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Breaking Local News from New Jersey

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    MORRISTOWN — Attendance at the annual Morris County St. Patrick's Day Parade was its highest in years, according to Morristown police. Detective Lt. Steven Sarinelli said police arrested 13 individuals at Saturday's event: three assaults, one sexual contact, six disorderly conduct and fighting, two trespassing and one underage possession and consumption of alcohol. Police also issued 135 violations of...

    parade-morristown.JPGMembers of Police Pipes & Drums of Morris County participate in the Morris County St. Patrick's Day Parade in Morristown in this 2009 file photo.

    MORRISTOWN — Attendance at the annual Morris County St. Patrick's Day Parade was its highest in years, according to Morristown police.

    Detective Lt. Steven Sarinelli said police arrested 13 individuals at Saturday's event: three assaults, one sexual contact, six disorderly conduct and fighting, two trespassing and one underage possession and consumption of alcohol.

    Police also issued 135 violations of town ordinances: 88 drinking in public, 46 urinating in public and one littering.

    More Morristown news:


    FRANKLIN — A Sussex County woman pleaded guilty Monday to assault by auto for causing a head-on collision while trying to type in an address on her vehicle’s navigational system. Ana Philback, 30, of Hamburg admitted causing the crash on Route 23 in Franklin that seriously injured another woman driver. “Where was your focus of attention?” at the time...

    franklin.jpgA map view of Route 23 in Franklin

    FRANKLIN — A Sussex County woman pleaded guilty Monday to assault by auto for causing a head-on collision while trying to type in an address on her vehicle’s navigational system.

    Ana Philback, 30, of Hamburg admitted causing the crash on Route 23 in Franklin that seriously injured another woman driver.

    “Where was your focus of attention?” at the time of the accident, asked Superior Court Judge N. Peter Conforti, sitting in Newton.

    “On my GPS,” replied Philback, who added that she had drank a “glass of wine” before the accident.

    Philback pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault by auto and reckless driving, a motor vehicle offense.

    Due to the severity of the injuries suffered by her victim, Philback had been denied entry into the state’s pre-trial invention program, said Assistant Prosecutor Seanna Pappas. The victim, 53-year-old Nancy Lagattuta of Sussex Borough, suffered a broken leg and ribs in the crash.

    Under a plea bargain agreement, the prosecution will ask that Philback be sentenced to a probationary term and a loss of her driver’s license for up to 90 days.

    The accident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2009, while Philback was driving her 2003 Ford Explorer south and crossed the double-lines on the state highway. There were no passengers in the two vehicles.

    Philback, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, is scheduled to be sentenced May 6. She also faces possible deportation because she was an illegal immigrant when the accident occurred, said Conforti.


    TRENTON — A bill that would put first time underage "sexters" into an educational program, instead of facing prosecution, passed the full Assembly today 78-0. The measure is intended to teach teens the consequences of sending and receiving nude and semi-nude images, without leaving a mark on their permanent records. "We want to make sure these kids know that...

    sexting.JPGA 2010 file photo of a person texting with their mobile device. Juveniles charged with posting or sending pornographic images on the internet would be eligible for an educational program under a bill that was unanimously passed by the Assembly.

    TRENTON — A bill that would put first time underage "sexters" into an educational program, instead of facing prosecution, passed the full Assembly today 78-0.

    The measure is intended to teach teens the consequences of sending and receiving nude and semi-nude images, without leaving a mark on their permanent records.

    "We want to make sure these kids know that they did something wrong," without giving them a record, said sponsor Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden).

    Its Senate counterpart is awaiting a committee hearing.

    Under the measure, the attorney general’s office would create a program to teach teens about the criminal penalties and social consequences of sending or receiving nude or semi-nude images through their cell phones or computers. Included would be lessons on how the uniqueness of the Internet can produce long-term and unforeseen consequences after photographs are posted and the connection between cyber-bullying and the posting of sexual images.

    Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) stood in support of the bill. It sends a message to the judiciary that when juveniles make a mistake, the legislature wants to "give them a chance, give them an option other than a criminal past."

    Previous coverage:

    N.J. Assembly to vote on bill allowing 'sexting' teens to avoid charges

    N.J. bill would create education program on criminal, social consequences of sexting

    Bill advances that would make N.J. juveniles charged with 'sexting' eligible for educational program

    N.J. Legislature to weigh allowing teens caught 'sexting' to enter diversionary program

    Legislature to hear measure aimed at cracking down on 'sexting' by teens

    Layoff notices, sexting, farm markets to be discussed at Assembly hearing


    ATLANTIC CITY — A jury cleared Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small and five co-defendants of all charges today in a voter fraud trial in which they had been accused of trying to steal the 2009 Democratic mayoral primary by tampering with absentee ballots. It was the second time in five years that Small was found innocent of voter fraud....

    marty-small.JPGAtlantic City Councilman Marty Small.

    ATLANTIC CITY — A jury cleared Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small and five co-defendants of all charges today in a voter fraud trial in which they had been accused of trying to steal the 2009 Democratic mayoral primary by tampering with absentee ballots.

    It was the second time in five years that Small was found innocent of voter fraud. He was acquitted of similar charges in 2006 involving a mayoral election in which he was not a candidate

    "These were trumped-up charges from the very beginning," said Small, who left the courtroom teary-eyed and loudly clapping his hands together. Referring to the two juries who have acquitted him in separate trials five years apart, Small said, "There's 30 different people — total strangers — that have told the state to take their charges and run somewhere. I was hoping for a fair jury and I knew they would do the right thing."

    Small must decide within a month whether to run for re-election for his City Council seat, and said he has not decided whether he will again seek to become mayor of the nation's second-largest gambling resort in two years.

    "I'm not sure of any political aspirations, to be honest," he said. "That's a decision I'll have to make with my family."

    The trial had spanned more than five months.

    Small and four campaign volunteers — LaQuay Zahir, Floyd Tally, Tracy Pijuan, Toni Dixon and James Quirk — had been accused of trying to steal the June 2009 Democratic mayoral primary election by tampering with or manipulating absentee ballots intended for voters who were confined at home or too ill to make it to the polls on Election Day.

    Small was trounced in the election by incumbent Mayor Lorenzo Langford.

    In an indictment handed up in September 2009, and in their opening statements at the trial, the attorney general's office said it would show the defendants had formed what they called "the secret army" of conspirators bent on stealing the election through absentee ballot fraud.

    Each of the defendants was charged with conspiracy, election fraud, absentee ballot fraud, tampering with public records, falsifying records, and forgery. Several also were charged with hindering apprehension relating to allegedly false testimony they gave to a grand jury.

    When the charges were announced, it shone a renewed spotlight on a city renowned for political corruption dating back a century. The hit HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" chronicled the exploits of Nucky Johnson, the resort's real-life political and rackets boss who made sure vices of every type were protected in Atlantic City through paid-off authorities in the 1920s and '30s. In recent decades, numerous Atlantic City councilmen and mayors were arrested on corruption charges.

    But in Small's case, little of what was promised by the prosecution materialized in the trial, and some of the state's star witnesses fizzled. One became ill on the witness stand, suddenly rushing to the bathroom during testimony, then appearing to try to vomit into a trash can in the courtroom.

    Another witness, a cocaine dealer who secretly recorded numerous conversations with Small and others that were a large part of the prosecution's case, appeared to have dozed off on the witness stand at one point, although there was vehement disagreement between the defense and prosecution over whether he was actually sleeping.

    That witness, Eddie Colon, had been facing a prison sentence of 20 years to life before reaching a plea deal with prosecutors that could have him out of jail in as little as six months.

    The defense said Colon had every incentive to lie and say whatever the state wanted him to say in order to shorten his prison term. Prosecutors said the only obligation Colon had was to testify truthfully.

    "We are disappointed but must respect the verdict of the jury," Attorney General Paula Dow said. "The prosecutors, detectives and other personnel assigned to this case gave it their all in the interest of safeguarding fair elections and the fundamental right of citizens to vote. I commend them for the skill and dedication with which they conducted this trial and the underlying investigation."

    There are still six other defendants facing charges in the case. The state agreed to break the trial into groups of six. Two others had pleaded guilty.

    Assistant Attorney General Robert Czepiel Jr. said he could not discuss the verdict. A spokesman for Dow could not say whether the state plans to proceed with the second half of the trial against the six remaining defendants.


    TRENTON — The state Supreme Court today established the first set of guidelines for playing back video-recorded witness testimony, in an attempt to keep up with the rapid expansion of digital technology in New Jersey courtrooms, replacing traditional court reporters as the keepers of record. The seven listed guidelines spelled out came in response to a request from the...

    nj-supreme-court.JPGThe N.J. Supreme court hears its first cases of the 2010-11 term at the Richard Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton. Appellate Judge Edwin Stern joins the bench on temporary assignment in this September 2010 file photo.

    TRENTON — The state Supreme Court today established the first set of guidelines for playing back video-recorded witness testimony, in an attempt to keep up with the rapid expansion of digital technology in New Jersey courtrooms, replacing traditional court reporters as the keepers of record.

    The seven listed guidelines spelled out came in response to a request from the state Attorney General’s Office and, while resembling those long established for court reporter readbacks, they offer new direction and a word of caution.

    Because video captures a more complete picture of the testimony, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote, "trial judges must continue to exercise discretion to deny playing back all or part of the evidence requested when necessary to guard against unfair prejudice."

    Rabner wrote the opinion that accompanied the court’s unanimous decision affirming a robbery conviction, which stemmed from an October 2007 incident in Irvington. Dashawn Miller and a juvenile were accused of robbing two construction workers at gunpoint. At Miller’s trial in Superior Court in Newark, the jury requested a readback of a victim’s testimony, though the courtroom was equipped exclusively with video recording.

    Judge Peter Ryan allowed the jury to view the entire testimony rather than delay proceedings while a transcript was prepared. Miller was eventually convicted on all counts and sentenced to 28 years in prison.

    Miller’s public defender appealed, with one of the reasons being that playing back a video of the entire testimony "gives the state two bites of the apple and unduly emphasizes the witness’ testimony," Rabner noted.

    While acknowledging that a video recording "reveals more than a sterile readback does," Rabner said it "enables jurors not only to recall specific testimony but also to assess a witness’ credibility — which is precisely what jurors are asked to do."

    Despite potential delays associated with playing back digital recordings, they provide the best form of evidence available to juries, Rabner wrote. Though affirming Miller’s conviction, the court ordered a resentencing because Judge Ryan failed to adequately explain his reasons for imposing consecutive 14-year prison terms on the defendant, instead of running them concurrently.

    More N.J. Supreme Court news:

    Tom Rosenthal, of the state Office of the Public Defender, said his office is "satisfied that the Supreme Court has issued explicit instructions on how to proceed in the digital age." He would not discuss Miller’s case directly, however, citing confidentiality.

    The state Attorney General’s Office joined the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in opposing the appeal regarding only the video playback aspect. Peter Aseltine, a spokesman, said the office was pleased with the guidelines because "everyone wanted to be certain about the appropriate way to handle these playbacks."

    Among the guidelines spelled out: A judge should not deny a jury’s request for a playback simply because it would cause a delay; as a general rule, the entire testimony should be played back, although the courts may honor specific requests to hear limited testimony and; judges should "take precautions to prevent juries from placing undue emphasis on the particular testimony that is replayed."

    In 1991, a state Supreme Court committee recommended the move to video recording, and today both audio and video devices are located in courtrooms throughout New Jersey. There are now 61 Superior Court courtrooms equipped with video recording and 353 with audio recording, according to statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

    In the Essex County courthouse in Newark, the busiest in the state, there are just six court reporters left, said Superior Court Judge Patricia Costello, the assignment judge.

    The technology is also seen as a long-term money-saver for cash-strapped counties, and the number of court reporters continues to dwindle through attrition; there are about 62 now available in New Jersey, Rabner said, citing state statistics.

    Tina Tate, who runs the Tate & Tate court reporting agency in Medford with her husband, Robert, believes people are still more reliable than machines. "The courts have replaced us with electronic recording but when big cases come down the pipe, they still want certified court reporters," she said.

    Tammy Kendig, of the Administrative Office of the Courts, said "there will always be a need for reporters because the type of work they do is still essential in some instances."

    Now that clear guidelines have been established, said John Keefe, an attorney in Red Bank, the next step is to "uniformly implement the audio and video" in all courtrooms. Keefe, chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s civil section, said video technology "gives us the best opportunity to review what’s going on, and the best quality of evidence played back or read back to a jury."


    NEWARK — Newark police said today they found 229 vials of crack cocaine and 72 bricks of heroin, worth an estimated $15,000, after they arrested two men in the city’s Central Ward Sunday night. Wali Muhammad, 35, and Aaron Atkinson, 27, both of Newark, were charged with numerous counts related to the distribution and possession of drugs, Newark police...

    newark-drug-bust.jpgA map of Martin Luther King Boulevard, where Newark police arrested two men on drug charges.

    NEWARK — Newark police said today they found 229 vials of crack cocaine and 72 bricks of heroin, worth an estimated $15,000, after they arrested two men in the city’s Central Ward Sunday night.

    Wali Muhammad, 35, and Aaron Atkinson, 27, both of Newark, were charged with numerous counts related to the distribution and possession of drugs, Newark police spokesman Detective Hubert Henderson said.

    The arrests came after an investigation into citizen complaints of open-air drug dealing near an apartment on the 700-block of Martin Luther King Boulevard, he said.

    On Sunday, shortly after 9 p.m., police allegedly saw Muhammad make a drug sale accompanied by Atkinson, and arrested the pair.

    Narcotics detectives then searched an apartment, which was being used by Muhammad, and found the crack cocaine and heroin in an open safe, said Henderson.

    The two are being held at the Essex County Jail, he said.

    Anyone with information about this or any other crimes can contact the police via the 24-hour "Crime Stoppers" anonymous tip line at 877 NWK-TIPS (877 695-8477) or 877 NWK-GUNS (877 695-4867).

    More Newark news:


    CRANFORD — A 22-year-old Rutgers University student was arrested tonight and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of a female student who was found dead inside the suspect’s Cranford home, authorities said. William J. Parisio is accused of killing Pamela Schmidt, a 22-year-old Warren Township woman who was expected to graduate from Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus...

    cranford.jpgA Rutgers University student found dead in the basement of a Cranford home on Greaves Place was the victim of a homicide, authorities say.

    CRANFORD — A 22-year-old Rutgers University student was arrested tonight and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of a female student who was found dead inside the suspect’s Cranford home, authorities said.

    William J. Parisio is accused of killing Pamela Schmidt, a 22-year-old Warren Township woman who was expected to graduate from Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus this spring.

    Schmidt’s body was found in the basement of a yellow single-family home on Greaves Place, a meticulous and quiet Cranford street, when police responded to a call at noon on Sunday, Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said.

    The young woman died of "traumatic injuries," Romankow said. Officials released no additional details today about how Schmidt’s life came to an end.

    Earlier in the day, Romankow said it appeared her slaying was a "tragic isolated incident" and said his office was questioning a person of interest. The prosecutor would not name that person, but tried to reassure residents of the suburban town that they "should not feel like they are in danger."

    On Greaves Place this afternoon, the suspect’s mother, Diane Parisio, answered the door and did not want to discuss what had happened at her house.

    "It’s a tragedy for both families," she said, appearing to fight away tears.

    The mother did not elaborate about how her son knew Schmidt. Asked if the two met at Rutgers, she said it was a question for the victim’s family to answer.

    Schmidt’s family could not be reached for comment today, and their neighbors declined to comment.

    The victim was expected to graduate from Rutgers this spring with degrees in labor studies and employment relations and psychology, according to the school’s student directory. University spokesman E.J. Miranda confirmed her enrollment.

    He would not, however, confirm that Parisio was enrolled, though an address listed under his name in the student directory matches his Cranford address. He was studying statistics and economics, according to the directory, and is scheduled to graduate in 2012.

    Schmidt planned to return to Rutgers next fall to attain her master’s degree in human resource management, and had been working as an intern at Amicus Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company based in Cranbury, according to her profile on LinkedIn, a job networking website.

    Residents of Greaves Place had little to say this afternoon, saying they didn’t want to get involved out of respect for the victim’s family. It’s a quiet town, and certainly a quiet neighborhood, some said.

    "This is about as great a place to bring a family up as there is," said Paul Giannecchini, who has lived across the street from the Parisio family for decades. "It’s such a shame."

    Parisio was being held in the Union County jail tonight in lieu of $400,000 bail

    Staff writers Eugene Paik and James Queally contributed to this report.


    EDISON — A former Edison Little League baseball coach, whose arrest on child pornography charges in 2009 rocked the township’s youth sports community, was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison, authorities said. Everett Abney, 43, had pleaded guilty in July to having hundreds of child pornography images on his Compaq computer, said federal authorities. More coverage: • Ex-Edison...

    EDISON — A former Edison Little League baseball coach, whose arrest on child pornography charges in 2009 rocked the township’s youth sports community, was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison, authorities said.

    Everett Abney, 43, had pleaded guilty in July to having hundreds of child pornography images on his Compaq computer, said federal authorities.

    Abney, who had coached 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds for Edison’s Midtown National Little League, was sentenced in Newark federal court by U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler.

    According to authorities and court documents, Abney admitted in 2009 that for a year and a half he’d been regularly searching the internet for child pornography.

    Abney downloaded images using peer-to-peer Limeware software, a document said. Some images included naked, prepubescent females and partial images of adult men with them.

    When questioned by the FBI in February 2009, he reportedly told agents he had been looking at child pornography.

    Little League officials and parents didn’t learn about Abney until his arrest in September 2009 made the news. FBI officials said they lacked evidence to charge Abney earlier than they did and didn’t want to compromise the investigation.

    According to reports, there were no complaints of Abney harming children as a coach. Abney’s sentence included five years of supervised release. He must register as a sex offender.


    WOODBRIDGE — A Carteret man accused of strangling a Woodbridge woman in her home and then setting the house ablaze last month, pleaded not guilty in court today. Harpal Singh, 45, sat silently in Superior Court in New Brunswick as his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Richard "Red" Barker entered the pleas to charges of murder, aggravated arson and robbery....

    woodbridge-house-fire.jpgA map of Jansen Avenue, where firefighters have responded to a fatal house fire.

    WOODBRIDGE — A Carteret man accused of strangling a Woodbridge woman in her home and then setting the house ablaze last month, pleaded not guilty in court today.

    Harpal Singh, 45, sat silently in Superior Court in New Brunswick as his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Richard "Red" Barker entered the pleas to charges of murder, aggravated arson and robbery.

    Singh is accused of killing Baldwiner Kaur, 44, on Valentine’s Day in her Jansen Avenue home in the Avenel section of Woodbridge.

    Authorities said Singh was an acquaintance of Kaur, and that he stole property from the house.

    Kaur and her husband had moved from Carteret to the Avenel house about two years ago, along with their high school-age son and daughter in her early 20s.

    At 4:45 p.m. on Feb. 14, a passer-by reported the fire. Firefighters discovered Kaur’s body in the home and authorities later determined she was killed before the fire was started.

    Singh is being held on $2 million bail in the Middlesex County jail in North Brunswick.

    Previous coverage:

    Carteret man is charged with robbing, killing Avenel woman before setting fire to her house

    Death of woman in Woodbridge fire is ruled a homicide

    Woman killed in Woodbridge house fire despite officials' quick response

    One person killed in Woodbridge house fire, officials say


    MONROE — While Xiaoye Wang lay dying in a Princeton hospital in January, his estranged wife continued to feed him poison, a prosecutor said today. And when her husband fell into a coma, Tianle Li, 40, tried to buy two one-way tickets — for herself and her 2-year-old son — back to her native China. Li, a scientist at...

    poison-tianle-li.JPGTianle "Heidi" Li of Monroe, left, is arraigned on murder charges Wednesday. Li and her attorney Steve Altman , right, listen to the assistant prosector. She is accused of murdering her estranged husband, Xiaoye Wang, by poisoning him with thallium.

    MONROE — While Xiaoye Wang lay dying in a Princeton hospital in January, his estranged wife continued to feed him poison, a prosecutor said today.

    And when her husband fell into a coma, Tianle Li, 40, tried to buy two one-way tickets — for herself and her 2-year-old son — back to her native China. Li, a scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb, was charged last month with murdering Wang in the midst of divorce proceedings.

    "She poisoned her husband to death," said Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas Sewitch at a hearing in New Brunswick.

    Sewitch said Li obtained thallium, a highly toxic heavy metal that is tasteless and odorless, from the supply room at Bristol-Myers Squibb, although the research she was doing did not require it.

    "She ordered (four) bottles of thallium," he said. "When she returned the bottles, over 90 percent of the thallium was gone."

    Today’s hearing was scheduled after Li’s attorney, Steven Altman, filed motions to reduce her bail so his client could return to her home in Monroe and regain custody of her son, now in a foster home under the control of the state’s Division of Youth and Families.

    In part, the hearing was a way for Altman to force the prosecutor to reveal evidence why Li’s bail should remain so high.

    Superior Court Judge Michael Toto denied Altman’s motion, keeping bail at $4 million for the charge of murder and another $150,000 on a charge of hindering her own apprehension. A probable cause hearing was scheduled for April 26.

    Li sat quietly, her hands cuffed in front of her, during the hearing, an expression of fear and pain on her face. Her mother, Jian Zhang, was in the courtroom, having traveled from her home in Beijing, China. She was accompanied by an attorney who spoke Chinese and translated for her and declined to comment after the proceedings.

    Li began feeding her husband thallium sometime in December or January, according to Sewitch, which was before Wang, a computer engineer, admitted himself into University Medical Center in Princeton on Jan. 14, complaining of virus-like symptoms.

    The prosecutor did not detail exactly how Li poisoned Wang, and said that when she was questioned by investigators, "she denied anything to do with thallium."

    But during today’s hearing Sewitch told Toto that Li applied for a rush visa for her son in order to take him to China, and that two days before her husband died she tried to purchase airplane tickets.

    On Jan. 28, just 48 hours after Wang’s death, authorities charged Li with hindering her own apprehension and jailed her. Two weeks later, she was charged with murder.

    Li and Wang, who was 39 at the time of his death and also a native of China, were married in 2001 and were in the final stages of divorce, with the final hearing to dissolve their marriage scheduled for Jan. 14, but the hearing was postponed.

    That day, Wang, a computer engineer in New York, took himself to the hospital. His condition deteriorated until he died Jan. 26, the day after doctors determined he was suffering from thallium poisoning.

    The heavy metal can be bought over the internet, in powder or liquid form. Before it was banned for household use in this country almost 30 years ago, it was popular as a rodenticide and insecticide and is still used in the pharmaceutical industry, in glass and electronics manufacturing and medicinally in stress tests to help diagnose coronary artery disease.

    Symptoms of thallium poisoning usually begin with gastrointestinal distress, followed by increasing nerve pain, hair loss, blindness and coma. There is only one antidote, Prussian blue, which is not readily available in the United States. Despite heroic efforts by the New Jersey Poison Control Center, state’s department of health and senior services, a sufficient dose of Prussian blue did not arrive until Wang was near death, and at that point, said doctors, nothing could more could be done to save him.

    By Sue Epstein and Amy Ellis Nutt/The Star-Ledger


    Longtime president of State Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 165 is charged with conspiracy to commit official misconduct and conspiracy to commit bribery Watch video

    Gallery preview

    MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Former Middlesex County sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo didn’t even need to leave his office to collect tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, according to state authorities.

    He allegedly had Paul Lucarelli, a veteran officer and union president, deliver the corrupt cash directly to him, authorities said Monday.

    State Police detectives arrested Lucarelli, 45, at his South River home Monday morning, widening a case that has rocked Middlesex County’s political and law enforcement establishments.

    The Attorney General’s Office described a simple scheme where Lucarelli played bag man to Spicuzzo’s patronage king. A new recruit seeking a job as a sheriff’s investigator handed $25,000 to Lucarelli, who brought the money to Spicuzzo, authorities said. Spicuzzo then awarded the job, they said.

    Spicuzzo collected at least $50,000 total in bribes for jobs and promotions in 2007 and 2008, authorities said.

    "We are vigorously pursuing all leads in this ongoing investigation into alleged bribery and corruption in the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Spicuzzo," Criminal Justice Director Stephen Taylor said in a statement.

    Spicuzzo, 65, turned himself in March 7 to face charges of bribery and a pattern of official misconduct. He would serve a minimum 10 years in prison if convicted of both charges.

    On Monday, Lucarelli was charged with conspiracy to commit official misconduct and conspiracy to commit bribery. Each charge has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, but he could serve them concurrently. He was released after his arrest and suspended without pay from his job in the sheriff’s office, where he has worked for 23 years and earns $79,972 a year, according to county records.

    Lucarelli is also the longtime president of State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 165, responsible for representing the interests of sheriff’s officers. Jim Ryan, spokesman for the state union, said it was disturbing to see Lucarelli implicated in the alleged bribery scheme, given the union is often asked to address complaints about unfair hiring practices involving sheriff’s investigators. Because investigators are not in the civil service system, sheriffs can handpick who they hire and advance through the ranks.

    "This shows why civil service regulations need to be in place," said Anthony Wieners, president of the State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.

    Lucarelli could not be reached for comment, and it was unclear if he had retained a lawyer. Mildred Scott, who took office in January as Spicuzzo’s successor, said she learned only yesterday that Lucarelli was under suspicion. She said the Sheriff’s Office "is cooperating" with the investigation.

    Spicuzzo was a mainstay of Middlesex County politics. He served as sheriff for 30 years until announcing he would not seek reelection last year, and was chairman of the county Democratic Party for 16 years before resigning after his arrest last week.

    He also resigned as a commissioner for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority last week. Gov. Chris Christie, who harshly criticized Spicuzzo as unqualified to serve on the board, has not yet nominated a replacement. Spicuzzo is due in Superior Court in Monmouth County this afternoon.

    Tom Haydon contributed to this report.

    Previous coverage:

    Authorities arrest officer accused of working as Middlesex County Sheriff Spicuzzo's bagman

    Gov. Christie calls for Joseph Spicuzzo's resignation from N.J. sports authority

    Carteret mayor announces bid for Middlesex County Democratic chairman

    Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo is accused of selling jobs, promotions

    Joseph Spicuzzo resigns as chairman of Middlesex County Democratic Organization

    Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo turns himself in to face corruption charges

    Mixing Middlesex politics and law enforcement


    IRVINGTON — The murder trial of an alleged Bloods gang member charged with fatally shooting four people in an Irvington home then setting it ablaze, resumes this morning with testimony from a responding firefighter and a detective from the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. The trial of Rolando Terrell, 39, enters its third day in Superior Court. Terrell is accused...

    Gallery preview

    IRVINGTON — The murder trial of an alleged Bloods gang member charged with fatally shooting four people in an Irvington home then setting it ablaze, resumes this morning with testimony from a responding firefighter and a detective from the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

    The trial of Rolando Terrell, 39, enters its third day in Superior Court.

    Terrell is accused of fatally shooting Candes McLean, 40; her daughter, Talia McLean, 18; her niece, Zakiyyah Jones, 18; and her boyfriend's daughter, 13-year-old Latrisha Carruthers-Fields.

    Terrell allegedly entered the house that morning on Sept. 8, 2008 to rob McLean, who was a cheerleading coach in Newark but also sold drugs, an assistant prosecutor told the jury last week. Terrell believed there was drugs inside, and began shooting after Candes McLean said she had none, prosecutors said.

    The trial started last Tuesday then recessed following Wednesday’s full-day session.

    The prosecution's two main witnesses have already taken the stand: Candes’ daughter, now 21, who hid in the closet that morning; and Terrell's co-defendant, who pleaded guilty to robbery in exchange for his testimony.

    The Irvington fire captain set to testify today discovered two bodies inside a bedroom of the house following the shooting, as flames engulfed the first floor. A different township firefighter took the stand last week, saying he found the other two victims — one who was briefly alive — in a different bedroom.

    Previous coverage:

    Di Ionno: For N.J. family torn apart by Irvington slayings, a bittersweet reunion

    Jury hears testimony that 4 killings in Irvington followed quest for drugs, cash

    Witness testifies against reputed Bloods gang member in Irvington quadruple killing trial

    Lone adult survivor recounts night of Irvington quadruple killing

    Reputed Bloods member accused of fatally shooting 4 people, setting fire to Irvington house to hide crime

    Daughter of victim killed by reputed Bloods member expected to testify in quadruple slaying trial

    Irvington quadruple slaying, arson leads to indictment against two Essex men

    Judge: Murder suspect entitled to hearing to learn nature of evidence used in his arrest

    Accused man's right to evidence at issue in Irvington quadruple slaying

    Reputed gang member arraigned in Irvington slayings

    Suspect in 4 Irvington slayings turns himself in


    NEWARK — Two coroners who conducted autopsies on the three college-bound students fatally shot behind Mount Vernon School will testify today at the trial of one of the defendants charged in the killing. A forensic anthropologist will also testify that the cut wounds one of the victims sustained was consistent with a machete knife. Alexander Alfaro is one of...

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    NEWARK — Two coroners who conducted autopsies on the three college-bound students fatally shot behind Mount Vernon School will testify today at the trial of one of the defendants charged in the killing.

    A forensic anthropologist will also testify that the cut wounds one of the victims sustained was consistent with a machete knife.

    Alexander Alfaro is one of six young men who were charged with murder in the Aug. 4, 2007 attack that killed Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18. Terrence’s sister was shot but survived and has already testified in court, though she could not identify Alfaro. Two other defendants are now serving life terms in prison for their roles in the crime.

    Alfaro, now 20, is accused of attacking Hightower that night in the schoolyard with a machete, which prosecutors said he brought from his home. So far, prosecutors have not linked Alfaro directly to the scene through DNA or fingerprints, but have said he provided a statement to police after his arrest, in which he admitted to using the machete. That statement will be played in court at some point.

    The trial in Superior Court in Newark began on March 1, but today’s session will be just the sixth day.

    Previous coverage:

    Forensic scientist to testify in Newark schoolyard slayings trial

    Newark schoolyard slayings trial to resume with detective testimony

    Lone survivor in Newark schoolyard triple slaying recounts harrowing experience at trial

    Survivor in Newark schoolyard triple fatal shooting won't be permitted to say she was sexually assaulted

    Defense argues evidence in Newark schoolyard slayings doesn't implicate second suspect on trial

    Archive: Newark schoolyard slayings trials


    CAMDEN — Authorities say a New Jersey woman was robbed at gunpoint as she walked to a Camden hospital to join friends who were there to identify the body of a slaying victim. The name of the 61-year-old woman from Millville has not been released. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office told The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill that she dropped...

    cooper.jpgCooper University Hospital in Camden is show in a 2008 file photo.

    CAMDEN — Authorities say a New Jersey woman was robbed at gunpoint as she walked to a Camden hospital to join friends who were there to identify the body of a slaying victim.

    The name of the 61-year-old woman from Millville has not been released.

    The Camden County Prosecutor's Office told The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill that she dropped off her friends at Cooper University Hospital around 10 p.m. Sunday so they could identify the body of Angel Ramos.

    Ramos was shot multiple times in Camden and died in the hospital early that evening.

    Police said that after the woman parked her car on a nearby street, two men approached her. One pointed a sawed-off shotgun at her head and demanded her purse. The men made off with the purse.

    More Camden news:


    NEWARK — A forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Terrance Aeriel a day after he was fatally shot inside a Newark schoolyard said this morning that the young man’s mouth was open when he was shot at close range in the base of the skull. Edward Chmara, a New Jersey state associate medical examiner, is testifying in Superior...

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    NEWARK — A forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Terrance Aeriel a day after he was fatally shot inside a Newark schoolyard said this morning that the young man’s mouth was open when he was shot at close range in the base of the skull.

    Edward Chmara, a New Jersey state associate medical examiner, is testifying in Superior Court at the trial of Alexander Alfaro, one of six defendants charged in the Aug. 4, 2007 triple killing behind Mount Vernon School.

    Aeriel, 18, and Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower, both 20, were lined up against a school wall and shot execution-style. They died. Terrance’s sister, Natasha, 19, at the time, was shot in the head but survived.

    Pointing to two enlarged autopsy photographs of Terrance Aeriel’s bullet wound, Chmara said the bullet struck the young man’s carotid artery before striking his tongue and exiting his open mouth. “The decedent was probably down very quickly. Seconds,” he said.

    Chmara also testified to his findings last spring at the trial of Rodolofo Godinez, who is Alfaro’s half brother. He was eventually convicted. In September, another defendant, Melvin Jovel, admitted to shooting all four victims. Both men were sentenced to life terms in prison.

    Alfaro, who was 16 at the time, is accused of wielding a machete knife that night on Iofemi Hightower, and prosecutors are expected to call a forensic anthropologist to the stand later today to describe those injuries. Another medical examiner will describe her autopsy findings for Hightower and Harvey.

    Chmara described Terrance Aeriel’s wounds in clinical detail, as the young man’s father, Troy Bradshaw, looked on quietly; along with Dashon Harvey’s father, James; and Hightower’s mother, Shalga, who rocked in her chair.

    Previous coverage:

    Two coroners to testify in Newark schoolyard slayings trial

    Forensic scientist to testify in Newark schoolyard slayings trial

    Newark schoolyard slayings trial to resume with detective testimony

    Lone survivor in Newark schoolyard triple slaying recounts harrowing experience at trial

    Survivor in Newark schoolyard triple fatal shooting won't be permitted to say she was sexually assaulted

    Defense argues evidence in Newark schoolyard slayings doesn't implicate second suspect on trial

    Archive: Newark schoolyard slayings trials


    ATLANTIC CITY — A former staff sergeant in the United States Army admitted he tried to rob a cab driver after leaving Harrah's last year, according to a report on PressofAC.com. Tyrone Hall, 42, of Queens, N.Y., used a stun gun on the back of the driver's neck and demanded money, the report said. Hall fled on foot when...

    robbery.jpgA map view of Maryland Avenue in Atlantic City, where a former U.S. Army staff sergeant tried to rob a cab driver.

    ATLANTIC CITY A former staff sergeant in the United States Army admitted he tried to rob a cab driver after leaving Harrah's last year, according to a report on PressofAC.com.

    Tyrone Hall, 42, of Queens, N.Y., used a stun gun on the back of the driver's neck and demanded money, the report said. Hall fled on foot when a police officer responded. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he's sentenced.

    More Atlantic City news:


    State charges Spicuzzo collected at least $50,000 in bribes for jobs and promotions in 2007 and 2008 Watch video

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    MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo pleaded not guilty this afternoon in Freehold to charges of bribery and a pattern of official misconduct.

    Spicuzzo, who served as chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization until his arrest earlier this month, was helped into Superior Court Judge Anthony Mellaci's courtroom by his wife, Mary Ann, and his attorney, Steven Altman.

    The state charges Spicuzzo collected at least $50,000 in bribes for jobs and promotions in 2007 and 2008.

    Authorities say Spicuzzo collected the bribes as payment for hiring new recruits to be sheriff's investigators.

    A second man, Paul Lucarelli, a sheriff's officer who served as president of the local PBA chapter representing the sheriff's officers, was arrested Monday and charged with delivering the illegal cash to Spicuzzo.

    Deputy Attorney General Vincent Militello asked Mellaci to set bail for Spicuzzo at $50,000. Spicuzzo was released on his own recognizance after he surrendered on the charges last week.

    But, Mellaci refused to increase the bail, saying, "there is no evidence he's a flight risk."

    Spicuzzo served as sheriff for 30 years, retiring on Dec. 31. He was chairman of the county Democrats for 16 years.

    The former sheriff declined to comment after the hearing, which lasted only a few minutes.

    Altman and his partner, Joseph Benedict, also declined to comment.

    "The Attorney General's Office said it would make some evidence available for us to take a look at in the coming weeks," Benedict said. "We may have something to say after that."

    Previous coverage:

    N.J. veteran officer is accused of accepting, delivering bribes for former Middlesex County sheriff Spicuzzo

    Authorities arrest officer accused of working as Middlesex County Sheriff Spicuzzo's bagman

    Gov. Christie calls for Joseph Spicuzzo's resignation from N.J. sports authority

    Carteret mayor announces bid for Middlesex County Democratic chairman

    Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo is accused of selling jobs, promotions

    Joseph Spicuzzo resigns as chairman of Middlesex County Democratic Organization

    Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo turns himself in to face corruption charges

    Mixing Middlesex politics and law enforcement


    DOVER — Dover police are searching for two Morristown men who allegedly used a credit card that was stolen from a 72-year-old woman. The woman was walking home Feb. 10 from the First Presbyterian Church on West Blackwell Street, where she volunteered her time helping people file their taxes, when a man came up to her, smiled and then...

    daniels-williams.jpgPolice are searching for these two men, who are accused of using a credit card stolen from a 72-year-old woman.

    DOVER — Dover police are searching for two Morristown men who allegedly used a credit card that was stolen from a 72-year-old woman.

    The woman was walking home Feb. 10 from the First Presbyterian Church on West Blackwell Street, where she volunteered her time helping people file their taxes, when a man came up to her, smiled and then stole her purse.

    Police searched the area but could not find anyone matching the description provided by the victim, according to Dover police Detective Sgt. Richard Gonzalez.

    Later that evening, Jonathon Williams, 26, and Jermaine Daniels, 20, were seen on a a surveillance video using the woman’s credit card at a Hanover Walmart and Morris Township Sunoco gas station, Gonzalez said.

    Both have been charged with unauthorized use of credit card, forgery, and uttering, which is defined as knowingly using a forged document.

    Police are asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of these subjects to contact Dover police Detective Timothy Thiel at (973) 366-2200, ext. 213, or contact their local police department.

    “The victim was out helping others and some unscrupulous individual took it upon themselves to rob the victim of her personal possessions and security,” Gonzalez said.

    More Morristown news:


    Mother of suspect William Parisio speaks out in hopes of warning others about the dangers of the powders

    cranford-killing-suspect.jpgView of the family home of William J Parisio, right, a 22-year-old Rutgers University student located in Cranford who is alleged to have killed his girlfriend under the influence of a drug.

    CRANFORD — William J. Parisio was descending into a world of paranoia he feared he might never escape, his mother, Diane Parisio, said.

    He was unable to shake off the irrational worries that grew as his drug addiction festered, she said, fighting through tears and anger during an interview at the family’s Cranford home, where her son allegedly killed his long-time girlfriend last weekend.

    Over the past few months, she said, the 22-year-old college student who has struggled with mental illness and drug dependency for years traveled from hospitals to drug rehab to a halfway house and back home again.

    "He was really scared. I’d never seen anything like this at all," Diane Parisio said.

    "Will it ever go away?" she said her son asked her in January.

    It was a blur of mania she believes was caused — or made worse — by "bath salts," powders that act like powerful stimulants, such as methamphetamine, and are sold, legally, at convenience stores across the country. Her son, known to friends and family as "Bill," may have begun using "bath salts" in late December, said Parisio, who was speaking publicly not to defend him but in hopes of warning others about the dangers of the powders.

    "Bill is an example of the devastation that this drug (causes) in people’s lives," she said.

    Early Sunday morning, police discovered the body of Pamela Schmidt in a basement room at the Parisio home on Greaves Place in Cranford. The 22-year-old Rutgers University student from Warren Township died of "traumatic injuries," said Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow, whose office was waiting for forensic results before releasing more information.

    Bill Parisio, who withdrew from Rutgers this semester due to his drug problems, was charged Monday with murder. That’s the same day he was scheduled to check into a treatment center in Marlboro, his mother said.

    He is being held at the Union County jail in Elizabeth on $400,000 cash bail.

    Schmidt, who often stayed at the Parisio house in Union County, came in around 11 p.m. Saturday, took a shower, then went to the basement to watch television with her boyfriend, Diane Parisio said.

    "They were here to have a nice night together. Everything was fine," she said, adding that the couple had been dating for "four to five years."

    When she went to call her son the next morning to take him to a doctor before entering rehab again, she had trouble waking him and called 911. He had taken anti-anxiety medicine, which wasn’t one of the two prescription drugs he takes for his bipolar disorder, she said.

    Parisio would not talk about Schmidt’s death, but said the young woman was like a daughter to her.

    "She was a very pleasant, Type A person," she said. "Any success Bill had could be related to Pam."

    Schmidt was expected to graduate from Rutgers this spring with degrees in labor studies and employment relations, as well as psychology, according to a student directory. She planned to return to Rutgers next fall to pursue a master’s degree in human resource management, according to her LinkedIn page.

    Schmidt’s family could not be reached but several friends expressed their grief on Facebook today, posting "rest in peace" messages on their profile pages.

    Vanessa Morales, 21, of Warren, said she had been friends with Schmidt since the sixth grade.

    "She has such a great loving family and was so close to her siblings. She was always a strong person," Morales said.

    Victor Lopez remembered Schmidt as one of "the nicest people he had ever met." The 23-year-old North Bergen man said he interned with Schmidt at SiriusXM Radio, where Bill Parisio had also spent a few weeks working on the Howard Stern show.

    "She was a real go-getter. Everybody in the HR department was really fond of her. She was always a helping hand," said Lopez, who graduated from Rutgers last year. "If she entered a room, the place would light up. This is a real terrible, tragic thing."

    It was near the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick on Christmas Eve last year, where Parisio, a graduate of Cranford High School, first purchased bath salts, his mother said. She showed credit card statements today that included numerous $41 purchases at convenience stores and a smoke shop that appeared to support that, as well as her claims that his use continued weeks into January.

    Parisio said her son, who has a prior criminal record she said was the result of his substance abuse, told her he first learned about "bath salts" while in rehab.

    Bath salts typically cause users to experience "extreme" agitation, paranoia and sometimes vivid hallucinations, several medical experts said. The powder, which can be snorted, smoked or ingested, can have effects similar to cocaine or methamphetamines. It started to become a problem in England two years ago before appearing in Louisiana late last year and spreading to the southern and western parts of the United States, said Zane Horowitz, medical director at the Oregon Poison Center.

    "From our brief experience this is a very dangerous drug that is at least, if not more, dangerous than methamphetamines," Horowitz said.

    Bath salts can have range of bizarre effects on the user, said Horowitz, including aggravation, racing heart rates, seizures and psychotic episodes. There have been scattered reports of violence and self-mutilation incidents tied to bath salts, he said.

    Use by someone with pre-exiting mental illness could prompt paranoia and possibly violent tendencies, said Cheryl Kennedy, a psychiatrist and vice chair of clinical services in the Department of Psychiatry at New Jersey Medical School-UMDNJ.

    "The problem is it’s in the stimulant category and stimulants in excessive use can make anybody psychotic, nevermind those who might have an underlying psychiatric illness," said Kennedy, who would not comment on Parisio directly since she had not examined him.

    By Ryan Hutchins and James Queally/The Star-Ledger


    Several defendants of 44 arrested in New Jersey's massive corruption sting are scheduled to appear in federal court and could have charges against them dismissed, according to a report in today's Jersey Journal. The government misapplied the law when it charged them in 2009, a federal court recently ruled. The appeal was filed by Louis Manzo, a former state...

    manzo.jpgLouis Manzo comes out of federal court in Newark in this 2009 file photo.

    Several defendants of 44 arrested in New Jersey's massive corruption sting are scheduled to appear in federal court and could have charges against them dismissed, according to a report in today's Jersey Journal.

    The government misapplied the law when it charged them in 2009, a federal court recently ruled.

    The appeal was filed by Louis Manzo, a former state assemblyman who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Jersey City, and his brother Ronald, who was his campaign adviser. They and others were accused of taking money from an informant posing as a crooked developer.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Previous coverage:

    Corruption in New Jersey

    Will judge let Manzo go after feds?: Political Insider

    Seven defendants charged in corruption sweep to meet in court


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