Category: State of NJ

Acting Governor Scutari Signs Firefighters Chaplain Bill Into Law

August 28, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 28, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luff has been indicted on the following charges:        

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

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

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

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

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

Central Jersey Does Exist! State Tourism Map Will Have A “Central Jersey” Region 

August 24, 2023

SOMERVILLE – Governor Phil Murphy today signed S3206 to promote Central Jersey tourism. The bill requires the Division of Travel and Tourism, within the Department of State, to re-draw the State tourism map to create a “Central Jersey” region and to incorporate it in all regional marketing campaigns, including publications and on The “Central Jersey” region will be comprised of, at minimum, the counties of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset. The Division of Travel and Tourism will also be required to promote overnight stays.

“Today, we settle the decades-old debate once and for all: Central Jersey exists,” said Governor Murphy. “The region has a rich history dating back to the American Revolution, with a legacy graced by historical figures like George Washington. And today, Central Jersey is home to some of the nation’s leading public universities and host to beautiful agricultural landscapes and activities for tourists to immerse themselves in. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to share these wonders with the world.”

“Central Jersey exists! We are looking forward to working with our Division of Travel and Tourism to highlight this important region for residents and visitors alike,” said New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “Tourism is a vital part of our state’s economy and many of our communities rely upon visitors to support local small businesses. This legislation is an investment in the future of Central Jersey communities and will strengthen the region’s ability to draw new and returning guests.”

The bill will take effect 90 days after enactment. The prime sponsors for this bill are Senator Andrew Zwicker and Assemblyman Roy Freiman.

“We should properly promote all the regions of our state,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “Central Jersey is blessed with beautiful destinations and a rich history. We will see a terrific return on our investment to attract tourism, including economic growth and job creation.”

“After 235 years since the founding of our great state, Central Jersey is finally on the map,” said Senator Andrew Zwicker. “While the very existence of the middle of our state has long been the subject of debate, we are long overdue in designating Central Jersey as the hub of tourism, innovation, and history that it is. This law will promote travel to our quaint river towns and canal villages, scenic walking sites, harvest festivals, breweries, and more Revolutionary War sites than you’ll find anywhere else. Central Jersey offers some of the best experiences to those traveling and vacationing in New Jersey. From this day forward, Central Jersey exists, and you should come visit.”

“Central Jersey holds a unique cultural and historical resonance in our state and offers a unique combination of historical, agricultural, artistic, and eco-tourism experiences that are comparable to any other part of the country,” said Senator Bob Smith. “We need to be doing all we can to promote Central Jersey as both a journey and a destination –a gem too often hidden that needs finally to be allowed to shine.”

“From the iconic Jersey shoreline to our bustling, vibrant cities in the north and south, New Jersey is rich in historic and famed tourist attractions. For too long the heart of our state—home to our State capital, historic sites, and bucolic scenery—Central Jersey has not received the real attention it deserves,” said Assemblyman Roy Freiman. “Travel and tourism is a vital industry and an economic engine for the state generating thousands of jobs and attracting countless tourists each year. Redefining New Jersey’s tourism regions, looking at the way we fund tourism efforts, and delving into agritourism will help us highlight both our world-famous attractions and hidden gems.”

“Whether you are interested in history, wildlife, or the great outdoors, Central Jersey has a lot to offer,” said Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer. “With this law, we are committing to show residents and visitors alike all of the tourism destinations in New Jersey while also giving a boost to local economies.”

“Travel is an integral part of New Jersey’s economy,” said Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli. “When people come to visit our shoreline, historic sites, and cities, they generate significant economic benefits and drive local economies. By encouraging overnight tourism and clearly defining our tourism regions with a re-drawn map, we can encourage growth in this industry that will create new jobs and opportunities for New Jersey residents.”

Photos by: Rich Hundley III/Governor’s Office

Piscataway Fire Company and Fire District Quietly Settle Sexual Harassment and Wrongful Termination Lawsuit for $325,000.

August 4, 2023

By: John Paff, Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project

PISCATAWAY, NJ — On May 23, 2023, Piscataway Township Fire District No. 3 (Middlesex County, NJ) and Arbor Hose Company No. 1, Inc. agreed to pay $325,000 to settle a female firefighter’s sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

In her lawsuit, Kira Castellon, who began her employment on May 5, 2015, said that she was the first woman ever employed by the fire company as a firefighter and that it was generally known to her coworkers that she was a lesbian.

After the fire chief promoted her to the position of Safety Officer, Castellon claimed that a newly hired employee, Cesar Valenzuela-Sihuas (“Valenzuela”), subjected her to a “campaign of sexual harassment.” According to Castellon, this included nearly daily instances of Valenzuela’s unwanted advances, which included groping, kissing, and pelvic thrustings, licking her face as a greeting, unwarranted hugs, and breast groping. She claimed that her efforts to physically push Valenzuela away were met with bystanders’ laughter.

Valenzuela’s alleged behavior was witnessed by Lt. Paul Gonclavez (also the President of the fire association), Fire Commissioner Malcolm Brown, and Deputy Chief Oliver Uy, according to the lawsuit. Castellon claimed that at least ten times Valenzuela told her to “get on your knees and I’ll make you straight again,” in the presence of Commissioner Brown, Lt. Gonclavez, and Deputy Chief Uy.

Castellon suffered workplace injury that caused her to return to work on crutches. Upon her return, she alleged that she had to “struggle to stay upright as [Valenzuela] groped her and thrust his pelvis into her rear-end.” Castellon claimed that there were hundreds of these incidents and that they occurred during regular firehouse activities and special events, such as flea markets hosted by the firehouse.

Castellon said that her multiple attempts to report the harassment were met with resistance from Chief Joshua Scolnick and Captain Adam Scolnick, both of whom failed to properly address the situation. The Chief’s response, according to Castellon, was dismissive, indicating that “We don’t do that here,” and refraining from providing any official documentation of the complaint. She also claimed that Piscataway Fire District No. 3 failed to provide any training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

On October 30, 2019, Castellon was fired for using Arbor Hose’s tax-exempt identification number in connection with alleged personal purchases at a local Sam’s Club, according to the complaint. Castellon claimed that the purchases were made for firehouse use and that she presented “exhaustive detail and documentation” regarding the purchases.

Her firing followed an October 1, 2019 meeting at which senior members of Arbor Hose, including Chief Scolnick, told her “that they were considering pressing charges to put [her] in jail,” according to the lawsuit. At the end of the meeting, Castellon said that she was told that she was being suspended.

Castellon claimed that her firing was in retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment.

The case is captioned Kira Castellon v. Arbor Hose Company No. 1, Inc., et al, Docket No. MID-L-7840-20 and Castellon’s attorney was Paul Castronovo of Morristown. The lawsuit and both settlement agreements are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, under which Castellon agreed that the settlement and its terms and amounts be kept confidential. She specifically agreed to not post the settlement “on any form of social media, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, and/or TikTok.” Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public’s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Castellon’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Piscataway Fire District No. 3, Arbor Hose Company or any of their official or employees. All that is known for sure is that the Fire District, Arbor Hose or their insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Castellon $325,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps their decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver Passed Away After Medical Emergency

“Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community. 

August 1, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver passed away after a reported medical emergency, yesterday July 31, 2023.

Yesterday, July 31, 2023, Communications Director Mahen Gunaratna, released a statement that said, “Lieutenant Governor Oliver is currently receiving medical care at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and is unable to discharge the duties of Acting Governor at this time. Pursuant to Article V, Section I, paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, Senate President Scutari has assumed the duties of Acting Governor effective this morning. We wish the Lieutenant Governor well as she undergoes medical care. We will provide updates to the situation as they arise.”

This afternoon it was announced that she passed away at the hospital. Statements from Govenor Murphy, and the Oliver Family below. As statements come in from public officials they will be added to the story.

Statement from Governor Murphy on the Passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver:

“Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened and distraught to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver.

“When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word. She had already made history as the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the General Assembly, and just the second Black woman in the nation’s history to lead a house of a state legislature. I knew then that her decades of public service made her the ideal partner for me to lead the State of New Jersey. It was the best decision I ever made.”

“In the five and a half years that we served together in office, in addition to her responsibilities as Lieutenant Governor, Sheila led the Department of Community Affairs, handling some of the most challenging issues facing our State, including the revitalization of our cities, affordable housing obligations, and homelessness prevention.  As someone who was born and raised in Newark, and who has called East Orange home for more than 40 years, Sheila did not view these issues in the abstract because she lived with them every day of her life.  She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to our public policy discourse and served as an inspiration to millions of women and girls everywhere, especially young women of color.”

“Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable.  We ask that you all keep the Oliver family and all those who knew and loved her in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Statement from the Oliver Family:

“It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey. She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.”

“As we come to terms with this profound loss, we kindly request that you respect the privacy of the Oliver family during this difficult time as they grieve their beloved Sheila. 

“Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community. 

“Further information and details regarding memorial arrangements will be provided in due course. Until then, we appreciate your understanding and support.”

“May her memory be a source of comfort and strength to all who knew her.”

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver

Statement from Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin on the Passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver is a hero. She was brilliant. She was fearless. And she was unfailingly kind. Her life was marked by service – to her community, her county, her state, and her country. Millions of New Jerseyans live in a more just and equitable state thanks to her efforts.

The first woman of color to serve as Speaker of New Jersey’s General Assembly and to hold statewide office, she was a trailblazer and an inspiration to us all. She showed young women, in particular, that truly anything is possible. But more than anything, she never forgot what this work was all about: the people. And she always believed things could get better – better for an individual, better for a community, better for a state.

She could spend hours talking about the impact of a new housing development on a particular neighborhood or how a hospital program would provide meaningful care to people who previously lacked access. She always cut through the nonsense and the politics and right to the core of an issue, right to what mattered. Despite her stature, it was never about her – it was always about the people. She remembered everyone, and treated each person with the same dignity and respect. No one I have ever met understood the levers of government and how they could be used to help people better than Sheila Oliver.

I am immensely grateful to have been able to learn some small amount from her example and I know that her impact will be felt for generations to come. My heart goes out to her to family and loved ones, her community in East Orange, and the millions of people across our state and our country who were inspired by her example. The world needs more Sheila Olivers. May she rest in peace. 

Statement from Mayor W. Reed Gusciora on the Passing of Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Honor of Former Lt. Governor

Today, I join colleagues, friends, and family in mourning the passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. Starting out as a member of the East Orange Board of Education, then as an Essex County Commissioner, Assemblywoman, Assembly Speaker, and finally as Lt. Governor, Sheila Oliver was a New Jerseyan through and through.  

Sheila was a trailblazer herself, and an advocate for equality of others. She became the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly in 2010, and I was proud to join my fellow Assembly Democrats in unanimously electing her to that office. In 2012, she oversaw the passage of our marriage equality legislation in the Assembly, and continued to advocate for marriage equality until it became the law of this great State.

I knew her as a colleague and a friend: I was honored to serve with Sheila in the Assembly for 14 years. And for the last five years, I’ve continued to work with her in her roles as Lieutenant Governor and Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. She was the calm in the midst of storm, the voice of reason in the midst of division, and the embodiment of hope during times of despair. Her advocacy was fueled by the unyielding belief that everyone deserved to be treated equally under the law and that we all could do our part to change history.

I am deeply saddened to hear of her passing and on behalf of the Capital City, we send our deepest condolences to Sheila’s family and to all those who knew her. I hereby order that flags be flown at half-staff at city buildings and facilities from today until the Lt. Governor’s interment.

Booker Statement on Passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) issued the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the Honorable Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, a trailblazer and dedicated public servant.”

“Lt. Governor Oliver’s legacy of service and devotion to the people of New Jersey will never be forgotten. She spent 27 years in public office, where she fought tirelessly for social justice, affordable housing, and economic opportunity for New Jerseyans, and especially for communities too often left out and left without a voice. I was fortunate enough to have benefited from Sheila’s leadership and advocacy throughout my career as Mayor of Newark, where she was born and raised, and again as U.S. Senator. I will miss her and her inspiring leadership and yet her legacy will live on for countless generations to come.”

“Lt. Governor Oliver made history as the first Black woman to serve as Assembly speaker and the first to win a statewide election in New Jersey. Because of her, young women all across our state know it is possible to reach new heights while also serving others.”

“My heart is heavy, and my condolences and prayers are with Lt. Governor Oliver’s family, friends, and the people of New Jersey as we grieve this immeasurable loss.”

Four Rescued By U.S. Coast Guard And FDNY Off Sandy Hook, NJ, Early This Morning

July 30, 2023

SANDY HOOK, NJ (MONMOUTH)–U.S. Coast Guard reported that four boaters were rescued from a capsized sailing vessel Sunday, off the coast of Sandy Hook, NJ. At 1:00 a.m. Sunday, Coast Guard Sector New York command center watchstanders received a distress call from the sailing vessel Eagle. The vessel reported they had run aground and were taking on water.

A Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook crew and Coast Guard Cutter Beluga (WPB-87325) crew were launched to search for the Eagle. Assisting in the search were FDNY, NYPD aviation and NYPD harbor units. At 2:00 a.m. NYPD aviation located the sailing vessel Eagle, with all four boaters clinging to the overturned hull.

Two survivors were rescued by Station Sandy Hook and two others were rescued by the FDNY. All boaters were accounted for and are being treated for injuries at Monmouth Hospital. The survivors were found wearing Life Jackets.

“Done Deal” Sport Fishing Boat Burns In Delaware Bay; U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Man From Water

July 19, 2023

CAPE MAY, NJ –The Coast Guard rescued a man from the water Tuesday, July 18, 2023, after his boat caught fire in the Delaware Bay. 

A Cumberland County, New Jersey, dispatcher called Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay watchstanders at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday and relayed that a 42-foot sport fisher, the Done Deal, was on fire near Delaware Bay’s main shipping channel.

Simultaneously, the Coast Guard command center received an alert that an emergency position indicating radio beacon, registered to the Done Deal, was activated near the same location. The dispatcher also reported that a nearby good Samaritan who reported the distress was providing detailed updates on the situation. The good Samaritan said the boat was fully engulfed in flames and the sole occupant was on the bow. 

An underway Coast Guard 29-foot Response Boat—Small crew, based out of Station Fortesque, New Jersey, immediately diverted to assist. The Coast Guard crew quickly arrived on-scene, located and recovered the man from the water. 

Response boat crews from the Downe Township Fire and Rescue, in New Jersey, and Little Creek Fire Company, in Delaware, arrived on-scene and fought the fire until it was extinguished.

The Coast Guard rescue crew took the survivor to Higbee’s Marina in Fortescue, New Jersey, where his care was transferred to awaiting emergency medical services personnel. No medical concerns were reported beyond possible smoke inhalation.

“It is important to highlight the teamwork involved in ensuring the safe recovery of the boater and extinguishing the fire,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Higgins, the search and rescue mission coordinator at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “The efficient and fast communications from everyone involved, especially from the good Samaritan, were critical in saving this man’s life today.” 

Coast Guard marine environmental responders from Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay are monitoring for environmental concerns.

The boat’s owner is arranging commercial salvage. The incident is under investigation. 

The U.S. Coast Guard, Down Township Fire Department, and Little Creek Fire Department respond to a 42-foot recreational boat fire in Delaware Bay, July 18, 2023. The mariner aboard was rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape May 29-foot Response Boat-Small crew and safely brought to shore. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape May/Released)

After 63 Years Atco Dragway Announces Permanent Closure

July 19, 2023

Waterford Township, NJ (CAMDEN)–Atco Dragway a longstanding raceway for 63-years, featuring a 1/4-mile track for dragsters, plus swap meets & car shows, suddenly announced a permanent closure on their Facebook and Instagram pages last night. There was no reason posted for the closure.

Effective immediately: Atco Dragway is permanently closed. We will not be open from this point on. The remainder of our schedule for 2023 will be canceled.

Thank you all for your patronage and memories over the years.

Special thank you to our 29th annual Pan American Nationals racers & crowd for making Atco Dragway’s last event the biggest and best one ever. This isn’t the end for import racing in the northeast!

To all of our staff, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sticking it out with us and being the best in the business!

Governor Murphy Announces Filing of Advanced Clean Cars II Proposal; 100% Zero Emission Vehicles In NJ By 2035

Signs International Zero Emission Vehicle Declaration to Reaffirm Commitment to ZEV Future in Alignment with Paris Agreement

COP26 declaration on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans

The Office of Administrative Law is expected to publish the proposal in the August 21 New Jersey Register, starting a public comment period that will run through October 20, 2023.

July 17, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today announced the filing of the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) proposal with the Office of Administrative Law. ACCII requires vehicle manufacturers to make zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) an increasing percentage of their new light-duty vehicle sales, ramping up to 100% ZEVs by 2035. The rule does not impose any obligations on consumers or car dealers, and provides compliance flexibilities for manufacturers, including a credit trading mechanism. During his 2023 Climate Address in February, Governor Murphy directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to begin stakeholdering on ACCII in order to propose the rule this year. The Office of Administrative Law is expected to publish the proposal in the August 21 New Jersey Register, starting a public comment period that will run through October 20, 2023.

Additionally, Governor Murphy today announced that New Jersey has signed on to the Accelerating to Zero Coalition’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Declaration, a landmark global agreement launched by the UK at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021 and signed by 41 national governments and 74 cities, states, and regional governments so far. New Jersey has signed on to Section 2C of the Declaration, which commits the state to a zero emission vehicle future in alignment with the Paris Agreement goals.

“By filing the ACCII proposal, we build upon our nation-leading record of bold climate action while delivering on our promise to utilize every tool at our disposal to combat the intensifying climate crisis,” said Governor Murphy. “Our commitment to bringing the ACCII proposal to fruition is a commitment to every New Jersey family and the air they breathe, air that will be cleaner and healthier tomorrow thanks to the steps we’re taking to reduce emissions today. That commitment is underscored by our signing of the ZEV Declaration, which recognizes that New Jersey is just one crucial piece of our global response to climate change.”

“Under Governor Murphy’s leadership and through the tireless work of the DEP, New Jersey is one step closer to turning our vision for a zero emission future into a reality,” said Catherine Klinger, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy. “Reducing emissions from the vehicle sector, which accounts for more than 40% of emissions in New Jersey, will deliver considerable public health and climate benefits for generations to come. And, as a signatory of the ZEV Declaration and a global leader in climate action, New Jersey is proud to stand alongside more than 100 governments around the world in our fight against the urgent climate crisis.”

The Administration’s recently adopted budget includes a new $10 million appropriation to support the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road. The DEP will use these funds to meet demand for installation of charging stations at businesses, multi-unit residential buildings, and public locations. The FY24 budget appropriation is only a portion of the $75 million investment in EVs and charging stations made this week from the Murphy Administration.

“As New Jersey continues experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change, we have the power and obligation to reduce its effects by limiting the emissions of climate pollutants,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “Through the adoption of zero-emissions vehicle standards, New Jersey can reduce its greatest source of climate damaging emissions, improve air quality and public health, and support a growing cleantech marketplace that will create even more green jobs in New Jersey and beyond.”

“The actions the Administration is taking today to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road are vitally important to fighting the ravages of climate change,” said Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “As we know, the state’s transportation sector accounts for more than 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Filing the ACC II proposal with OAL and signing the COP 26 declaration will go a long way toward providing a cleaner, healthier environment for all New Jerseyans for generations to come.”

“New Jersey can no longer ignore the urgent reality of the climate crisis,” said Alex Ambrose, Policy Analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Record-breaking heat waves and dangerous air quality are a threat to everyone in the state, especially those living in already overburdened communities. The rapid adoption of Advanced Clean Cars II will reduce air pollution and bring us closer to a cleaner future. Thank you to Governor Murphy and Commissioner LaTourette for taking this important step to improve air quality and bring relief to families across New Jersey.”

“Today’s announcement on ACCII is just one necessary tool in reducing climate- and health-harming emissions that come from the cars we drive,” said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVC-NJ. “Timing matters. It is notable today that the Governor follows through in his announcement last February to get these regulations in place.”

“With so many New Jersey communities suffering from poor air quality from car and truck pollution, we need policies in place to address the issue,” said Kathy Harris, Senior Clean Vehicles and Fuels Advocate, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “It’s exciting to see New Jersey begin the rulemaking process on the Advanced Clean Cars II and sign on to the COP26 zero emission declaration to address the greenhouse gases and other pollution emitted from transportation. The Advanced Clean Cars II rule will undoubtedly provide many benefits to New Jersey, including improved public health and vehicle owner savings.”

“We are extremely excited for New Jersey’s adoption of Advanced Clean Cars II, getting thousands more electric vehicles on the road while solidifying New Jersey’s role as a climate leader. This rule adoption will directly lead to improved air quality, public health, climate safety, and financial savings,” said Allison McLeod, Senior Policy Director, New Jersey LCV. “Furthermore, since the majority of New Jerseyans – particularly low-income drivers – purchase used vehicles, it will also help with the purchase of affordable vehicles in the secondary market.”

“Two decades ago, New Jersey took bold action by passing the Clean Cars Act. Today’s Advanced Clean Cars II rule proposal from the Murphy Administration moves us closer to a cleaner, electric transportation future that gets us off oil and fights the largest source of climate pollutants. Amidst a world-wide heat wave, there are clear benefits of New Jersey adopting this program this year which will lead to getting more electric vehicles on our roads and joining other leading Clean Car states,” said Doug O’Malley, Director, Environment New Jersey.

“The Advanced Clean Car II program is one of the most important policies for New Jersey to adopt. The electrification of our cars is our present and our future. The EV market is already here, the manufacturers are committed and the public wants the options. For New Jersey, we need to jump in now. The faster the state makes its commitment to achieve 100% sales of new zero emission vehicles, the easier our transition and the greater the consumer choice,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club. “The Advanced Clean Cars II targets in New Jersey can help build and maintain market leadership, which is critical to growing jobs. We thank NJDEP and Governor Murphy for moving forward on this important rule and we are eager to see it adopted before the end of the year.”

Press Pool File Photos

Sauickie Proposal Would Save More Farmland Slated For Warehouse Development

July 17, 2023/Assembly Republicans Press Release

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Farmers enticed to sell their land to warehouse or high-density developers would receive counter offers from the state under a new preservation program proposed by Assemblyman Alex Sauickie.

“While warehouses are good for consumers, they significantly impact a community’s character. Not every municipality may have the infrastructure to handle the increased truck traffic or the land may be in a historically significant area,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “That is why my goal with this bill and other measures has been to give farmers and towns more tools to make the decisions they believe are right for their communities.”

The bill (A5723) requires owners intending to sell farmland for warehouse development or any other high-density development project to notify the State Agriculture Development Committee. The committee would then determine if the land is suitable for preservation and make a competitive offer based on the landowner’s terms, existing purchase offers, and land value and development rights. 

“This provides landowners with options that they may not otherwise have considered,” Sauickie said. “Protecting the land from development will also reduce carbon emissions from heavy construction equipment and additional truck traffic, while also preserving the residents’ quality of life.”

Because of the environmental benefits, Sauickie says the $50 million preservation program would be supported through the state’s global warming solutions fund, which receives money through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Balancing farmland preservation, warehouse construction, and residential and environmental concerns is important throughout the state, but especially in smaller and more rural towns,” Sauickie added.

Another Sauickie-sponsored bill (A4950) that concerns warehouse development requires the State Planning Commission to prepare, adopt and disseminate model ordinances to help local governments prevent land-use conflicts when warehouse development applications are received. It unanimously passed the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee late last year.

“A thoughtful and more flexible approach to development and preservation is needed to grow our economy while maintaining the Garden State’s valuable agricultural industry,” Sauickie said.

Governor Murphy Declares State of Emergency Due to Severe Storms; US 46 In North Jersey Closed Due To Landslide  

State of Emergency Declared Statewide Beginning 4:00 P.M. July 16, 2023

US 46 In North Jersey (within 2 miles of Hot Dog Johnny’s-Hot Dog Johnny’s is ok per witness that lives in the area) Roadway still closed as of July 17, 2023, 8:00 a.m. Check with if traveling in that direction today

July 16, 2023- Updated July 17, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Today, Governor Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency effective at 4:00 p.m. due to severe storms experienced throughout the state and forecasted severe storms causing hazardous weather conditions including periods of intense rainfalls, flash flooding, and damaging wind gusts. These severe weather conditions are expected to cause excessive runoff which may result in landslides, rock slides, and damaged roadways. 

“Throughout the state, we have seen heavy rainfalls resulting in hazardous conditions and we urge residents to remain vigilant around flooded roadways and downed trees and power lines,” said Governor Murphy. “The safety of our residents is our main priority, and we recommend everyone to be informed of local weather conditions and to take necessary precautions.” 

“Our State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to coordinate and support our local, county, and state emergency management partners with any resources needed to effectively respond to the severe weather affecting our state. We remain ready to assist residents and drivers both on and off of the roads for the duration of this storm as needed,” said State Director of Emergency Management and Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan. “However, we cannot do it without the help of our communities, so please stay off the roads and let emergency response officials do their jobs. Also, prepare emergency kits for use at home and in your vehicle, check on your neighbors, and remember, turn around, don’t drown.”

The Governor encourages New Jerseyans to visit for important weather updates and safety information. Residents should also pay attention to local forecasts, warnings, and watches. For those living in Central and Southern New Jersey, visit the U.S. National Weather Service Philadelphia/Mount Holly at

For those living in Northern New Jersey and the New York Metro area, visit the U.S. National Weather Service New York, N.Y. at

Land Slide on Route 46 near Ayers Towing Knowlton and White Townships Warren County. The mountain side washed out along Highway * Still Closed as of July 17, 2023.

NJ DOT – STMC: Landslide on US 46 both directions East of CR 609/Ramseyberg Rd (Knowlton Twp) All lanes closed and detoured eastbound; All lanes closed westbound from

Photos provided by: NJ Public Safety News Alerts Facebook Page

NJ DOT – STMC: Landslide on US 46 both directions East of CR 609/Ramseyberg Rd (Knowlton Twp) All lanes closed and detoured eastbound; All lanes closed westbound

Fight to save NJ’s Revolutionary War sites could gain strength from new grant program

July 14, 2023

By: Press Release, Assembly Republicans

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Alex Sauickie has introduced a measure that would create a grant program to save Revolutionary War sites under threat of development.

“New Jersey, which is known as the “Crossroads of the American Revolution,” played too pivotal a role in our nation’s fight for independence to put profits over preservation,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said.

Because of New Jersey’s location between Philadelphia and New York, the state was the setting for more Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes than anywhere else.

“The fate of America was decided in several significant battles on New Jersey soil. Every effort must be made to preserve as much of that history as possible for future generations,” Sauickie continued. 

The site of a Revolutionary War skirmish in Allentown and Upper Freehold, which was critical in helping George Washington plan the Battle of Monmouth, could soon be home to two giant warehouses. Once an encampment of Redcoats, the 66 acres looks like it did in 1778, but developers who purchased it have plans to transform it into storage facilities with more than 100 loading docks for the hundreds of trucks that will come through.

As residents look for ways to save the site, Sauickie saw an opportunity to create a state grant program that would allow local governments and nonprofits to preserve Revolutionary War battlefields, encampments and skirmish sites in New Jersey. Under the proposal, the State Department would award grants to towns and organizations to save Revolutionary War sites that are endangered by development. 

“We are three short years away from celebrating our nation’s 250th birthday. To lose a part of our American Revolution history now to storage facilities that could be located elsewhere would be devastating,” Sauickie added. “Hoping that historical preservation prevails in this fight is not enough. We must support the people and towns that put in the work to save the sites and stories that make us Americans. This grant program is a way to bolster their tireless efforts.”

The bill (A5677) has been referred to the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee.

“The fate of America was decided in several significant battles on New Jersey soil. Every effort must be made to preserve as much of that history as possible for future generations,” Assemblyman Alex Sauickie

The site of a Revolutionary War skirmish in Allentown and Upper Freehold, which was critical in helping George Washington plan the Battle of Monmouth, could soon be home to two giant warehouses. Once an encampment of Redcoats, the 66 acres looks like it did in 1778, but developers who purchased it have plans to transform it into storage facilities with more than 100 loading docks for the hundreds of trucks that will come through. file photos

Unified Command continues response to fire aboard motor vessel Grande Costa D’Avorio at Port Newark

July 7, 2023

By: U.S. Coast Guard

PORT NEWARK, New Jersey — The Unified Command consisting of The Coast Guard, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark Fire Department, and Gallagher Marine Systems is continuing its response to the fire aboard the vessel at Port Newark, Friday. 

The Unified Command, response personnel and assisting agencies continue to ensure the safety of the public and first responders, conduct fire suppression, protect the environment, and minimize any economic and operational activities in the port area.

As of Friday evening, marine fire fighting specialists are actively conducting fire suppression. Fire fighting efforts are being supported by fire agencies through the Port of New York and New Jersey region, both pierside and on the water. The fire is still contained to the upper decks of the vessel.

The vessel continues to list to the starboard side due to water build up from firefighting activities, but remains stable. Salvage teams are working to remove water from the vessel and counter the list resulting from the fire fighting activities.

Air monitoring continues to be a top priority and the Unified Command has deployed three air monitoring devices, proximate to the ship, to monitor air quality at the incident site. There are additional air monitoring devices setup on the west side of Corbin Street to measure air quality over one mile away from the vessel. Additional air monitoring equipment and staff are scheduled to be deployed to the west side of Newark Airport, Saturday, to ensure a greater range of air quality testing.

At this time, there are no reports of waterway pollution. Response personnel are testing water samples as fire fighting efforts continue.

A security zone is being enforced by the Coast Guard within the Port Newark channel. The Port of New York and New Jersey remains open with limited restrictions. The Port Newark Channel from Berth 18 inward is closed.

A formal investigation will be conducted to identify what caused the fire and subsequent fatalities and all parties at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the owners are working closely together during this process.

Support the families of FF Acabou & FF Brooks

The Newark Firefighters Union mourns the loss of our brothers Augusto (Augie) Acabou and Wayne (Bear) Brooks Jr., who bravely dedicated their lives to keeping the people of Newark safe. We come together today to support the Acabou and Brooks families in their time of profound grief. Augie and Bear served the city with bravery, courage, and honor. As a community, we can rally around their families, offer our support, and alleviate some of the financial burdens they face. That is why the Newark Firefighters Union has established this GoFundMe campaign to raise funds directly benefiting the Acabou and Brooks families. All donations will be split equally, 50/50, between the two families. This is the only fundraising campaign connected to the family. Please join us in supporting our brothers’ families. Together, we can honor the memory of our brave firefighters and offer a tangible expression of our thanks to their loved ones. No contribution is too small. Thank you for your support.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS for Newark Firefighters Augusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks, Jr. Firefighter Augusto Acabou’s viewing will take place WEDNESDAY, July 12, 2023 from 4pm-8pm at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ The Funeral Mass will take place THURSDAY, July 13, 2023 at 10am at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ Firefighter Wayne Brooks, Jr’s viewing will take place THURSDAY, July 13, 2023 from 4pm-8pm at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ The Funeral Mass will take place FRIDAY, July 14, 2023 at 10am at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ

U.S. Army Financial Counselor Charged With Defrauding Gold Star Families

July 7, 2023

A Monmouth County, New Jersey, financial counselor with the United States Army and major in the U.S. Army Reserves who allegedly defrauded two dozen Gold Star families has been indicted, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Caz Craffy, a/k/a “Carz Craffey,” 41, of Colts Neck, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with six counts of wire fraud and one count each of securities fraud, making false statements in a loan application, committing acts furthering a personal financial interest, and making false statements to a federal agency.

Craffy is expected to make his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni at the Trenton Federal Courthouse.

“Stealing from Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation is a shameful crime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “As alleged in the indictment, the defendant in this case used his position as an Army financial counselor to defraud Gold Star families, steal their money, and enrich himself. Predatory conduct that targets the families of fallen American service members will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”

“The families of our fallen service members have laid the dearest sacrifice on the altar of freedom,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said. “These Gold Star families deserve our utmost respect and compassion, as well as some small measure of financial security from a grateful nation. They must be off-limits for fraudsters. But, as the indictment alleges, this defendant took advantage of his role as an Army financial counselor to prey upon these families, using lies and deception to steer their investments in a way that would make him money. There is no room for those who seek to rip off families of fallen servicemembers to make a buck. We will use every means at our disposal to ensure that those who defraud military families are held accountable.”

“Those who prey on the family members of fallen soldiers, will be sought out and held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Joel Kirch, Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Northeast Field Office. “The hard work, long hours, and dedication of our partners within the Task Force, from the United States Attorney’s Office, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and our own investigative analyst, resulted in this investigation’s swift resolution.”

“The families of service members who lost their lives while serving their country deserve to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect by individuals entrusted to assist them in obtaining survivor benefits,” said James R. Ives, Principal Deputy Director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement arm of the DoD Office of Inspector General. “Today’s announcement reflects DCIS and our law enforcement partners’ steadfast commitment to holding accountable those who use their official positions to take advantage of grieving military families.”

“Gold Star families are given a title no one would choose because it means they’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” said Special in Charge James E. Dennehy of the Newark FBI. The soldier, sailor, marine or airman they loved died during a time of conflict – defending this nation. They are given money and assistance to help ease the burden that comes with losing their loved one, however no amount of money can replace what they’ve lost. We allege Craffy took advantage of his position and defrauded families already going through a tremendous amount of suffering.”

“Craffy disgraced the position he was entrusted in to care for our nation’s military families when he allegedly took advantage of them during a vulnerable time of grief,” said Homeland Security Investigations Newark Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “No family, especially our Gold Star families, should have to face further heartache after a loved one’s death by having their financial security ripped out from under them by fraudsters.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: When a member of the Armed Services dies during active duty, his or her surviving beneficiary, now a member of a Gold Star family, is entitled to a $100,000 death gratuity and the soldier’s life insurance of up to $400,000. These payments are disbursed to the beneficiary in a matter of weeks or months following the servicemember’s death. To assist the beneficiaries in this time of need, the military provides a number of services to the servicemember’s family, including the assistance of a financial counselor.

From November 2017 to January 2023, Craffy was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army, working as a financial counselor with the Casualty Assistance Office. He was also a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he has been enlisted since 2003.

Craffy was responsible for providing general financial education to the surviving beneficiaries. He was prohibited from offering any personal opinions regarding the surviving beneficiary’s benefits decisions. Craffy was not permitted to participate personally in any government matter in which he had an outside financial interest. However, without telling the Army, Craffy simultaneously maintained outside employment with two separate financial investment firms.

Craffy used his position as an Army financial counselor to identify and target Gold Star families and other military families. He encouraged the Gold Star families to invest their survivor benefits in investment accounts that he managed in his outside, private employment. Based upon Craffy’s false representations and omissions, the vast majority of the Gold Star families mistakenly believed that Craffy’s management of their money was done on behalf of and with the Army’s authorization.

From May 2018 to November 2022, Craffy obtained more than $9.9 million from Gold Star families to invest in accounts managed by Craffy in his private capacity. Once in control of this money, Craffy repeatedly executed trades, often without the family’s authorization. These unauthorized trades earned Craffy high commissions. During the timeframe of the alleged scheme, the Gold Star family accounts had lost more than $3.4 million, while Craffy personally earned more than $1.4 million in commissions, drawn from the family accounts.

The wire fraud and securities fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison. The charge of submitting a false statement on a loan application is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison. The charges of acts affecting a personal interest and false statements to a federal agent are each punishable by five years in prison. All counts but the securities fraud count are also punishable by a maximum fine of either $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. The securities fraud count is punishable by a maximum fine of either $5 million or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed a civil complaint against Craffy today based on the same and additional conduct. Craffy has been permanently prohibited from association with any member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA).

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Kirch; special agents of DCIS, under the direction of Principal Deputy Director Ives; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy; and special agents of Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patel with the investigation leading to the indictment. He also expressed appreciation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the direction of Gurbir S. Grewal, Director, Division of Enforcement, and FINRA, under the direction of Acting Head of Enforcement Christopher J. Kelly.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martha K. Nye of the Criminal Division in Trenton, and Carolyn Silane of the Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.23-198 Defense counsel: Mark Berman Esq., Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

Grand Jury Indicts New Jersey Department of Corrections Police Officer with Official Misconduct

July 7, 2023

TRENTON – A state grand jury last week voted to indict New Jersey Department of Corrections Correctional Police Officer Giuseppe Mandara with one count of second-degree official misconduct in connection with an August 23, 2019 physical altercation with a resident at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC) Special Treatment Unit (STU) in the Avenel section of Woodbridge. 

The indictment alleges that Mandara abandoned his equipment, including keys and radio, and thereafter used excessive or unlawful force against the resident. His actions are alleged to have been in violation of New Jersey Department of Corrections policies, procedures and training for New Jersey Correctional Police Officers. 

Several days after the altercation, the resident suffered a fatal stroke. Among other evidence presented, the grand jury heard testimony from the state medical examiner about the cause of the stroke and manner of death. The grand jury declined to initiate homicide charges for any involved individuals. The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time. 

The death in custody was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive. 

Official misconduct in the second degree carries a statutory mandatory minimum, five-year period of parole ineligibility. The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. 

A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. 

A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs. 

The Independent Prosecutor Directive is on the Attorney General’s website at this link: 

Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link:

Defense attorney For Giuseppe Mandara: Stuart Alterman, Esq.