Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Camden Corrections sergeant indicted for sex assault against female officer, pled guilty to petty disorderly persons offense and retained $43,250 annual pension.

According to an undated Camden County indictment that appears to have been handed down in 2017, a sergeant with the Camden County Department of Corrections was charged with Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Contact and Second Degree Official Misconduct for "committing an act of sexual contact upon another Camden County Corrections Officer . . . while on duty, specifically by touching [her] vagina over her clothing."  The incident occurred on October 5, 2016 and the female officer, identified in the indictment only by her initials, was 23 years old at the time.

On January 3, 2017, police filed another complaint against the sergeant, identified in the indictment as Joseph N. Antrilli, charging him with the petty disorderly persons offense of harassment.  According to the second page of the harassment complaint, Camden County Superior Court Judge Kathleen M. Delaney accepted Antrilli's guilty plea to the harassment charge on July 24, 2017 and assessed a fine of zero dollars plus $164 in court costs and mandatory assessments.  Judge Delaney also dismissed the indictment, ordered Antrilli to have no contact with the victim and required Antrilli to forfeit his employment with the Camden County Department of Corrections and forever disqualified him "from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit" in New Jersey or any of its administrative or political subdivisions.

Finally, Judge Delaney sentenced Antrilli to a one-year term of probation but ruled that "probation may terminate" upon Antrilli's payment of the $164 assessment.  In an August 8, 2018 Open Public Records Act (OPRA) response, the Camden County Prosecutor's office claimed that it had no records on file indicating whether or not Antrilli received an early discharge from his probation.

Antrilli's offense came to the attention of the Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS) and was considered by the pension board at its March 12, 2018 meeting.  According to the minutes of that meeting, Antrilli's "misconduct was directly related to his duties as a County Sergeant and his misconduct reflected a high degree of moral turpitude."  The pension board ultimately imposed a partial forfeiture of his service time but still left him with 20 years of honorable service which entitled him to a service retirement pension.  A subsequent OPRA request to the pension board disclosed that Antrilli is currently receiving a monthly pension of $3,604.77 which calculates to $43,257.24 per year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Arbitrator awards Penns Grove patrolman $131K

A July 16, 2018 order signed by Salem County Superior Court Judge Jean S. Chetney affirmed an arbitrator's May 9, 2018 award of $120,000 plus $11,169.99 in interest in favor of a Penns Grove patrolman, but a deficiency notice issued by the court complains that Judge Chetney's order is deficient because it "does not state as to whom the Judgment is entered against."

The award arose out of a 2016 lawsuit filed by Patrolman George Manganaro against the Borough of Penns Grove, the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District, Mayor John A. Washington, fromer Board of Education member Walter Hudson and former Council member Jeanette R. Jackson.  In his lawsuit, Manganaro claimed that Hudson, Jackson and Washington "attacked and assaulted" him at Penns Grove Middle School on July 10, 2014.  According to a July 13, 2015 news article, Manganaro was at a middle school basketball game to investigate underage drinking when Hudson allegedly confronted him and twice threw him to the floor of the gym.  According to the article, Hudson was sentenced to three years probation as a result of a plea deal that resolved the charges brought against him.

The arbitrator's handwritten report noted that "Walter Hudson, individually" is 100% liable for the "pain and suffering" that Manganaro claimed to have experienced.    Also, a series of summary judgment orders show that the borough, the school district, Washington and Jackson were dismissed from the suit and that all counter-claims and cross-claims against Manganaro were also dismissed.  Accordingly, it appears that Hudson is the only party against whom judgment could have been entered.

The arbitrator's report also noted that the $120,000 award "includes repayment of WC (workers compensation) lien of $48,500."

As a separate matter, according to a November 29, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer article, Manganaro was suspended from the department after having been charged with aggravated assault for allegedly “kicking an individual in the face while handcuffed.” 

New Jersey Appeals Court: FERPA allows police to get a student's parent's identifying information from school records without a warrant or parental consent.

Police asked a woman for the name of her children's father who police suspected was a burglar.  The woman refused to divulge father's identity but detectives, during questioning, noticed a young child in the woman's household.  Detectives then canvassed local schools and a school principal, who knew the child and the mother, consulted school records and gave detectives the father's identity.  Police, who arrested the father shortly thereafter, had neither a warrant nor either parent's consent to obtain the father's identity from the school's records.

The father moved to suppress, arguing that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his personally identifiable information contained in his child's records based on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the New Jersey Pupil Records Act (NJPRA).  The trial court disagreed and in today's unpublished decision in State v. J.S.G., Docket No. A-4665-14T4, a three-judge Appellate Division panel affirmed. 

First, the panel held that the father's name was not "directory information" (which is excluded from FERPA's protections) and held that parental consent was required before the disclosure of father's name under FERPA.  The panel, however, held that FERPA is merely a funding statute with no mechanism to enforce an improper disclosure.  Since a person has no enforceable rights under FERPA, the panel reasoned that "it logically follows that a person would also have no enforceable Fourth Amendment right for a school's improper disclosure of the name of a student's parent contained school records."

Under the NJPRA, the panel found that the father's identity was similar enough to the type of information contained within the school's "student information directory." "We conclude that the NJPRA does not create an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in student records recognized by the Fourth Amendment or Article 1, paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution. Accordingly, defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his children's school records, including the paternity information contained therein, and was not entitled to suppression of his name," the panel wrote.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Judge orders NJ municipality to pay for employee's medical marijuana.

Citing a need to stop "killing people" by forcing injured people to take opioids for their pain, a New Jersey Workers' Compensation Judge ordered Freehold Township (Monmouth County) to pay for a municipal employee's medical marijuana.

According to a transcript of a June 28, 2018 hearing before Workers' Compensation Judge Lionel Simon, Freehold Township employee Steven McNeary filed an application to compel the Township to pay for medical marijuana used to treat his muscular spasticity.   Both the Township's and its insurer's attorneys, James Supple and Christine Shea, respectively, agreed that McNeary had fully complied with the state's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and was eligible to receive medical marijuana.

At issue was whether marijuana' illegality under the federal Controlled Substance Act precluded Judge Simon from using New Jersey's Medical Marijuana Act as a predicate for compelling Freehold to pay for McNeary's medical marijuana.  During the hearing, Judge Simon referred to the Maine Supreme Court's June 14, 2018 ruling in Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., Docket No. WCB-16-433 (2018 WL 2976309) which held, in a 5 to 2 decision, that federal law controlled and that any employer who paid for an employee's medical marijuana would be "aiding and abetting" a violation of federal law.

Accordingly, the Maine court ruled that Maine's Medical Use of Marijuana Act "cannot create a state right to commit a federal crime" and therefore cannot compel an employer to pay for an employee's medical marijuana.  McNeary's attorney, Leonard D. Weiss of Metuchen, argued that New Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act provides that "[s]tates are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law; therefore, compliance with this act does not put the State of New Jersey in violation of federal law."  Judge Simon rejected Weiss' argument, stating that "I don't buy that argument. . . I don't think that any New Jersey statute can say that [it] supersedes federal law."

Judge Simon, a former prosecutor, stated that while he is in full support of federal and state narcotics laws he didn't believe "in [his] heart of hearts" that an employer or its insurer who reimburses an employee for medical marijuana "is in any way complicit with the distribution of illicit narcotics."  Judge Simon also noted that McNeary had "a documented medical need" for medical marijuana and expressed concern that he might become addicted to opioids if he did not received medical marijuana. "Quite frankly, this Court is very aware of the . . . the explosion of these narcotics on the streets in the United States in the last decade, the tremendous amounts of death and addiction that are associated with these opioids. If there's anything criminal here, it's how these drugs have been force fed to injured people creating addicts."

Judge Simon went on to state that "I believe, and I think the science supports this, is that medical marijuana is safer, it's less addictive, it is better for the treatment of pain. It is better for, in this particular case, the muscular spasticity which Mr. McNeary suffers from. The long-term prognosis is better and, quite frankly, it is cheaper for the carriers. I think it's the right thing to do and I feel no moral or legal hesitancy in that."

Judge Simon said that he would "welcome" New Jersey's Appellate Division or Supreme Court to weigh in on this issue and recognized that he would be bound by those higher courts' rulings.  "I simply think it's the right thing to do. And, again, I welcome a reviewing court to tell me I'm right or I'm wrong," he stated.  In the meantime, however, he believed that "it's time for us, as the Division, of Compensation, to try to get away from these opioids which are killing people and I don't say that lightly. They are killing people."

Friday, June 22, 2018

Burlington County mayor cited for ethics violations.

After a nearly four year investigation, the sitting mayor of a Burlington County municipality was fined $200 by the New Jersey Local Finance Board (LFB) for having twice violated the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL).  The fines arose out of the mayor's connection to a Political Action Committee that operated out of the law office of the Township's attorney.

In its June 14, 2018 Notice of Violation, the Local Finance Board--the chief enforcer of the LGEL--found that during 2014 Delran Township Mayor Ken Paris was employed by and received monetary compensation from the Initiate Civil Empowerment Political Action Committee (ICE PAC) while Douglas Long, who was law partners with ICE PAC treasurer Albert Marmero, served as Delran's municipal attorney.  The Notice of Violation noted that Paris nominated Long to be Delran's attorney.

The LFB determined that Paris, who was "being paid by the ICE PAC while the township solicitor was partners in a law firm with the treasurer of the ICE PAC" engaged "in a business, transaction, or professional activity which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest."  In a related matter, the LFB determined that Paris committed another violation of the LGEL by failing to report the $5,200 he received from the ICE PAC on his 2015 Financial Disclosure Statement.

The LFB assessed a $100 fine for each violation, for a total of $200, and informed Mayor Paris of his right to contest the findings and the fines by requesting an administrative hearing.  The LFB's final decision will not be issued until after Mayor Paris, if he chooses to contest the findings and the fines, has had his case heard by an Administrative Law Judge.

By law, local government officials can be fined between $100 and $500 for each LGEL violations.  The ethics complaint that resulted in the LFB's determination was filed on September 18, 2014 by John Paff and the New Jersey Libertarian Party.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Atlantic County woman seeks $144,387.46 under Mistaken Imprisonment Act.

On April 30, 2018, an Atlantic County woman filed a lawsuit against the State of New Jersey claiming that she "is an innocent person who was wrongly imprisoned"  for 1,054 days for a crime she did not commit.  She is seeking compensation for the 1,054 days she spent in jail at the $50,000 per year rate prescribed by the Mistaken Imprisonment Act, N.J.S.A. 52:4C-1 et seq.

In her lawsuit, Domonique Hines of Folsom asserted that on April 1, 2014 she was convicted by a Cumberland County jury of conspiracy to commit robbery in the second degree and was sentenced to six years in prison with a requirement that she serve eighty-five percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole.  In a February 13, 2017 opinion, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division reversed her conviction because she was deprived of a trial separate from her co-defendant and because of improper testimony by police.  Hines stated in her lawsuit that all charges against her were dismissed on October 17, 2017.

The judge who presided over the trial was Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Cristen D'Arrigo.  The case was covered extensively by local media (here, here and here). 

Hines, who is currently 29 years old but was 19 at the time of the alleged robbery in December 2007, is being represented in her civil action by Robert N. Agre of Haddonfield.  In addition to the $144,387.46, Hines is also seeking reimbursement of her court costs and Agre's attorney fees.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Monmouth Judge grants Sea Bright's summary judgment motion in police excessive force case because plaintiff's lawyers were too "occupied and distracted" to properly oppose it.

In his August 19, 2015 lawsuit, a Lincroft man claimed that Sea Bright Borough (Monmouth County) police officers severely beat him after taking him into custody following his August 13, 2013 arrest for assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.  In a May 25, 2018 Order, Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Dennis R. O'Brien dismissed the man's lawsuit because his lawyers did not properly respond to the Borough's summary judgment motion.

According to his lawsuit, Brian Beyer offered no resistance to the Sea Bright officers who responded after Beyer and another man were "engaged in a verbal altercation" at the Driftwood Cabana Club.  Beyer claimed that after being placed in a holding cell, Officers Chad Murphy and Brian T. Conover stuck a "billy club" into his abdomen and used it "in a careful, methodical way" to cause "serious injury."  According to Beyer's complaint, the officers placed the club "below his stardom [sic - probably intended "sternum"] and struck it at the other end with an open fist with such force and for such an extended period" to cause serious injury.

The Sea Bright Police Department had a different recollection of the incident as reflected in a Statement of Facts that accompanied the Borough's April 13, 2018 Motion for Summary Judgment.  According to police, Beyer instigated the altercation with a club patron and the shouted obscenities at police and physically resisted when the officers were attempting to handcuff him.  At the holding cell, Beyer reportedly "continued to act extremely belligerent by kicking the cell door and screaming profanities."  Sea Bright Police also claimed that they "do not carry 'billy clubs' or any similar mechanical weapons."

In this case--like most others--there are stark differences between the arrestee's and the officers' versions of events.  Courts use summary judgment motions to identify which facts are genuinely in dispute and need to be resolved by a jury.  In this case, Sea Bright's lawyer, Charles J. Uliano of West Long Branch, claimed in his summary judgment motion that Sea Bright's version of events was unassailable and should lead the court to conclude that Beyer's lawsuit should be dismissed.

Sea Bright's motion, which was filed on April 13, 2018, was supposed to be heard by Judge O'Brien on May 11, 2018.  Beyer's lawyer, Michael T. Warshaw of Redbank, requested and was granted an adjournment of the hearing until May 25, 2018.  Then, at 4:06 p.m. on May 24, 2018--the day before the hearing--Warshaw electronically submitted a single-page letter to Judge O'Brien that stated: "Please accept this letter an an opposition to [Sea Bright's] motion for Summary Judgment.  Between myself and co-counsel, we were very occupied and distracted and the opposition got away from us.  There are too many disputed issues of material facts and we would like the opportunity to oppose the motion."

In a Statement of Reasons that accompanied his May 25, 2018 Order, Judge O'Brien ruled that Warshaw's May 24, 2018 letter was too little too late.  Judge O'Brien noted that procedural rules require parties who oppose summary judgment motions to provide detailed responses that admit or deny each statement of fact as set forth by the movant.  Judge O'Brien wrote that Warshaw's letter was "insufficient" and "falls far short of" the court's procedural rules.  While he was "sympathetic to the demands of the modern day practice of law," Judge O'Brien wrote that Warshaw's failure to properly oppose Sea Bright's motion was "inexplicable, especially when the offending party requested and was granted an adjournment." Judge O'Brien considered Sea Bright's motion as unopposed and granted its motion to dismiss Beyer's lawsuit.