Monday, January 27, 2014

South Jersey Mayor gives statement that results in harassment charge against his uncle.

Update:  The February 11, 2014 hearing has been adjourned to February 25, 2014, 3 p.m. at the Woolwich Joint Municipal Court at 120 Village Green Dr, Woolwich, New Jersey
 On October 8, 2013, Judson Moore, Jr., who was then campaigning for a seat on the three-member Commercial Township (Cumberland County) Committee (and who presently serves as the Township's Mayor), gave a taped statement to the New Jersey State Police that led to Moore's uncle, Benjamin Moore, being charged with harassment.

Harassment, which is prohibited by N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (a copy of the harassment statute is on-line here), makes it a petty disorderly persons offense to, with a purpose to harass, communicate with another "anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm." The harassment statute also prohibits "striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching" and "engag[ing] in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person."  Conviction of a petty disorderly persons offense subjects an offender to a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.

According to the police report (which, along with the summons, is on-line here), Benjamin Moore, age 75, admitted to sending an envelope to Franklin Township (Gloucester County) Mayor Marge Pfrommer which contained newspaper clippings, vouchers and other records that were critical of Judson Moore, who then served as Franklin Township's Chief Financial Officer and Administrator.  The envelope was given to State Police by Franklin Police Chief Michael Rock who asked that it be investigated "as a harassment complaint."

After learning about the summons, I submitted an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request to Franklin Township for a copy of the entire contents of the envelope. Due to the size of the resulting file, I have broken it up into two segments, and have placed them on-line here and here.

In my personal opinion, nothing contained in the envelope is especially bothersome.  According to the police report, the most document that appeared to both Judson Moore the most "was a specific photo of a bank that was closed down in Commercial Township."  The photo, which I have separately placed on-line here, shows a sign that says "Thanks Mayor and Judd More for Closing the Bank." 

While the New Jersey Supreme Court has held that single anonymous communication does not have to constitute a serious annoyance, but only a regular annoyance, to constitute an offense, the court also observed that "some people may attempt to use the process as a sword rather than as a shield."  State v. Hoffman, 149. N.J. 564, 583 (1997).  Is this a case where Mayor Judson Moore is truly a victim or one in which Benjamin Moore is being retaliated against for criticizing a political figure?  I believe that posting the entire contents of the envelope on-line will help members of the public draw their own conclusions as to the legitimacy of harassment charge against Moore.

The case, which bears Summons No. 0805-SC-009246, has been transferred out of Franklin Township to the Woolwich Joint Municipal Court at 120 Village Green Dr, Woolwich, New Jersey and will be heard on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3 p.m.  Moore is being represented by Brock D. Russell of Millville.  Anyone wishing to attend should call Court Administrator Angela Kalnas at 856-467-1555 ext: 2100 the morning of the hearing to make sure that it hasn't been postponed.