public schools continue to navigate this challenging school year,” said New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty.“We are committed to working with the new commissioner to ensure that our students are safe, healthy and learning and we look forward to bringing the voices of working educators to the table to ensure that happens. At a time when every classroom, virtual or in-person, looks very different than before, it is more important than ever to listen to the people who are still helping our students flourish. Dr. Allen-McMillan is taking the helm of America’s premier public school system. We can maintain that excellence and build upon it by continuing to invest in public education, respect educators and prioritize student success. We trust that, as an experienced educator herself, the commissioner shares those priorities and will work alongside us to lead new Jersey’s public schools to even greater success and even better outcomes for the students we educate.”
Since 2018, Dr. Allen-McMillan has served as Interim Executive County Superintendent for Morris County, where she supports and oversees school districts within the county on behalf of the Department of Education.
For over 25 years, Dr. Allen-McMillan has worked as a teacher and administrator in various school communities throughout New Jersey. From 2017 to 2018, she served as Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education for the Newark Public Schools system. Prior to holding that position, she served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instructions in the Irvington School District.
She also served as a middle school Life and Physical Science teacher in the East Orange School District, the Executive Director of the Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, Assistant Principal of Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood, and Principal of the Marshall School in South Orange.
Dr. Allen-McMillan will replace Interim DOE Commissioner Kevin Dehmer, who has held the position since the appointment of former DOE Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet as the next President of Kean University in July 2020. She will serve as Acting Commissioner until she is confirmed by the State Senate.
Dr. Allen-McMillan is a graduate of Cornell University, where she received a baccalaureate degree in Industrial and Labor Relations. In addition, she received a master’s and a doctorate degree in Education, Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University.
She resides in Montclair with her husband, Randy, and their three children, Faizah, Jada, and Jason.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Saturday October 17, 2020 is National Move Over Day.
Under New Jersey’s “Move Over” law, drivers are required to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck or highway maintenance, emergency service or sanitation vehicle that is displaying flashing, blinking or alternating emergency lights.
Unfortunately, law enforcement, emergency workers and tow truck operators continue to be struck and injured or killed while aiding others on the side of the road because a passing vehicle did not sufficiently slow down and move over.
When you see flashing lights on the side of the road, slow down, and if it’s safe, MOVE OVER. If you make the move, others will follow.
Marc K. Castellano was born on July 15, 1980 in Lakewood, New Jersey and lived in Jackson until he moved to Howell, New Jersey in 2004. He was a graduate of Jackson Memorial High School in 1998 and received a Jackson PBA scholarship that year. He received his associate’s degree from Ocean County College in 2000, a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University in 2003 and a Master’s degree at Farleigh Dickinson University in 2010. Marc was a two-year starter at middle linebacker from 1996-1997 and a team captain during his senior year for the Jackson Memorial High School football team.
Trooper Castellano enlisted in the New Jersey State Police on September 24, 2004, as a member of the 136th Class and was assigned to the Troop “C” Tactical Patrol Unit #1 at the time of his death. His service with the New Jersey State Police was characterized by loyalty, fearless performance of his duty and faithful and honorable devotion to the principles of the New Jersey State Police.
Trooper Castellano died as a result of injuries received while in the performance of duty.
At approximately 10:00 am on Sunday, June 6, 2010, Trooper Castellano was walking along the shoulder of Interstate 195 West near the Exit 31 ramp in Howell Township. He was searching for an alleged armed occupant of an abandoned vehicle that was connected to an ongoing investigation when he was struck by a passing motorist. He was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey, where he died several hours later from his injuries.
Trooper Castallano served 5 years and 8 months with the New Jersey State Police.
He is survived by his parents, a brother, his wife and two children. Trooper Castellano was 29 years old.
New Jersey Statute 39:4-92.2
Procedure for motorist approaching certain stationary vehicle.
1. a. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle as defined in R.S.39:1-1 that is displaying a flashing, blinking or alternating red or blue light or, any configuration of lights containing one of these colors, shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:
(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or
(2) If a lane change pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection a. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.
b. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary tow truck as defined in section 1 of P.L.1999, c.396 (C.39:3-84.6) that is displaying a flashing amber light, a stationary highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle that is operated by the State, an authority or a county or municipality and displaying flashing yellow, amber, or red lights, or a stationary sanitation vehicle displaying a flashing amber warning light pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2011, c.3 (C.39:3-54.27) shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:
(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle, or sanitation vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or
(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.
c. A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Yesterday the court ruled to uphold a directive requiring Law Enforcement Agencies to release disciplinary records. Read about the directive in previous article at link below. A link to the court opinion is also provided.
Statement of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal Regarding Today’s Court Ruling Upholding “Major Discipline Directives” Requiring Release of Police Disciplinary Records:
“Today’s decision marks a new day for police transparency and accountability in New Jersey. As I’ve said all along, the vast majority of law enforcement officers do great work and adhere to the high standards we set for them. So when officers fall short, we need to take those infractions seriously and we need to be candid with the public. That’s why I ordered every single law enforcement agency in New Jersey to start publishing information about their officers who commit especially egregious violations by the end of this year. I am grateful that the Court today rejected the legal challenges brought against our efforts. It is time to stop protecting the few to the detriment of the many, and it is time to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued guidance to New Jersey’s law enforcement leaders to ensure that voters can cast their ballot in the upcoming election safely and without fear of intimidation. The guidance marks the latest step by the Attorney General’s Office to bolster public confidence in New Jersey’s election process.
Today’s guidance—addressed to the state’s police chiefs, sheriffs, and county prosecutors—emphasizes both specific rules regarding law enforcement activity at polling places, as well as the importance of protecting the state’s voters from intimidation and coercion as they exercise the right to vote. The document expresses concern about reports of voter interference in other states, while noting that significant incidents of similar conduct have not been verified in New Jersey.
“As Election Day approaches and voting has begun across the country, we already have begun to hear allegations of voter intimidation in other states,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Today we clarify how law enforcement leaders across the state can best support local and state officials in maintaining the integrity of our voting system, and protecting the right to vote, in accordance with the highest ideals of our democracy.”
In New Jersey, at the county and local levels civilian election officials, not law enforcement officers, are in charge of administering elections, and at the state level, the Division of Elections within the Office of the Secretary of State is entrusted with election-administration responsibilities—not the Department of Law & Public Safety or the Office of the Attorney General.
During an election, responsibility for preserving the peace and maintaining order in polling places lies principally with the district board officials—poll workers—for the polling place. In addition, county superintendents of elections and their staff have the authority under state law to remove from any polling place or other place where an election is being held any person who violates the state’s election laws or in any way unlawfully interferes with the conduct of an election. In rare cases where such action is necessary, these election officials may call upon police officers to assist with the arrest or removal of individuals who refuse to comply with the election laws or the lawful commands of election officials.
Among other things, the Attorney General’s guidance reiterates that existing New Jersey laws limit the role of both on- and off-duty law enforcement officers in elections to activities necessary to maintain public safety, and to the enforcement of laws securing the right to vote and protecting voters from intimidation and harassment. The guidance further notes that federal as well as state laws protect all members of the public from intimidation and coercion, interfering with the right to cast a vote, or tampering, mutilating, or destroying a ballot box, and that individuals engaged in voter intimidation or obstruction also may be in violation of laws that do not pertain specifically to elections.
Official challengers (sometimes called poll watchers) appointed by the parties have a legally defined role in ensuring that elections are conducted fairly and honestly. However, challengers may not challenge a voter directly; only the elections officials may ask the voter questions. Challengers also may not harass or intimidate voters, engage in electioneering, cause disturbances at polling places, or challenge voters based on their race or ethnicity or how they are expected to vote. Individuals who have not been formally appointed as challengers are not permitted to play that role.
The Attorney General is also requesting that each County Prosecutor designate an Assistant Prosecutor to serve as the principal point of contact on matters relating to the upcoming election, and to facilitate effective communication across law enforcement agencies — including with the designated points of contact for election-related matters in the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.
In addition to today’s guidance, the Attorney General’s office is taking a number of steps to protect the voting rights of New Jersey residents:
In August, the States of New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii, along with the City of New York and the City and County of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit to protect the U.S. Postal Service’s timely delivery of the mail from unlawful interference by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. On September 27, the court issued a preliminary injunction blocking changes that would hamstring timely mail delivery during the election season and interfere with New Jersey’s primarily vote-by-mail election.
The Attorney General’s Office is defending the constitutionality of laws enacted by the Legislature to govern administration of the 2020 general election, so that eligible New Jersey voters can participate in the democratic process despite the ongoing risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 6, a federal district judge issued a decision rejecting a challenge to New Jersey’s laws addressing how vote-by-mail ballots are counted and whether vote-by-mail ballots that are not postmarked or that are mis-postmarked can be counted.
As is standard practice, the Attorney General’s Division of Law (DOL) is making preparations to provide legal support to the Secretary of State and County Boards of Elections and Superintendents of Elections before, during, and after Election Day. DOL intends to assign hundreds of Deputy Attorneys General to represent and advise election officials on emergent legal questions that may arise while voting occurs and while votes are being counted.
The Attorney General’s actions come as the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP), led by Director Jared Maples, has issued a new Supplemental Threat Assessment focused on the convergence of COVID-19, nationwide civil unrest, and the 2020 Presidential Election. Among other topics, the Supplemental Threat Assessment projects that domestic extremists will be a high threat heading into 2021 and that nation-state disinformation threats will intensify. In discussing nation-state threat actors’ expanding disinformation campaigns, the OHSP report notes that “[e]fforts to delegitimize the elections and spread dissent among the electorate can include inventing and circulating conspiracy theories about voter fraud, post office failures, ballot errors, miscounting, and criticism or support of frivolous lawsuits challenging the election.”
Residents with concerns about voting and elections are encouraged to call the Division of Elections at its Voting Information & Assistance Line: 877-NJVOTER (877-658-6837). For more information please visit the NJ Division of Elections Voter Information Portal at https://nj.gov/state/elections/vote.shtml
WASHINGTON, DC –New Jersey congressmen Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew today introduced legislation to significantly increase the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients after it was announced earlier this week by the Social Security Administration that the COLA effective December 2020 is going to be 1.3 percent.
The Smith-Van Drew proposal would increase the 2020 COLA to 3 percent in 2020, and no less than 3 percent more in 2021.
With the average Social Security payment to individuals being $1,514 a month, or $18,168 annually, the announced SSA increase would only provide a $236 COLA for 2021. The Smith-Van Drew bill would increase the average COLA to $545 for both 2020 (retroactively) & 2021, or an estimated $1,090, over two years.
“COVID-19 has not only disproportionately harmed senior citizens—causing death to many especially in nursing homes—but has devastated them economically as well,” said Smith (NJ-04).
“HR 8600, the COVID-19 Emergency Social Security Cost of Living Increase Act, is aimed at helping seniors and other Social Security recipients keep up with rising costs they experience in their daily lives, especially in health care,” Smith said. “The COLA announced this week does not reflect the costs seniors cope with every day. It is unfair, and the COVID-19 Emergency Social Security Cost of Living Increase Act will help remedy that unfairness.”
Rep. Van Drew (NJ-02) said, “The burden on South Jersey seniors from taxes, tolls and Coronavirus has been enormous. Social Security recipients need more assistance to ensure the promise made to them is kept; this legislation is a key part of that commitment and we will fight as hard we can to ensure it is enacted.”
The legislation would also reform the formula for calculating annual COLA increases by using a senior consumer price index (senior CPI) beginning in 2021.
Social Security COLAs are currently based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) which excludes items like taxes, such as state and federal income taxes, and does not accommodate the disproportionate impact of health costs on seniors. Smith’s bill would provide a 3 percent increase retroactively for 2020 to address the COVID-19 impact, as well as at least a 3 percent increase in 2021. It would also permanently address the shortcoming of basing annual COLAs on the standard CPI-W in favor of a “Senior CPI.”
Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari says a higher COLA is needed by seniors to pay for necessities such as food, shelter, utilities and medications.
“I am extremely thankful for the immediate response received from Congressman Smith as we struggle with ways to have the annual Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security actually reflect the current state of the economy where prices are going up and financial help is not,” said Vicari, who serves as Chairman to the Office of Senior Services. “In Ocean County, where almost 200,000 senior citizens live, it’s unconscionable to just except an increase of 1.3 percent in the 2021 Social Security benefits,” he said. “Social Security is not a hand-out. Our seniors have paid into this their entire working lives.”
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)-NEW HANOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ (BURLINGTON)—A Hudson County, New Jersey, man was arrested for conspiring to use drones to smuggle contraband, including tobacco and cell phone chargers, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, and for possessing with the intent to distribute narcotics, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Jason Arteaga Loayza, a/k/a “Juice,” 29, of Jersey City, New Jersey, was charged by complaint in November 2019 with one count of conspiring to smuggle contraband and to defraud the United States and one count of possessing with the intent to distribute a substance containing heroin and fentanyl. Arteaga was arrested on Oct. 12, 2020, in Vermont by federal marshals, and is scheduled to have his initial appearance on Oct. 14, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate John M. Conroy in Burlington, Vermont, federal court.
According to the documents filed in this case:
The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General (DOJ-OIG), obtained evidence that Arteaga, an inmate at Fort Dix from June 2017 to September 2018, participated in multiple drone deliveries of contraband meant for inmates between October 2018 and April 2019.
On Oct. 30, 2018, Fort Dix officers observed a drone with a fishing line hovering above the rooftop of a housing unit. Underneath the hatch to the rooftop, which had the bolts removed, responding officers recovered a bag that contained tobacco, cell phone chargers, and USB charging cables. In the same area officers found a cell phone that was likely used to coordinate the drone drop, which was in frequent communication with Arteaga leading up to the drop. An inmate found near the rooftop hatch had wet knees, consistent with being on the wet rooftop to retrieve the contraband package. Arteaga’s iCloud account contained screenshots of google search results for “fort dix weather” in October 2018 and screenshots of live chats with CC-1 taken days before the drop in which the inmate appeared to be inside of Fort Dix and wearing a prison uniform.
A few days earlier, Jersey City police officers had encountered a man in the common area of Arteaga’s residence with multiple plastic bags containing numerous cell phones. The man told police that he came to the address to meet Juice.
During a search of Arteaga’s residence in June 2019, agents discovered a kitchen closet with packages of empty cell phone boxes, cell phone chargers, empty boxes of SIM cards, and several phones, including a box that had been shipped to Arteaga the day before the drop. The kitchen closet also contained a tobacco box consistent with the tobacco that had been recovered in drone drops. Each of the drone drops that followed the Oct. 30, 2018, drop contained cell phones or cell phone equipment, and one additional drone drop contained tobacco. Arteaga also had a suitcase in his bedroom that contained his driver’s license, 20 packets of Suboxone Sublingual Film, a prescription opiate, and a plastic bag containing over 21 grams of a substance containing heroin and fentanyl.
One of the cell phones obtained during the search of Arteaga’s residence contained communications with a contact saved as “Adogfy,” in which Arteaga and Adogfy likely coordinated drone drops on Fort Dix. For example, the phone showed communications and a call between Arteaga and Adogfy on April 15, 2019; the next morning, a package of contraband with a cord attached to it was found in Fort Dix. The package contained packets of Hydroxycut drink mix, vacuum-sealed bags of tobacco, cellphone batteries, reading glasses, and a cell phone. On April 22, 2019, Adogfy sent Arteaga a photo that appeared to be an aerial shot of Fort Dix. Approximately two minutes later, Arteaga sent back the same photo marked with two yellow lines, and a message: “Behind the buildind [sic] where the yellow is the long yellow line is a fence.” Approximately one minute later, Adogfy sent Arteaga another aerial photo that appeared to be Fort Dix, with orange target marks over several housing units. Arteaga responded with the same photo, marked with a black dot behind a particular housing unit, and a message stating, “Black dot.” Later that week, Arteaga sent Adogfy a message asking, “U think that u cud do something 2m.” Adogfy responded, “2m too windy 20 mph.”
Two other men, Adrian Goolcharran, a/k/a “Adrian Ahoda” and “Adrian Ajoda,” and Nicolo Denichilo, have also been charged with participating in the scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix. They have been released on bail pending further proceedings.
The offenses charged in the complaint carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and maximum fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy count and 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the narcotics count.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited agents of DOJ-OIG, New Jersey area office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Guido Modano; the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 307, under the direction of Superintendent Jonathan Jackson; and the U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker, with the investigation leading to the charges.
He also thanked Federal Bureau of Prisons personnel at Fort Dix, under the direction of Warden David Ortiz; agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; investigating agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas J. Mahoney; and officers with the Pemberton Borough Police Department, under the direction of Chief Edward Hunter; the Pemberton Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Jantas; and Chesterfield Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Kyle Wilson, for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cari Fais and Jeffrey Manis of the Office’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
38 States and Territories Include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming
October 13, 2020
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today advised individuals traveling to New Jersey from states or territories with significant community spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state or territory. The updated advisory includes the addition of Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia bringing the total to 38 states and territories. The travel advisory applies to any person arriving from a state or territory with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.As of Tuesday, October 6, there are currently 38 states and territories that meet the criteria stated above: Alabama; Alaska; Arkansas; Colorado; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Guam; Iowa; Idaho; Indiana; Illinois; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Michigan; Minnesota; Missouri; Mississippi; Montana; North Carolina; North Dakota; Nebraska; New Mexico; Nevada; Ohio; Oklahoma; Puerto Rico; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Virginia; Wisconsin; West Virginia; and Wyoming.
“As cases have increased within our own state and we work to contain clusters, it is vital to ensure that we are taking all steps necessary to stop the further spread of COVID-19 from out of state,” said Governor Murphy. “It remains critically important for anyone arriving to New Jersey from these 38 states and territories to get tested for COVID-19 and self-quarantine for 14 days.”
Travelers and those residents who are returning from impacted states should self-quarantine at their home, hotel, or other temporary lodging. Individuals should leave the place of self-quarantine only to seek medical care/treatment or to obtain food and other essential items. It is expected that individuals will follow the public health advisory to self-quarantine. The list of states will be updated on a rolling basis and is accessible here.
The Department of Justice today announced it charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. Of those cases, 342 have been brought by the District of New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as an important part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” Attorney General Barr said. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals, who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”
“When I became U.S. Attorney more than two years ago, I emphasized that our most important job is protecting the public,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Project Guardian is one of the best strategies we have to accomplish that mission. By coordinating with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we have pursued and prosecuted those who violate our firearms laws, and helped to reduce gun violence in our state.”
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo said. “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
The Department of Justice announced its commitment to decreasing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws in an effort to make the communities in America safer through Project Guardian. As part of this strategy, Project Guardian focuses on close coordination with all law enforcement partners to investigate, prosecute and prevent gun crimes, including the illegal acquisition or attempted acquisition, possession, use, and trafficking of firearms.
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey has continued its long-standing partnerships with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies to implement Project Guardian and has renewed its commitment to prosecute firearms offenses. For example:
On May 6, 2020, Jonathan Brown, 26, of Covington, Georgia, was arrested for trafficking multiple firearms from Georgia to Jersey City, New Jersey, which were subsequently used in acts of violence. Brown was charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit the unlicensed sale of firearms. Brown led a scheme to purchase firearms in or around Georgia and traffic those firearms to individuals in Jersey City. Brown, who is barred from purchasing firearms himself due to multiple prior felony convictions, used straw purchasers in Georgia to obtain the firearms so that Brown could sell those firearms to others. On multiple occasions, Brown brought firearms from Georgia to New Jersey for sale. Within months of Brown’s trips to Jersey City, law enforcement arrested numerous individuals in Jersey City in possession of firearms purchased by Brown’s straw purchasers. At least one of the weapons trafficked by Brown was later used in the shooting of another person in Jersey City. At least one of the individuals in possession of one of Brown’s guns had a prior felony conviction, and was therefore barred from possessing a firearm. To date, law enforcement has recovered seven firearms allegedly trafficked by Brown in Jersey City.
On May 29, 2020, a New Jersey man with a prior felony conviction was charged with unlawfully possessing dozens of firearms, including handguns, rifles, a silencer, ammunition, and high-capacity magazines. Darick Nollett, 30, of Heislerville, New Jersey, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of unlawfully possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, and one count of knowingly receiving and possessing a firearm that was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Law enforcement officers executing a court-authorized search warrant of Nollett’s residence recovered the following, in addition to a firearm silencer:
• A Remington 710 .270 caliber rifle; • A Savage 93R17 .17 caliber rifle; • An Aero Precision DTOM 15 rifle; • A CMMG Inc. MK4 rifle; • A Del-Ton DTI-15 rifle; • An Aero Precision DTOM 15 rifle; • A Keltec rifle; • A Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver; • A Ruger LCP .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol; • A Colt Python .357 caliber revolver; • A Taurus PT738 .380 caliber handgun; • A Sig Sauer P226 .22 caliber handgun; • A Glock 20 10mm handgun; • A Heckler & Koch VP9 tactical pistol; • A Smith & Wesson M&P40 .40 caliber handgun; • A Springfield XD-40 .40 caliber handgun; • A Springfield XD-45 .45 caliber handgun; • A Taurus PT111 G2 9mm handgun; • A Browning BPS 12 gauge shotgun; • A Winchester Model 120 12 gauge shotgun; • A Hatsan Arms Escort PS Magnum 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun; • A Remington 870 20 gauge shotgun; • A Mossberg 500E .410 gauge shotgun; • A Rossi 520 20 gauge shotgun; • A New England Firearms Pardner SBI 12 gauge shotgun; • A Fabrica Aguirre y Aranzabal JC Higgins Model 100 12 gauge shotgun; • A Savage Model 720 12 gauge shotgun; • A Springfield Armory Model 1896 rifle; • A Ruger Model 10-22 .22 caliber rifle; • A Remington 7615 Police .223 caliber rifle; • A Winchester Model 1864 30 30 rifle; and • A Mossberg 500 12 gauge shotgun;
Law enforcement officers also recovered an assembled AR-15 style rifle with scope that did not bear a serial number, along with unassembled parts for another AR-15 style rifle.
On June 1, 2020, Ibraaheem Islam, a/k/a “Ish,” 32, was charged by superseding complaint with three counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Counts One through Three), one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count Four), and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count Five). Those charges stemmed from Islam’s involvement in narcotics trafficking activity on a regular basis in the vicinity of Chadwick Avenue, Newark. Law enforcement obtained warrants to search two vehicles and one residence associated with Islam. On May 30, 2020, law enforcement recovered a 5.7×28 millimeter caliber FN Herstal model “FN Five-Seven” pistol, loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition, 194 vials containing suspected cocaine base, and 64 glassine envelopes containing suspected heroin.
On July 20, 2020, Tevin Browning, 29, of Newark, was charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit carjacking, one count of attempted carjacking, one count of discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon following his alleged involvement in a July 9, 2020 attempted carjacking in Jersey City during which a victim was shot in the abdomen. Specifically, at approximately 5:00 p.m. on July 9, 2020, a carjacking occurred in the area of Tonnelle and Broadway avenues in Jersey City. Browning and an armed conspirator attempted to forcibly enter an Acura MDX. As the passenger entered the Acura, Browning and his conspirator forcibly attempted to enter the vehicle. Browning attempted to enter the rear right passenger side of the Acura, and punched the passenger in the head. At that point, the driver quickly attempted to drive away from the area. As the driver drove away, the gunman attempted to enter the front passenger side of the Acura and held onto the Acura. After a short distance, the gunman shot the driver in the abdomen, and then fell off the Acura as its driver was able to escape. Moments later, a Dodge Challenger arrived at the scene and picked up the gunman before fleeing the area. Police officers found a spent .45 caliber shell casing stamped “Blazer .45 Auto” in the area where the gunman had fallen to the ground. A lawful search warrant of the Challenger produced a .45 caliber Hi-Point Model JHP semiautomatic handgun, bearing serial number 406099, which was loaded with four rounds of ammunition. Two of the rounds were stamped “Blazer .45 Auto” on the shell casing.
On Oct. 7, 2020, Benjamin Daye, 34, admitted to robbing a Camden barbershop at gunpoint on November 23, 2019. Upon entering the barbershop, Daye grabbed a juvenile customer, pointed a loaded gun at the customer’s head, and demanded cash and belongings from employees and customers. Daye fled and was apprehended shortly thereafter next to a bag containing the handgun and the stolen items.
These are just a few examples of the cases brought in the District of New Jersey under Project Guardian. Between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, this office charged 342 individuals with gun offenses. Of those individuals, 252 were prior convicted felons who were prohibited from possessing firearms and almost 90 possessed firearms in furtherance of, or in relation to, drug trafficking offenses or crimes of violence, such as carjackings and shootings.
The charges and allegations pending against all defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Medium and High Risk Sports Can Resume Under 25% Capacity Limit
October 12, 2020
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order No. 187, allowing the resumption of contact practices and competitions in indoor settings for organized sports defined as “medium risk” and “high risk” by the New Jersey Department of Health’s “Guidance for Sports Activities.” The order encompasses sports including hockey, basketball, cheerleading, group dance, rugby, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo, and wrestling. Governor Murphy previously signed Executive Orders No. 149 and 168, which permitted the resumption of outdoor sports activities, “low risk” practices and competitions in indoor settings, and non-contact indoor practices for “medium risk” and “high risk” sports.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for our student-athletes, support staff, and school communities,” said Governor Murphy. “After consulting stakeholders and medical experts, we have concluded that, with proper public health and safety protocols in place, indoor sports may now resume in a way that protects players, coaches, and staff.”
All indoor practices and competitions are limited to 25% of the capacity of the room, but not more than 25 or less than 10 persons. However, if the number of individuals who are necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees, exceeds 25, the practice or competition may proceed if no unnecessary individuals such as spectators are present. Even if this exception applies, the number of individuals at the practice or competition cannot exceed 25% of the capacity of the room, and such limit cannot exceed 150 persons.
Facilities and participants must abide by a number of health and safety protocols outlined in the Department of Health’s “Guidance for Sports Activities,” such as screenings for athletes, coaches, and staff; limitations on equipment sharing; and requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and equipment.
Additionally, sports under the oversight of either the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association or the NCAA must continue to abide by those associations’ rules. All sporting activities must comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and Executive Orders.
The order will take effect immediately.
For a copy of Executive Order No. 187, please click here.
MORRISTOWN, NJ–The former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie has been released from Morristown Medical Center this morning. Governor Christie says he will have a lot more to say about the experience next week per his Twitter account. Christie was receiving treatment for COVID-19 and was not heard from since October 3, 2020 when he checked himself into the hospital and released a short statement this morning.