Overturned Vehicle on Route 29 Backs Up Traffic

January 12, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–The Trenton Fire Department was dispatched to Route 29 near the tunnel and ballpark for a reported overturned vehicle with three entrapped around 3:20 p.m. Trenton firefighters arrived on scene with nothing showing and eventually found the accident on Route 29 on the curve in Hamilton Township with no entrapment or reported injuries. The New Jersey State Police blocked off two lanes so Cranbury Service Center could upright the vehicle and tow it away. NJ State Police is investigating the crash. No further details are available at this time. Traffic in the area was backed up over a half mile until the accident was cleared.

Trenton Man Arrested for December 18, 2021, Homicide

January 12, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A Trenton man has been arrested and charged for a December 2021 shooting homicide that occurred on Garfield Avenue, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri reported.

Tevin Laster, 27, is charged with murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon.  He was arrested on Saturday, January 8, 2022, in Trenton by members of the Mercer County Tactical Response Team, U.S, Marshals NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force, Mercer County Homicide Task Force and Mercer County Narcotics Task Force.  The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain Laster pending trial.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force and the Trenton Police Department.   At approximately 1:40 a.m. on Saturday, December 18, 2021, Trenton police received a Shot Spotter activation for multiple rounds in the 400 block of Garfield Avenue.  Additional calls were received for a shooting and a male shot.  Upon arrival, officers located the victim, later identified as Quashawn Kelley, in the rear of a residence on Garfield Avenue suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, torso, arms and legs.  Kelley was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center and pronounced dead a short time later.

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

Governor Murphy Reinstates Public Health Emergency to Respond to Omicron Variant of COVID-19

January 11, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER) – Governor Phil Murphy today reinstated a Public Health Emergency, effective immediately, in order to ensure that the State is able to respond to the continued threat of COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. Executive Order No. 280 declares a Public Health Emergency and restates the existing State of Emergency across all 21 counties in New Jersey, allowing state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to assist the State’s healthcare system and affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases. Executive Order No. 281 continues Executive Orders Nos. 111, 112, and 207, allows Executive Orders Nos. 251, 252, 253, 264, and 271 to remain in effect, and extends various regulatory actions taken by the departments in response to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant,” said Governor Murphy. “While we hope to return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible, the step I am taking today is a commonsense measure that will protect the safety and well-being of all New Jersey residents while allowing state government to respond to the continuing threat that COVID-19 poses to our daily lives.”

The Public Health Emergency will allow the state to continue vaccine distribution, vaccination or testing requirements in certain settings, the collection of COVID-19 data, implementation of any applicable recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent or limit the transmission of COVID-19, staffing and resource allocation, and other critical components of the State’s COVID-19 response. The new Public Health Emergency will allow for existing orders requiring masking in school and daycare settings to remain in effect.

Governor Murphy’s public health emergency declaration also empowers all State agencies to take all appropriate steps to continue to address the public health hazard resulting from new variants of COVID-19.  

Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, the Public Health Emergency will expire after 30 days, unless renewed. State COVID-19 metrics will be re-evaluated at the time of expiration to determine if an extension will be needed. 

For a video message from Governor Murphy on the Public Health Emergency, please click here

For a copy of Executive Order No. 280, please click here.

For a copy of Executive Order No. 281, please click here.

For the past two years our lives have been upended by this global pandemic. 

Our health care system has been stretched to the limit by variant after variant.

We’ve been forced to change the way we celebrate and gather with our families. 

And the virus altered the trajectory of our economy. 

As I stand here today, we are registering nearly 35,000 new cases a day. In the past two weeks alone, more than 10,000 of our fellow New Jerseyans have required hospitalization due to COVID. 

And though these numbers are a stark reminder of the seriousness of this moment in our history, I have a strong sense of optimism that we are moving forward in defeating this virus. 

Even today, the vast majority of our schools are open. 

We have recovered 70 percent of the jobs lost due to the pandemic.

Our children are back on playgrounds, back in the gym, and back on the ice.

And the vaccines mean we have the tools necessary to finally put this virus behind us … 

The tools required to maintain our best-in-class testing infrastructure and vaccine distribution … 

The tools necessary to keep our kids safe in and out of school … 

The tools necessary to protect our hospital networks and healthcare workers.

These tools all stem from the Public Health Emergency declaration that we made at the pandemic’s start, and which prepared us to carry on through its various heights. 

We have come so far, and we cannot stop now.

Therefore, in consultation with the Legislature, I have taken the necessary step of re-declaring a Public Health Emergency to ensure we keep moving forward in our response against COVID – and so we can put this virus behind us.

I am certain that there are some who are going to do their best to continue to spread misinformation about what this means.

So, I want you to hear it from me. 

This is what this does not mean.

It does not mean any new universal mandates or passports. 

It does not mean lockdowns.

It does not mean any business restrictions or gathering limits.

It does not mean going backward from any of the progress we’ve made together over the past 22 months.

In fact, in your day-to-day life, this step won’t have any new impact at all.

What it does mean is that we can continue moving forward with our coordinated and responsible approach to putting Omicron and COVID behind us.

It means keeping our schools, businesses, and communities open. 

It means we’ll be able to move vaccination and testing resources more easily to the places they need to be and to the residents who need them.

It means that right now – with record-high new cases because of Omicron and more people in our hospitals than at any point since the Spring of 2020 – our hospitals and health-care system will have every tool at their disposal to ensure the best care possible for everyone who needs it.

And, critically, it will mean we continue to stand on a firm base of science and facts, and not politics and conspiracies, to keep your family and your community safe by getting ahead of Omicron and staying there.

This step means getting our state moving to a real and lasting sense of normal.

A little more than a month ago, just as we thought we had finally gotten ahead of COVID, the Omicron variant came along. 

And while Omicron is doing its best to stop us in our tracks and push us back, we’re not going to let it. 

Look, we’ve been together in this fight for nearly two years. And I know you’re all frustrated. I know you’re tired. I know you want nothing more than to get back to normal. Well, so do I.

But together, we’re going to be keep pushing forward – together and we’re going to beat this thing.

So, keep doing everything you’ve been doing. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Keep masking up. 

And keep moving forward.

Thank you. Happy new year. And God bless you all. 

Update: NJ Transit Moves to Improve Trenton Transit Center

Platform & Canopy Improvements and New Accessible High-Level Platform Will Enhance Safety and the Customer Experience at Vital Transit Hub

Related MidJersey.News story here from October 23, 2020:

January 11, 2021

NJ TRANSIT’s Board of Directors yesterday, January 10, 2022, approved a contract for full design services and construction support services for canopy, platform, and accessibility enhancements at the Trenton Transit Center. The contract is part of a $29 million effort to rehabilitate two existing platforms, and their associated canopies, elevators, and escalators, as well as to convert a low-level platform into a fully accessible high-level platform with elevator access.  The project will promote increased customer safety and convenience, increase capacity, reduce maintenance costs, and mitigate congestion on platforms.

“NJ TRANSIT is pleased to be advancing significant improvements at one of our state’s most essential multi-modal transit hubs,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “Ultimately, this project will create a safer, more modern, and more accessible Trenton Transit Center – with additional capacity and convenience for the thousands of customers who use it every day.”

In today’s action, the Board of Directors awarded a $1.9 million contract to AECOM Technical Services, Inc. for all design and construction support phases of this project.

The scope of work on the two island platforms will include the replacement of existing deteriorating wooden platform sections with a more durable concrete platform, the addition of new tactile strips and rub rails, the reconstruction of platform deck joints, and the repair of concrete spalls. Deteriorating canopies that were last reconstructed in 1992 will also be restored. The existing low-level platform will be upgraded to a high-level platform with a larger waiting shelter and a new elevator from the concourse above. In the past, NJ TRANSIT had upgraded the main station entrances and pedestrian overpass at the Trenton Transit Center. 

NJ TRANSIT was chosen as one of only 11 other transportation agencies in the nation to receive a competitive Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) State of Good Repair Grant that will be used in part to fund this project. The $18.2 million grant represents the federal share of the nearly $29 million total infrastructure improvement project.

A station has existed at the site since 1863.  New stations have been built to replace old, outdated ones several times through the course of history; in 1893, 1976, and most recently by NJ TRANSIT in 2008 when new station buildings were built on the north and south sides of the tracks including a new passenger concourse over the tracks connecting the two.


NJ TRANSIT is the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 925,000 weekday trips on 253 bus routes, three light rail lines, 12 commuter rail lines, and through Access Link paratransit service. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 166 rail stations, 62 light rail stations and more than 19,000 bus stops link

Governor Murphy Applauds Confirmation of Seven Superior Court Judges

Confirmations Further Murphy Administration’s Commitment to Filling Judicial Vacancies

January 11, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– Governor Murphy today applauded the confirmation of seven Superior Court judges. The Senate yesterday confirmed Joanne Cocchiola, Lori Grifa, MeLinda Hawkins Taylor, Heather V. Taylor, Linda Hynes, Jill S. Mayer, and Aldo Russo tothe Essex, Burlington, and Camden vicinages.

“This highly-qualified group of judges will make substantial contributions to our state’s judiciary for decades to come,” said Governor Murphy. “Since the beginning of our Administration, we have responded to vacancies in the courts with 116 nominations, of which 81 have been confirmed. I look forward to continuing to make progress on nominations to the Superior Court.   

“I am especially honored that the Chief Ethics Officer in the Governor’s Office, Heather Taylor, was confirmed as a Superior Court judge today,” continued Governor Murphy. “Heather has served two gubernatorial administrations with an unwavering sense of integrity since 2014, and while I am sad to see her leave our Administration, I know that she will serve our state well in her new capacity.”

Update: New Jersey Transit Police Enter Freezing Water to Rescue Injured Trespasser – Make Life Saving Recovery with West Windsor Township Fire & EMS

2nd Serious Incident Within a Month at Princeton Junction Train Station

January 10, 2022

WEST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–On the night of Tuesday January 4th, 2022, NJ Transit Police Department officers responded to the Princeton Junction Dinky Line for a potentially intoxicated trespasser that was struck by a train. Through the darkness, K9 Officer Roman reportedly heard cries for help coming from a swamp. Multiple officers and emergency personnel began searching through the area.

West Windsor Fire & Emergency Services were dispatched to the Princeton Junction Train Station for a reported pedestrian struck. Upon arrival members of C-Platoon met with Officer Roman & his K9 counterpart of the New Jersey Transit Police Department to look for the reported struck pedestrian. Within minutes Officer Roman and C-Platoon members heard yelling from the swampy marsh near the track.

While utilizing the thermal imaging camera from Fire & Emergency Services, the cadre of responders embarked into the swampy area where unable to definitively locate the injured subject. The air temperature during this time was approximately 28 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 7-10mph wind coming from the south. Considering the possible condition of the patient and the weather conditions, a request for the NJSP Aviation unit was initiated by Sgt. Conrad (NJTPD).

Once overhead, New Jersey State Police Aviation located the patient within 150 yards of the responders, without regard for their safety Firefighter Douglas Frueh, NJTPD Officer Ruocco, and Officer Geoghegan made their way through deep mud and ice-cold water to the patient.

Upon making patient contact Firefighter Frueh rapidly assessed the patient for injuries and what would be needed to safely remove the patient. He radioed to Captain Mitchell & Firefighter Zuber who began the trek into the unfavorable condition along with Officer Roman with equipment for removal. While waiting for the additional support the immediate injuries were tended to, and the patient’s leg was immobilized.

The patient was placed into a Reeves carrying device for extraction from the area.

This operation was a joint effort and may not have had the same outcome if all the resources hadn’t been on the scene.

All personnel sacrificed their safety and worked as a team to rescue this individual. Please remember to stay off the tracks. Every trespasser incident is avoidable!

Original MidJersey.News story here:

At another incident on December 23, 2021, Ptl. Knox and Ptl. Fattibene, were at the Princeton Junction Train Station along with Captain Bain and Firefighter Zuber (West Windsor Fire & EMS) for an intoxicated female on the southbound platform. While attending to the woman, they were alerted to a male who had just fallen from the northbound platform onto the train tracks and was lying face down and motionless across the outside rail. Ptl. Knox, Ptl. Fattibene, and Firefighter Jack Zuber jumped down onto the tracks and ran to victim to render aid while Capt. Bain stayed with the intoxicated female. The victim was found semi-conscious with a laceration to his forehead. Knowing the dangers of being on the tracks for any length of time, especially during rush hour, Ptl. Knox, Ptl. Fattibene, and Firefighter Zuber picked the victim up from the tracks and collectively lifted him back onto the platform, which was no small feat given the victims large size, limp state, and the height of the platform from the tracks. They even picked up his belongings from the tracks before jumping back to the safety of the platform. Barely a minute later, an Amtrak train traveling at a high rate of speed going northbound on the inside rail went screaming by. The victim had serious trauma to his head among other injuries and he was attended to by WW Fire & EMS members; Captain Pope, Captain Bain, Firefighter Zuber, Firefighter Jamison (Fire Marshal’s Office), and Firefighter Table. EMS 45 also transported the victim to Capital Health Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Robbinsville Democratic Club Elects New Executive Board

January 10, 2022

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)-– On December 8, voting members of the Robbinsville Democratic Club elected four new members of the executive board to serve two-year terms until December 2023, effective immediately. The President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary are joined by the Robbinsville Democratic Committee Chair in making up the executive board. The new board members include:

Kiran Agrahara, President: Kiran Agrahara has been a resident of Robbinsville for 13 years. He is a senior technologist at the largest semiconductor company in the world, and has held leadership positions at several tech start-ups in the past in the areas of strategy and technology sales.

Amanda Gruber, Vice President: Amanda Gruber has worked in the financial sector for the past 16 years, where she is active with her office’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group. She has lived in Robbinsville for 10 years with her husband and twin boys.

Susan Scibilia, Treasurer: Susan Scibilia has lived in Robbinsville for over two decades. She works in higher education and spends time volunteering for a variety of organizations in the local community.

Melissa Kvidahl Reilly, Secretary: Melissa Kvidahl Reilly moved to Robbinsville in 2017. She is a freelance writer and editor with nearly 15 years of experience writing for various trade and consumer publications, as well as higher education and corporate clients.

The executive board can be reached at robbinsvilledemclub@gmail.com.

About the Robbinsville Democratic Club
The Robbinsville Democratic Club was founded in 2019 to give Democrats in Robbinsville a place to discuss issues central to the Democratic platform and get involved to make positive change locally and beyond. Membership is open to students and adults in Robbinsville and surrounding communities. Learn more at www.robbinsvilledemocraticclub.org.

Apartment Fire in Princeton Extinguished

January 10, 2022

PRINCETON, NJ (MERCER)–Around 3:15 p.m. the Princeton Fire Department was dispatched to an apartment fire at 37 Wiggins Street. Firefighters arrived to find heavy fire showing from the 3rd floor and roof area in the rear of the building and a full first alarm was called. Fire departments including Princeton Junction, Plainsboro, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, Hamilton, Rocky Hill, Montgomery, Kingston, Kendall Park, Hopewell, West Windsor Fire and Emergency Services and others were sent to the scene. Princeton First Aid Squad and West Windsor Emergency Services stood by for EMS services. Princeton was covered by Lawrenceville and Pennington Fire Departments.

By 3:30 p.m. most of the fire was knocked down but there was extensive overhaul to be done.

There were no injuries reported and five occupants were displaced.

The fire is under investigation by the Princeton Fire Marshal. No further information is available at this time. Check back for further information and updates.

Three Trenton Teens Shot in Ewing Township

January 10, 2022

EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)—On January 9, 2022, at approximately 10:15 p.m., Ewing Police Officers heard numerous gunshots in the area of Parkway Avenue and Pennington Road. Officer immediately responded to the area and initially did not locate a scene. Several minutes later, a vehicle, which contained a gunshot victim, approached the officers. Officers immediately rendered medical aid to the victim in the vehicle. Officers later learned that two other gunshot victims had been transported to Capital Health Hopewell in a private vehicle. The three victims are two 18-year-old males and one 17-year-old male, all residents of Trenton, NJ. All three victims sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The incident is currently under investigation and there are not suspects at this time. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Detective Andrew Condrat at 609-882-1313 x7583. Information can also be sent by call or test to our confidential tip line, 609-882-7530 or emailed to policetimpline@ewingnj.org

Mount Holly Man Charged with Leaving Scene of Fatal Accident

January 10, 2022

MOUNT HOLLY, NJ (BURLINGTON)–Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and Mount Holly Township Police Chief Richard Spitler announced that a 41-year-old Mount Holly resident has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident and failing to seek medical treatment for an injured person after fatally striking a woman with his pickup truck in October 2020.

Angel Carrion, of Blue Jay Lane, was taken into custody January 6 by officers from the Mount Holly Township Police Department. He was lodged in the Burlington County Jail and released following a first appearance in Superior Court.

The criminal charges against Carrion include Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident (Second Degree) and Endangering an Injured Victim (Third Degree) by failing to seek medical assistance after he struck and drove over the victim at approximately 5:30 a.m. on October 16, 2020.

The investigation, which utilized surveillance footage from multiple businesses, revealed that Carrion turned onto Route 38 west from Pine Street in Mount Holly and immediately struck Cynthia Ann Rasinksi, 57, of Mount Holly, who was crossing the roadway.

The investigation further revealed that Carrion left the scene but then returned to the intersection, positioning his silver, lifted pickup truck so the headlights illuminated the area where the victim was lying in the roadway. He then drove off again without reporting the incident to police.

Officers from the Mount Holly Township Police Department were dispatched to the scene a short time later after another motorist reported a person being down in the roadway.

Rasinski was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy performed by Burlington County Medical Examiner Dr. Ian Hood determined that Rasinksi died from multiple injuries.

The investigation was conducted by the Mount Holly Township Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office. The lead investigator is MHTPD Detective Nicholas Dell-Priscoli.

Carrion will be prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Dennis, supervisor of the BCPO Collision and Accident Reconstruction Unit, and Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sullivan, supervisor of the Civil Remedies Unit. 

Anyone with information about the collision, or who was traveling in the area of Route 38 and Pine Street in Mount Holly between 5:15 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. on October 16, 2020, is asked to contact the Mount Holly Township Police Department at 609-864-2231 or the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office at tips@co.burlington.nj.us.

All persons are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

2022-01 Motorist Charged in Mt. Holly Pedestrian Fatality

Governor Murphy Signs the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act

January 10, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER) – Governor Murphy today signed the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act (S4701) to create new tools for protecting transit workers throughout the state. In addition to upgrading the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, an operator’s supervisor, or a rail passenger employee, the bill enables NJ TRANSIT and other carriers to suspend or prohibit from ridership individuals who commit assaults against employees and ensures NJ TRANSIT and private bus companies equip all buses and trains with communications systems to quickly contact law enforcement in an emergency.

“I cannot overstate the value of the hardworking people who ensure the safe, efficient operations of our mass transit system,” said Governor Murphy. “It is critical that we protect New Jersey’s frontline transportation workers who provide vital services to commuters across our state. These essential safeguards will promote better environments for passengers and employees.”  

Primary sponsors of S4701 include Senators Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Robert Singer, and Assembly Members Daniel R. Benson, Yvonne Lopez, and Harold J. Wirths.   

“The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that deadly viruses can spread easily and quickly on mass transit because of the limited distance between passengers. However, as NJ public train and bus operators work to continue to give riders a safe experience, they, themselves find their health at risk with unruly passengers,” said Senator Diegnan. “Signing this legislation will take steps to ensure that NJ TRANSIT operators are physically protected from harm and exposure at the hands of unruly passengers.”

“There have been too many instances where bus and train operators have been assaulted by unruly passengers,” said Senator Robert Singer. “These violent attacks put the lives of the operator and every other passenger at risk. This new law will significantly increase the penalties for these dangerous assaults and help make our transportation systems safer.”

“Transportation workers are far too often subjected to vicious attacks by irate passengers for simply doing their jobs,” said Assemblyman Benson. “This new law will work towards preventing that violence while making it clear these attacks unacceptable. Our bus and rail employees must be protected as they fulfill their critical duties on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of commuters in our state.”

“The hard-working employees on our trains and buses are invaluable to New Jersey’s transportation system and deserve our respect,” said Assemblywoman Lopez. “It is unacceptable that so many of these employees fear for their safety due to the frequency of violent attacks, which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must put safeguards in place to enable a safer working environment going forward.”  

“Since the pandemic, mass transit employees have put their lives on the line while being asked to do more than ever before. We need to do a better job of protecting our front-line mass transit workers while sending a strong message to passengers that assaults will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths. “Upgrading fines and implementing additional safety measures will go a long way toward ensuring a smoother ride for employees and law-abiding passengers alike.”

S4701 requires NJ TRANSIT and motorbus companies to coordinate with law enforcement and transit police to help protect bus operators and rail employees on potentially problematic routes. The bill also requires NJ TRANSIT and motorbus companies to establish an employee assistance program for bus operators and rail employees that have been assaulted and to provide periodic de-escalation to bus operators and rail employees and to make such training available to other transportation operators in the state in order to develop best practices.

“Governor Murphy’s commitment to transportation workers has been highly visible throughout his administration,” said Jerome Johnson, General President and Chairman of SMART-TD Local 60. “I am proud to support legislation that protects the safety and well-being of the hard-working men and women who make our state run.”

“The Amalgamated Transit Union commends Governor Murphy’s unwavering support for our transit workers who are frontline heroes, tasked with the essential job of keeping our state moving. Today’s signing of the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act calls for increased penalties on those who attack transit workers, and will provide critical mental health assistance and support to victims of an attack,” said Ray Greaves, ATU International Vice President. “This is undoubtedly meaningful legislation that will better protect our members and those who ride mass transit. Our thanks and appreciation to Governor Murphy for today’s signing and to all those who worked so hard to make this happen.”

“At NJ TRANSIT, the safety of our employees is of paramount importance and we are pleased that Governor Murphy is signing this important bill into law,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “This legislation is critical to ensuring our frontline employees, many of whom I ride with on my daily commute, are protected while delivering the essential transit services our customers depend on every day.”

“In New Jersey, assaults on NJ Transit workers have increased and become more violent with passengers refusing to follow the federal mask mandate on public transit,” said ATU Chairman, Orlando Riley. Our members are the subject of that abuse, which not only endangers them, but the passengers they’re responsible for. We thank Governor Murphy for recognizing the importance of this legislation to protect our members and the leadership of Assemblyman Daniel Benson, Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, and Assemblyman Harold Wirths in getting this bill to the finish line.”

Juvenile Complaints Filed Against Wall Township High School Students Include Hazing, Criminal Sexual Contact, False Imprisonment, and Harassment

January 10, 2022

FREEHOLD – Juvenile complaints have been filed against a number of Wall Township High School students as the result of two separate investigations conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Monday.    

Juvenile complaints charging hazing, attempted criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, false imprisonment, and harassment were filed against the juvenile defendants following an investigation into a series of incidents that occurred during September and October 2021 in the Wall Township High School football team’s locker room.

Following a separate investigation, unrelated to the hazing investigation, juvenile complaints charging aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault were also filed against one juvenile in connection with alleged conduct that occurred outside of school.

These investigations have been conducted in consultation with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and in strict adherence to OAG Directive No. 2020-12, Establishing Policies, Practices, and Procedures to Promote Juvenile Justice Reform, issued in December 2020.

“The results of our investigations necessitated the filing of juvenile complaints against those involved in order to serve the interests of justice,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said.

Specifically, as it relates to the hazing investigation, Linskey stressed that “it is imperative that victims of hazing, harassment, intimidation, and bullying know that such conduct is not a ‘rite of passage’ and should not be endured without consequence in order to gain acceptance in social, club, sport, or academic settings. We are hopeful that the lessons gleaned from this case foster a renewed focus on actively teaching juveniles in all of our schools what conduct crosses the line of acceptability, and what students must do if they are a bystander or victim of hazing, harassment, intimidation, or bullying.”

While no information is released regarding most juvenile cases, the Prosecutor’s Office is releasing the above information today in response to intense public scrutiny regarding these matters and a high degree of misinformation circulating with regard to them, as well as in order to educate and inform the community regarding the seriousness of such conduct.

No additional information on this matter is being released at this time, and the specific number of juvenile defendants involved is not being disclosed, as the Prosecutor’s Office is seeking to remain in adherence to the confidentiality tenets outlined by the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice. Under state law, the identities of all such juveniles involved are kept strictly confidential, and likewise, Family Court proceedings involving juveniles are closed to the public.  

South Brunswick Man Arrested for Burglary, Possession of CDS, and Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence

January 10, 2022

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–On January 7th at about 9:30 pm, officers responded to Avenue A for a report of a man trying to gain entry to a parked vehicle. The reporting party stated that the man, later identified as Christopher Robinson, 46 years old, from South Brunswick, had pulled up in front of his home, parked blocking his driveway, beeped his horn, and exited his vehicle. Mr. Robinson then walked to the reporting man’s car, which was parked in his driveway, and attempted to enter the car.

When Patrol Officer Bryan Garrison arrived, he located Mr. Robinson still attempting to enter the vehicle. Mr. Robinson made several statements that were rambling and confusing in nature, and would not account for why he was there or why he was trying to enter the vehicle. Mr. Robinson admitted to having consumed alcohol prior to driving to Avenue A.

Patrol Officer First Class Peter Santa placed Mr. Robinson under arrest on suspicion of Attempted Burglary to the motor vehicle and Driving While Under the Influence. On being searched, Mr. Robinson was found to be in possession of 28 Oxycodone tablets. Mr. Robinson was also charged with Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance.

“Mr. Robinson’s actions were erratic, and it was extremely dangerous for him to be operating a motor vehicle in that condition. Luckily, officers were able to arrest him and keep him off the roadways before he hurt someone,” said Chief of Police Raymond J. Hayducka. “We take Driving under the Influence very seriously, and I commend my officers for their actions in keeping the community safe.”

Mr. Robinson was turned over to North Brunswick Police, who had an active warrant for his arrest.

Second Former Inmate Admits Role in Scheme to Use Drones to Smuggle Contraband into Fort Dix Federal Prison

January 10, 2022

NEWARK, N.J. – A Union County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband, including cell phones and tobacco, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Johansel Moronta, 29, of Linden, New Jersey, a former inmate at Fort Dix, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to an information charging him with one count of possessing and obtaining contraband while in prison. Moronta, who had been released from custody several months after the offense occurred and was on federal supervised release thereafter, also pleaded guilty to violating the terms of his supervised release.

Another former federal inmate, Jason Arteaga-Loayza, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the scheme as well as to distributing narcotics and was sentenced in September 2021 to 43 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton. Two other men, Adrian Goolcharran, aka “Adrian Ahoda,” aka “Adrian Ajoda,” aka “Adrian Ajodha,” and Nicolo Denichilo, also have been charged with participating in the scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix prison.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Moronta, an inmate at Fort Dix from April 2018 to March 2019, participated in multiple drone deliveries of contraband into Fort Dix while incarcerated. Between October 2018 and June 2019, Arteaga-Loayza arranged for Goolcharran, with Denichilo’s assistance, to fly drones over Fort Dix and drop packages of contraband into the prison, where Moronta took possession of the contraband and helped sell it to inmates for a profit. The packages that Moronta helped to smuggle in to FCI Fort Dix included cell phones, cell phone accessories, tobacco, weight loss supplements, eyeglasses, and various other items. Moronta, from inside the prison, helped coordinate inmate requests for specific items of contraband and assisted in the collection of payments.

Moronta’s conspirators took various steps to prevent BOP officials from detecting and intercepting the contraband. They planned drone drops during the late evening hours or overnight when it was dark and the drones were less likely to be seen. Goolcharran, the drone pilot, with Denichilo’s assistance, flew the drones from concealed positions in the woods surrounding the prison. The lights on the drones were covered with tape to make it more difficult for prison officials to spot the drones against the dark evening sky.

Moronta and his conspirators used cell phones, including contraband phones concealed within the prison, to coordinate the drone drops. A contraband cell phone used by Moronta while an inmate at Fort Dix contained text messages with Arteaga-Loayza about the collection of profits from the sale of the contraband inside of the prison. In one exchange, for instance, Moronta messaged Arteaga-Loayza about an inmate, “Ok so I am tell him 10 phones and 100 baco [i.e. tobacco] he has to pay 10 bands and 500 on each phone?” Arteaga-Loayza responded, “And well (sic) even give him an ounce of weed tell him.”

Moronta admitted in court that, on Oct. 30, 2018, he received a bag dropped by a drone onto the roof of a housing unit at FCI Fort Dix which contained contraband tobacco, cellphone chargers and charging cables. Prison officials recovered that bag which contained 127 bags of Bugler tobacco, 10 cell phone chargers and 10 USB charging cables. Moronta also admitted to possessing a contraband cell phone on that date, which he had used to coordinate the drone drop.

During a search of Arteaga-Loayza’s residence on June 27, 2019, agents found a kitchen closet containing packages of empty cell phone boxes, including a package with empty cell phone boxes that had been shipped to Arteaga-Loayza the day before the drone drop of Oct. 30, 2018, cell phone chargers, empty boxes of SIM cards, and several cell phones.

Moronta also admitted to physically assaulting his girlfriend in June of 2021 while at a gas station in Fort Lee, after his release from federal prison.

Moronta faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and maximum fine of $100,000 for the plea to possession of contraband while being a federal inmate. Moronta also agreed to a term of imprisonment of 14 months for violating the terms of his supervised release by assaulting his girlfriend, a term which will be served consecutively to whatever term of imprisonment he receives for the contraband charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2022.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited agents of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Cyber Investigations Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Keith A. Bonanno; the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 307, under the direction of Superintendent Nicholas Kaplan; and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Joseph Harris, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

He also thanked Federal Bureau of Prisons personnel at Fort Dix; special agents of the FBI; special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and officers with the Pemberton Borough Police Department; the Pemberton Township Police Department; and Chesterfield Township Police Department, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the criminal complaints issued against the remaining defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defense counsel: Kristen Santillo Esq., New York

Governor Murphy Signs Legislation Requiring Age-Appropriate School Security Drills

January 10, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER) – Governor Phil Murphy today signed legislation (A-5727/S-3726) which requires school security drills to be age-appropriate and to prevent unnecessary traumatization of schoolchildren. Among other requirements, the legislation prohibits the use of fake blood, real or prop firearms, or the simulations of gun shots or explosions in school security drills. The legislation, which Governor Murphy announced his support for last April, will strike an appropriate balance between ensuring that students are informed and ready for threats that schools face in the present day, while being sensitive to the mental health needs of schoolchildren.

“Unfortunately, school security drills are a reality of the environment that our students are living in,” said Governor Murphy. “These necessary exercises are proven to save lives but may also traumatize young children if not conducted in an appropriate manner. This legislation will ensure that school security drills provide students with the information and preparedness that they need to stay safe in emergency situations, while also taking steps to prevent drills from having a harmful impact on the mental health of our schoolchildren.”

“This measure strikes a balance that will continue to ensure students and staff in our schools remain safe and prepared to respond to emergencies, while also aiming to prevent drills from causing undue confusion or alarm,” said Acting Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen McMillan. “We have always maintained the need for schools to provide a balanced, age-appropriate approach to school safety – a point that we have stressed in the numerous training programs and drill observations the Department has conducted, and continues to conduct.” 

“I applaud Governor Murphy and our legislators for their continued dedication to the security of communities, and most importantly, to our children in schools,” said Acting Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Laurie Doran. “As threats continue to evolve, so does the need for our tactics. This bill helps ensure our school security efforts embrace students and families in a way that cultivates a culture of preparedness through continual improvement. Working with our State and local partners, NJOHSP will continue to prioritize the safety and security of schools by providing training, assessments, outreach and other resources to ensure the collective resilience of our school communities.”

Primary sponsors of this legislation include Assemblymembers Pamela Lampitt, Louis Greenwald, and Ralph Caputo, and Senators Loretta Weinberg, and Shirley Turner.

“While it is important to prepare our students for worst-case scenarios, it is just as important to ensure that security drills do not expose them to unnecessary trauma,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt. “Studies show that active shooter drills can cause increases in depression, stress, anxiety and physiological health problems. Our schools must be a place where students feel safe and ready to learn, but security drills that result in student trauma have the opposite effect.”

“Security drills do not have to mimic many students’ biggest fear in order to be effective,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald. “We can make sure our students know what to do during real security events by providing them with proper resources and using less-intense security drills instead of relying on damaging scare tactics.” 

“Being a student is stressful enough without the looming threat of school shootings,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo. “Adding to that with deceptively realistic active-shooter drills and other intense lockdown drills is a disservice to New Jersey’s students. With this law, we can protect our students from unnecessary trauma.”

“When it comes to so-called ‘active-shooter’ drills in our schools, we need to make sure we are consistent in our messaging, so as to make sure students know the difference between a drill and a real-time event,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg. “Our students have enough stress in their lives without adding one more layer of trauma. While we need to prepare our students for the worst, we also need also to continue to address the gun issue directly – especially in regard to ease of accessing firearms and the mental health issues that so often play an underlying role in the nation’s rising epidemic of gun violence.”

“Training students and staff to respond in emergency situations will help save lives, but safety drills that are conducted without warning can add to the fear, stress, and anxiety that students and teachers have about gun situations and other crises in their schools,” said Senator Shirley K. Turner.  “Students and teachers can be prepared and feel safe without making safety drills into traumatic experiences.”

A-5727/S-3726 requires the following guidance and procedures for school districts conducting school security drills when students are present:

  • Drills will include clear, developmentally and age-appropriate messaging to students and staff at the conclusion of the drill that the event is a drill and no current danger exists;
  • Drills cannot include the use of fake blood, real or prop firearms, or the simulations of gun shots, explosions, or other sounds or visuals that may induce panic or a traumatic response from a student or school district employee;
  • Drills must be accessible to students with disabilities and mental health conditions, and provides all necessary accommodations for these students;
  • School districts shall provide written notification to the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the district following completion of a school security drill, which notice shall be provided to the parent or guardian by no later than the end of the school day on which the school security drill is conducted;
  • School districts may permit emergency personnel access to the buildings and grounds of its schools for school security drills that are scheduled outside of school hours and during such times as students are not present;
  • District shall review and update their school security drill procedures using a process that coincides with the review of the school safety and security plan developed pursuant to N.J.A.C.6A:16-5.1 and collects input from emergency personnel, parents and guardians of students enrolled in the district, teachers and staff employed in the district, mental health professionals, and student government representatives from multiple grade levels;
  • School districts will annually track data on such measures and information as are required by the Commissioner of Education, and shall report the data to the commissioner. 

“We have to keep our students safe, and that includes protecting their mental and emotional health,” said NJEA President Sean M. Spiller. “We applaud Gov. Murphy and the Legislature for taking this step to ensure that the safety drills intended to protect students from physical harm are also designed to protect them from unnecessary fear and trauma.”

“This is a historic day. Thanks to Gov. Murphy’s and the New Jersey Legislature’s leadership and foresight, New Jersey is now the first state in the nation to begin addressing the trauma inflicted on our children by active shooter drills,” said Brady Board Chair Kevin Quinn. “This is the result of hard work and advocacy from grassroots activists and expert counsel from clinical social worker and family therapist Nancy Kislin, who has studied and brought awareness to the harm that many active shooter drills cause to our children. Brady is grateful to Ms. Kislin for leading the way on this cause and to Gov. Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature for passing this bill that prioritizes the mental health and well-being of our children.” 

“We applaud Gov. Murphy for taking proactive steps to prioritize student mental health in preventing school shootings and violence in New Jersey,” said Mark Barden, CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “We must do all we can to protect our children from the trauma of a school shooting, beginning with our safety drills.”

Active Shooter Drills have forced millions of young people to become experts in survival but these drills have shown to be traumatizing as well harmful to the mental health of both students and staff,” said Jai B. Patel, March For Our Lives Movement Organizer. “The work of the Murphy Administration and the gun violence prevention movement on A5727 reminds us that a student’s most important lesson should not be how to survive. This is a start to end the generational trauma caused by lockdown drills in New Jersey.” 

“Once again, Governor Murphy continues to put the safety of our children first by signing this critical legislation, ” said Amy Faucher, a volunteer with the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action. “This bill provides necessary, modernized reforms to the way our schools practice active shooter drills, to ensure that they are trauma-informed and age-appropriate for students. We are grateful to Governor Murphy for his leadership and we look forward to supporting further legislative action to reduce gun violence in New Jersey in the 2022 session.”

Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Enshrine Marriage Equality into State Law

January 10, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER) – Governor Murphy today signed into law S3416, which codifies marriage equality in New Jersey law by providing that all laws concerning marriage and civil union are to be read with gender neutral intent. Marriage equality currently exists in New Jersey based on state and federal Court decisions. This new law demonstrates the Governor and Legislature’s commitment to protecting marriage equality by codifying it into New Jersey law. 

“Despite the progress we have made as a country, there is still much work to be done to protect the LGBTQ+ community from intolerance and injustice. New Jersey is stronger and fairer when every member of our LGBTQ+ family is valued and given equal protection under the law,” said Governor Murphy. “I am honored to sign legislation that represents our New Jersey values and codifies marriage equality into state law.”

Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Steve Sweeney, Loretta Weinberg, and Vin Gopal, and Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila M. Jasey, Annette Quijano, Andrew Zwicker, and Joann Downey.  

“This is about acting to ensure equal treatment and civil rights for all New Jerseyans, including same-sex couples,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Marriage equality respects the rights of loving couples who deserve to be treated equally. The courts have ruled that same-sex marriages are a fundamental right, but we want to put it into statute to protect against any backtracking by the U. S. Supreme Court.  It is the right thing to do.”

 “Devoted same-sex couples all across New Jersey are raising families as contributing members of their communities,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “We fought to correct the injustice that denied these rights for too many loving couples for far too long. We don’t want to see those rights lost to an arch-conservative agenda of recent Supreme Court appointees.”

 “Basic equal rights should not be denied to any class of citizen, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “The law must protect all civil rights and continue to honor the union between two people who love each other. We need to make these rights more secure by writing them into law.”

“In 2012, I was proud to be a prime sponsor of New Jersey’s Marriage Equality Act. Following Governor Christie’s veto, advocates continued the fight to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where they were finally successful in legalizing same-sex marriage,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “I am proud to once again have led the charge to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ community are safeguarded.”

“As Justice Kennedy so eloquently observed in Obergefell, ‘No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. “Today, we recommit to guaranteeing that one of ‘civilization’s oldest institutions’ is forever enshrined in statute for all who desire to embark upon the commitment above all others.”

“Today we take action with this new law in order to preserve marriage equality in New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “We remain committed to our friends in the Garden State’s LGBTQ community and do all we can to ensure same-sex couples have equal rights under the law which includes marriage.”

“In 2013, I was ecstatic and grateful that the Court ruled that New Jersey must recognize same-sex marriage,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker. “Today, I am proud to stand in solidarity with everyone who fought the good fight for a right that couples should have always had: the right for someone to marry who they love. It is important for State law to forever enshrine the legality of marriage equality.”

“This new law is just one more step to show we continue to stand strong against discrimination and prejudice, and we seek to create a New Jersey that is inclusive and unified for all people,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey.

This legislation brings New Jersey statutory law into conformance with the 2013 decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow as well as the 2015 United Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right and that all states are required to allow same-sex couples to marry. Enacting S3416 into law ensures that the right to same-sex marriage will continue to exist in New Jersey even if these state and federal court precedents were to be overturned.  

“How the world has changed since last time the legislature passed marriage equality in 2012. This time we have a Governor who is a champion of civil and human rights second to none,” said Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality. “I am also thrilled this new statue marks the final law steered to passage by our equality legend Senator Loretta Weinberg. What a fitting, crowning legacy.”

“Securing marriage equality in New Jersey for committed same-sex couples and their families has literally been a labor of love at Garden State Equality for nearly two decades,” said Thomas Prol, a founding and current Garden State Equality executive committee member and co-author of the legislation. “We are grateful to the Governor and the legislative leadership for helping us protect these vital rights from the national onslaught being leveled against the LGBTQ community every day. Our community can now sleep tight knowing that their relationships are cemented in New Jersey’s statutory law books.”

“Twelve years ago, the Senate failed to pass marriage equality and then Senate President Dick Codey predicted that one day they would all look back and say, ‘what were we thinking?’ As one of the first couples to be married when marriage equality was established, our gratitude goes to all who saw this as a civil rights issue then and continued the fight to bring us to this day, especially Senators Loretta Weinberg and Raymond Lesniak,” said Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin. “Special thanks to Governor Phil Murphy for keeping his promise to move New Jersey forward and codifying the right for all New Jerseyans to marry the one they love into law.”

AG’s Office Investigating Fatal Police-Involved Shooting in Hillsborough

January 10, 2022

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ — The Attorney General’s Office is conducting an investigation of a police-involved shooting that occurred last evening, Jan. 9, in Hillsborough, N.J. One male civilian sustained fatal injuries. His identity is not being released at this time. No one else was injured.

According to the preliminary investigation, the shooting occurred at approximately 6:26 p.m. inside an apartment on Corporal Langon Way in Hillsborough. Officers of the Hillsborough Police Department were dispatched to the residence in response to a 911 call. After officers arrived, they encountered a male resident inside the apartment. During the encounter, one officer discharged his service weapon, fatally wounding the man. Officers and emergency medical personnel rendered first aid to the man, and he was pronounced deceased at the scene at 6:51 p.m.

This investigation is being conducted pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, which implements the statutory requirement that the Attorney General’s Office conduct the investigation of any death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody, and which establishes clear standards and procedures for conducting such investigations.

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

Newark Liberty #9 and Atlantic City #10 Airports Make TSA’s Top 10 List of Most Unusual Items Found Nationwide at Checkpoints

January 10, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Atlantic City Internation Airport (ACY) made it into the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) list of Top 10 List of most unusual items found nationwide at security checkpoints in 2021. TSA released the list in an on-line video it posted on the agency’s Twitter account.

What was the item from the airport that ranked as #9 on the Top 10 List? Read on . . .

On August 21, 2021, the TSA officers at EWR detected a long-barreled revolver with a wooden grip that looked very much like an antique pistol. It was the type of handgun that you might have seen pulled during one of several movie shootouts in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” or “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” 

Of course, guns are not permitted to be carried through an airport security checkpoint.

#10 on the list was bullets found in deodorant at Atlantic City Internation Airport (ACY).

Farmingdale Woman Charged with Stealing $2.2 Million from Tinton Falls Construction Company

January 10, 2022

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)The office manager of a Tinton Falls-based construction company has been criminally charged with swindling her employer out of more than $2.2 million over the course of seven years, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Monday.  

Donna Cook, 52, of Farmingdale is charged with second-degree Theft, third-degree Forgery, and third-degree False Uttering.

An investigation initiated by the Tinton Falls Police Department that ultimately grew to also involve members of the MCPO Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau was launched several months ago, and it soon determined that starting in 2015 and continuing into 2021, Cook allegedly stole company funds by writing herself unauthorized checks.

The investigation further determined that Cook had allegedly forged the signature of a company principal for the unauthorized checks, some of which were made payable to cash. The total yearly payouts ranged in value from a little more than $75,000 to nearly $475,000, and were used by Cook for personal expenses.    

Cook was served with the charges via summons late last week and released on her own recognizance pending a first appearance to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court on Tuesday, February 15. The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Anastos. Attorney information for Cook was not immediately available. 

If convicted on the second-degree offense, Cook would face up to 10 years in state prison. Despite the aforementioned pending charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Truck Overturns on I-195 in Hamilton Township

January 9, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Around 10:25 a.m. the NJ State Police, Hamilton Township Fire Department, RWJ EMS and Captial Health Paramedics responded to I-195 West Bound in the area of mile post 3.2 for an overturned truck with reported entrapment. Upon the fire department’s arrival, it was determined that the was no entrapment. It was unclear if anyone was transported to the hospital from the scene. Haines Towing from Bordentown was removing the vehicle from the right shoulder. The New Jersey State Police is investigating the crash. No other information is available at this time.

Hamilton, NJ, Man, 36, Charged with Multiple Counts of Sexual Assault, Sexual Contact, Robbery, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon

January 9, 2022

PARSIPPANY, NJ (MORRIS)–Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll, Chief of Detectives Christoph Kimker, and Parsippany Police Department Acting Chief Richard Pantina, announce the arrest of Earl L. Kelly, age 36, of Hamilton, N.J.  

Kelly has been charged with four counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(3) and N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(4), crimes of the First Degree; two counts of Sexual Assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2c(1) crimes of the Second Degree; two counts of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3a, crimes of the Third Degree; one count of Criminal Sexual Contact, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3b, a crime of the Fourth Degree; one count of Robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1a(2), a crime of the First Degree; one count of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b, a crime of the Second Degree; Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a, a crime of the Second Degree; Aggravated Assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(4), a crime of the Fourth Degree; and Criminal Restraint in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2a, a crime of the Third Degree. 

It is alleged that on December 24, 2021, the defendant sexually assaulted and robbed a 19-year-old victim while armed with a handgun at the Holiday Inn in Parsippany. Following an investigation, the defendant was apprehended by members of the Edison Police Department on January 7, 2022.

After the defendant’s arrest, he was transported to the Morris County Correctional Facility.

Anyone with information relating to this case or any related incident is asked to call Detective Thomas Laird of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office at 973-285-6245.

Prosecutor Carroll would like to thank the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office’s Sex Crimes/Child Endangerment Unit, the Parsippany Police Department, the Hamilton Township Police Division, and the Edison Police Department for their efforts in the investigation and arrest of this defendant.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. Despite this accusation, the defendant is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Point Pleasant Beach Man Pleads Guilty to Terroristic Threats and Arson

January 7, 2022

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on January 7, 2022, Shaun Giberson, 40, of Point Pleasant Beach, pled guilty before the Honorable Michael T. Collins, J.S.C., to Terroristic Threats in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3a, relative to threats made in Point Pleasant Borough on March 17, 2021.  Giberson also pled guilty to Arson in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1b(1), in connection with an unrelated incident that occurred in Manchester Township on August 18, 2020.  At the time of his sentencing on February 25, 2022, the State will be seeking a term of five years New Jersey State Prison as to each offense.  The sentences are to run concurrently.  

On March 18, 2021, the Point Pleasant Borough Police Department received a report that an anonymous caller had left threatening voicemail messages at both Point Pleasant Borough High School and the Nellie Bennett Elementary School.  A subsequent investigation conducted by the Point Pleasant Borough Police Department revealed that Giberson was the individual responsible for leaving the threatening messages.  On March 18, 2021, Giberson was apprehended by Officers from the Point Pleasant Borough Police Department; he has been lodged in the Ocean County Jail since that date.

On August 18, 2020, Officers of the Manchester Township Police Department were summoned to a local group home in reference to a backpack having been set on fire at the home.  The Officers subsequently determined that Giberson – a resident of the group home at the time – intentionally lit the backpack on fire.  He was taken into custody, processed, and released on a summons.

Prosecutor Billhimer commends Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco who is handling the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Point Pleasant Borough Police Department and Manchester Township Police Department, for their diligent efforts in connection with these separate investigations, leading to Giberson’s apprehension, guilty pleas, and soon his state prison sentence.

Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Concludes That Use of Force was Justified in September 29, 2019 Non-Fatal Police Shooting in Trenton

January 7, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) has completed its investigation into the September 29, 2019 use of force by a detective of the Trenton Police Department, and has concluded that the use of force was legally justified.  The MCPO determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to the Grand Jury because there were no material facts in dispute regarding the lawfulness of the use of force.  The investigation was conducted in accordance with the then applicable Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directives (July 28, 2015 Attorney General Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police Use of Force Investigations and the Independent Prosecutor Directive 2019-4) [1](“Directives”).  Pursuant to the Directive, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an independent review of the use of force and agreed with MCPO’s determination that there were no material facts in dispute and that the use of force by the officer was justified.  The Attorney General’s Office concurred with MCPO’s conclusion to forego presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury. The incident occurred on September 29, 2019, at approximately 4:03 p.m., at 1901 Calhoun Street in Trenton (Valcar Auto Sales). Trenton Police Department Communications received an activation of six gunfire rounds through ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection and location technology providing scalable and reliable gunfire alert and analysis.  It was learned that this was an officer-involved shooting involving a suspect,

later identified as Joseph Reeves, who was shot in the head, upper body, and mid body by a Trenton Police detective and emergency medical services responded to the scene and located Reeves, who was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery.  At approximately 4:10 p.m., the Mercer County Homicide Task Force was activated to investigate.  The investigation, including statements of three officers and one civilian witness, and physical evidence revealed the following:

The detective was scheduled to work his shift on September 29, 2019 from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. the following day.  The detective left the roll-call briefing dressed in a black Trenton Police “SWAT” sweatshirt and green cargo style pants.

            While leaving Trenton Police Headquarters, the detective turned on his department-issued police radio and learned that a shooting had just occurred in the area of East Hanover and North Montgomery Streets.  There was a broadcast that the suspect vehicle was possibly a silver Ford Fusion with damage to the rear/trunk area.  The detective left Headquarters and drove toward a location he believed the suspect would flee from East Hanover Street.  While stopped at a red light at Calhoun and Southard Streets, the detective observed a silver Kia Optima sedan traveling on Calhoun Street toward Princeton Avenue/Route 206.  The detective observed that the rear driver’s side window was “blown out,” as if the result of gunfire.  The detective also observed a large dent to the rear/trunk area of the vehicle.  He broadcasted his observations to the other detectives via Trenton Police Communications. The detective further advised that the vehicle’s make and model were somewhat different than the original description; however, the vehicles are similar in appearance.

            The detective followed the silver Kia Optima on Calhoun Street toward West Miller Street.  Once the vehicle arrived in this area, the Kia made an abrupt left into the parking lot at 1901 Calhoun Street (Valcar Auto Sales).  While waiting for backup, the detective observed the suspect vehicle enter the back corner of the gravel/dirt parking lot.  As the Kia remained in the rear of the lot, the detective decided to make contact.

The detective drove his vehicle into the parking lot area of 1901 Calhoun Street and parked roughly seven to ten yards behind the Kia.  The detective exited his vehicle, un-holstered his department-issued Glock .40 caliber handgun, identified himself as a police officer, and gave verbal commands to the Kia’s driver to stay here he was.  The driver, later identified as Joseph Reeves, looked over his shoulder and made eye contact with the detective.  Reeves then put the Kia in reverse and drove backwards toward the detective, who took cover behind his vehicle as Reeves crashed the Kia into the side of the detective’s vehicle.  Reeves then placed the Kia in drive and pulled away, passing in front of the detective.  While doing so, Reeves raised a “shiny” silver handgun and pointed it in the detective’s direction.  In response to having the gun pointed at him, the detective fired his department-issued duty weapon at Reeves, striking him and the Kia several times.  Reeves crashed into an unoccupied parked SUV inside the parking lot of 1901 Calhoun Street.

            The detective approached the Kia on the driver’s side.  He observed Reeves open the door and exit the vehicle with his hands raised.  Reeves stated, “You shot me,”   and immediately dropped to his knees and kept his hands in the air.  The detective approached Reeves and handcuffed him.  Within minutes, backup officers arrived and radioed for medical assistance and additional officers.  While securing the scene, officers observed and recovered a large silver revolver on the driver’s side floorboard of the Kia.

A civilian witness confirmed that he observed a police officer exit his vehicle and order the occupant of another vehicle out of the car.

In conformance with Trenton Police Department policy, a blood draw was taken from the detective.  Laboratory analysis of all of the blood samples yielded negative findings for either ethyl alcohol or any impairing drugs at the time of this incident.

            As a result of the investigation, Joseph Reeves was indicted for this incident as well as the incident at East Hanover and North Montgomery streets, which occurred prior to this encounter.  He was charged with first- and second- degree weapons and assault offenses.  On November 12, 2021, Reeves, pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree aggravated assault.  He stated on the record that he pointed a revolver at Det. Mancheno under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.  Reeves is scheduled to be sentenced on January 14, 2022.

Applying the Directives to the undisputed material facts outlined above, the use of force by the detective was legally justified. Under the Attorney General’s Use of Force Guidelines (Rev. June 2000), an officer may use deadly force when he or she reasonably believes it is “immediately necessary to protect the officer . . . from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.”  Sec. I.B.1.  The New Jersey Criminal Code also justifies the use of deadly force in self-defense where “the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily harm.”  N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4b(2).  The law defines a “reasonable belief” as one which would be held by a person of ordinary prudence and intelligence situated as the actor was situated. 

The detective believed that discharging his weapon was necessary for the protection his life. An independent analysis of the undisputed material facts led to the determination that the belief of the detective was reasonable, and the use of force in this matter was justified pursuant to all applicable laws and the Attorney General Guidelines. This statement was prepared and disseminated to the public in accordance with §8 of the Directive.

[1] Because this incident involved a non-fatal injury, presentation to the grand jury was not required under Senate Bill 1036, which modified N.J. Statutes 52:17B-107, and requires the Attorney General to conduct investigations of fatal police encounters and present the them to the Grand Jury

Governor Murphy Announces New Jersey National Guard Deployment to Assist Long-Term Care Facilities 

January 7, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Murphy today announced that the New Jersey National Guard will be deploying to long-term care facilities throughout New Jersey to assist with COVID-19 response efforts and to augment facilities’ staffing. This is an extension of Joint Task Force COVID Guardian, which has provided coordinated assistance to numerous long-term care facilities since the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Time and time again, the New Jersey National Guard has stepped up to the plate throughout this pandemic,” said Governor Murphy. “This deployment will send members of our National Guard to long-term care facilities with staffing needs and will act to protect the health and safety of long-term-care residents while the Omicron variant surges throughout the nation. 

“COVID-19 is still a threat to our New Jersey communities,” said Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Commissioner Brig. Gen. Lisa Hou, D.O. “The Soldiers and Airmen of the New Jersey National Guard are working hard every day to protect public health.”

“We are grateful to the National Guard for their assistance in caring for the residents of those facilities most in need,” said Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Throughout this pandemic, protecting our most vulnerable residents has been paramount. As we have seen in the community, COVID-19 cases and outbreaks have been rising for several weeks in our long-term care facilities. We continue to work closely with long-term care facilities throughout the state to ensure that they have the staff they need.”

Approximately 150 Soldiers and Airmen of the New Jersey National Guard are preparing to support staffing requirements of more than a dozen long-term care facilities around the state. Guard members will assist regular staff with a variety of tasks, including administrative and logistical support. Members are undergoing training and work is anticipated to start at their assigned locations on Monday, January 10, 2022.

Tasks that National Guard members will assist with will include:

  • Assist residents with getting from bed to chair, walking
  • Assistance in dressing and daily hygiene activities
  • Meal set-up and feeding
  • Routine assistance
  • Testing and screening staff, residents, and visitors’

2022 Robbinsville Township Council Reorganization Meeting

January 7, 2022

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Deborah Blakely took the oath of office for the four-year Council seat she captured in the November 2, 2021 election at last night’s Robbinsville Township Council Reorganization Meeting.

Dave Fried was elected to another four-year term as mayor in November with a record 4,267 votes and will be sworn-in on January 27.

Ms. Blakely received the most votes of any Council candidate with 3,157 votes and was elected Council vice president by her peers. She also chaired the January 6 meeting.

Mike Cipriano was sworn-in by Municipal Clerk Michele Seigfried via telephone on January 5, but participated remotely. Mr. Cipriano was re-elected Council president.

The 2022 Robbinsville Township Council is comprised of Mr. Cipriano, Ms. Blakely, Ron Witt, Chris Ciaccio and Michael Todd, who secured the two-year unexpired term vacated by Dan Schuberth last year. Mr. Todd took his oath in December.

Police Chief Michael Polaski took his ceremonial oath after officially being sworn-in on December 29, just prior to the retirement of former chief Chris Nitti, who retired after 28 years with the department.

In addition, Business Administrator Joy Tozzi, Township attorney Bruce Darvas, Director of Community Development Paul Renaud and Director of Public Works Chris Rupp all were reappointed to their current positions, serving at the pleasure of the mayor.

Mr. Fried became the first Robbinsville mayor directly elected by the voters and was sworn-in on July 1, 2005 by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

Mayor Fried was re-elected in 2009 by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 over former Councilwoman Sonja Walter, then elected to his third term with a convincing victory over former Councilman David Boyne in November, 2013. He defeated Walter again in 2017 with 71 percent of the vote before running unopposed in 2021. His current term expires on December 31, 2025.

Chief Polaski, 46, grew up in Lacey Township, where he began his law enforcement career as a Special Officer in 1994.

“I am humbled and honored by this opportunity,” Chief Polaski said. “I appreciate Mayor Fried, Administrator (Joy) Tozzi and the rest of the selection panel for having the faith in me to lead this great department. Like every other man and woman on the force, I come to work every day to serve and protect the residents of Robbinsville, and I look forward to doing so in my role as Chief.”

Coast Guard Medevacs Mariner near Manasquan, New Jersey

January 7, 2022

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The Coast Guard medevaced a mariner Thursday night January 6, 2022 approximately 11 miles east of Manasquan. 

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay received a call from the captain of the vessel Peter Farber that a crewmember aboard was experiencing abdominal pains and needed medical assistance. 

A Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew was launched to medevac the crewmember.

The aircrew arrived on scene, hoisted the crewmember, and transported him to the Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey. 

Two Trenton Males Arrested for Armed Robbery and Ghost Guns in Hamilton

January 7, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–On November 19, 2021, Hamilton Police were detailed to the first block of Peabody Lane, on an armed robbery investigation involving two male suspects. The suspects were allegedly selling a PlayStation 5 gaming system off of an advertisement on Facebook Market Place.  During the sale, both of the suspects brandished handguns and fled the scene with the money and the gaming system. 

Hamilton Detective Nicholas Schulte, and Hamilton Police Officer Matthew Mayhew, developed two suspects as they followed up with the sales correspondence between the buyer and seller from the Facebook advertisement.  The two involved Trenton suspects were identified as Hassani Webb ( 18yrs), and Nestor Rivera (18yrs).  Detective Schulte was advised by Trenton Detectives that both suspects were also involved in similar robberies in their jurisdiction. 

On December 21, 2021, Hamilton Police detectives along with the New Jersey State Police Crime Suppression Central Unit,  US Marshals, Trenton Police and the Mercer County SWAT Team, executed search warrants on the 600 block of W. State Street and the first block of Murry Street for both suspects.  Both Hassani Webb and Nestor Rivera were arrested at those locations.

During the execution of the search warrants, detectives recovered (4) “Ghost “ guns in Webbs’ residence and (1) “Ghost” gun in Riveras’ residence, along with several high capacity extended magazines.  The “Ghost” guns recovered were manufactured firearms with no serial numbers.  Subsequently, Hassani Webb and Nestor Rivera were charged with Robbery, Weapons Offenses, Possession of Weapon Parts, and Certain Persons not to Possess Weapons.    

Hamilton Police detectives are asking if anyone has additional information regarding any similar incidents possibly involving these two suspects, are asked to contact Detective Nicholas Schulte of the Criminal Investigations Section at (609) 689-5825 or via email at nschulte@hamiltonpd.org or the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at (609) 581-4008. 

Every defendant is presumed innocent until being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

Multi-Vehicle Crash in Robbinsville Sends One to Hospital

January 6, 2022

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–About 9:22 p.m. Robbinsville Township Police received multiple 9-1-1 calls reporting multiple vehicles in an accident on Route 130 South Bound at Robbinsville Allentown Road. Robbinsville Police, Robbinsville Fire Department and EMS responded to the scene. There was a report of one injury that was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton. Three vehicles were towed from the scene, and it was unclear if others were involved in the crash. The left-hand turn lanes on both the north and south bound sides were closed for a brief time while the accident was cleaned up. The Robbinsville Township Police Department is investigating the crash. No other information is available at this time.

USMC AH-1 Helicopter Makes Hard Landing in Wrightstown; Two Marines in Stable Condition

January 6, 2022

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – A Marine Corps AH-1 incident occurred approximately at 3:30 p.m. today in Wrightstown, N.J. according to the Joint Base MDL Public Affairs Office.

Local fire departments as well as Airport Rescue Firefighters from the US Air Force responded to the area of 500 Block of East Main Street in Wrightstown for what appeared to be a hard landing. East Main was closed from Fort Dix Street-Sykesville Road to McGuire Boulevard.

Joint Base Officials stated two personnel were on board and were transferred to nearby medical facilities. Their condition is stable.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

Trenton Preparing for Overnight Storm that Could Bring up to Six Inches of Snow

For a List of Emergency Snow Routes and Alternative Parking Locations, Visit www.trentonnj.org/snow

January 6, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor W. Reed Gusciora today asked residents to sign up for alerts and prepare for an approaching winter storm system that could bring three to six inches of snow from Thursday evening through Friday morning.

Department of Public Works vehicles have been applying brine on main roads since 8:00 a.m. The City will commence plowing operations when snowfall reaches four inches. Trenton residents are required to move their vehicles from snow-emergency routes as required by City Ordinance 14-2.10.

Alternative parking is available at public school parking lots for the duration of the storm. For a list of snow routes and available parking lots, visit www.trentonnj.org/snow.

Residents should sign up for the City’s Emergency Broadcast System to receive updates on when to move their cars to alternative parking lots, when to return them to the street and if trash collection will be cancelled, among other important information:

  • To receive text alerts, text ‘Trenton411’ to 99411.
  • To receive voice message alerts, sign up at trentonnj.org/reverse911.

While the city will send robocalls and text alerts before plowing begins, residents are encouraged to move their vehicles off snow routes before it starts snowing.

Starting at 6:00 p.m. TPD patrol officers will begin driving through neighborhoods and using their public address systems to remind residents to move their vehicles before plowing begins.

Residents who do not comply will have their vehicles towed at their expense. Residents whose vehicles are towed can contact the Trenton Police Department non-emergency telephone number at (609) 989-4170.

  • Single individuals can go to the Rescue Mission on 89 Ewing Street, which can be reached at (609) 695-1436.
  • Starting at 8:00 p.m. tonight, families that need a warming center can go to the Jennye Stubblefield Center on 301 Prospect St or the Sam Naples Senior Center on 611 Chestnut Ave. Transportation can be arranged if necessary by calling 609-989-3462.

The City also reminds residents to keep the following numbers nearby during the storm:

  • Tenants who have no heat and cannot reach their landlord should call (609) 989-3560 and leave a message. An inspector from the City’s Department of Inspections will return their call.
  • Residents that need emergency assistance should dial 911. Residents that need non-emergency assistance, can reach the Trenton Police Department at (609) 989-4170.
  • Power outages should be reported to PSE&G at 1-(800) 436-PSEG.

Downed trees, flooding, and other weather-related damage should be reported to the Office of Emergency Management at (609) 989-4200.