New Jersey Real-Time News

    Bill named for N.J. student who died during Penn State hazing incident will soon become law

    Bill named for N.J. student who died during Penn State hazing incident will soon become law


    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he plans to sign the anti-hazing bill after the Senate passed it in a unanimous vote. Stricter criminal penalties for hazing will soon become Pennsylvania law under legislation...

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he plans to sign the anti-hazing bill after the Senate passed it in a unanimous vote.

    Stricter criminal penalties for hazing will soon become Pennsylvania law under legislation inspired by the death of a Penn State student that cleared its final hurdle Monday.

    The Senate voted unanimously for a bill named for a fraternity pledge who consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered a series of lethal falls at a party nearly two years ago.

    Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he planned to sign the bill.

    "Hazing is counter to the experience we want for college students in Pennsylvania," Wolf said. "We must give law enforcement the tools to hold people accountable and ensure schools have safeguards to protect students and curb hazing."

    The legislation makes the most severe forms of hazing a felony, requires schools to maintain policies to combat hazing and allows confiscation of frat houses where hazing has occurred.

    The law will be named for Tim Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering student from Lebanon, New Jersey, who died in February 2017 after a night of drinking and hazing after a bid acceptance ceremony at the now-closed Beta Theta Pi house.

    The legislation's prime sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican who represents State College, said the dismissals of charges against former Beta Theta Pi members showed how existing law can be a challenge for prosecutors to apply effectively.

    "It's been very difficult for the prosecutors, on the current statute, to match up the appropriate charge with the crime," Corman said.

    Piazza's parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, have become national anti-hazing advocates.

    Their lawyer, Tom Kline, said the law will be "a national model for anti-hazing legislation. In particular, today was a significant step forward in deterring and eradicating the scourge of hazing on university campuses throughout the nation."

    It defines hazing as conditioning acceptance into a group on breaking the law; consuming food, booze or drugs that put someone in emotional or physical harm; brutality of a sexual nature; putting them through whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics or exposure to severe weather; or sleep deprivation, "exclusion from social conduct" or extreme embarrassment.

    It would create tiers for hazing, making it a summary offense unless someone is hurt or dies. Hazing that is reasonably likely to injure someone would be a misdemeanor, while an incident that results in severe injury or death would be a felony.

    The bill includes a "safe harbor" provision that under certain circumstances would insulate people from prosecution if they sought help for someone involved in a hazing incident.

    Tim Piazza was injured in falling down a set of basement steps, after which fraternity members made inept and even counterproductive efforts to help him. The house's security video captured his excruciating night on a first-floor couch, including him stumbling in the darkness and falling.

    He was discovered unconscious in the basement the next morning, and it took fraternity members 40 minutes to summon an ambulance. Authorities say he had severe head and abdominal injuries, and a blood-alcohol content several times the state's legal limit for driving.

    Former school vice principal makes damning list of priests 'credibly accused' of sex abuse

    Former school vice principal makes damning list of priests 'credibly accused' of sex abuse


    Catholic school official accused of repeatedly abusing a then-16-year-old girl in 1970s. A former Catholic high school vice principal - previously accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage girl - was among at least...

    Catholic school official accused of repeatedly abusing a then-16-year-old girl in 1970s.

    A former Catholic high school vice principal - previously accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage girl - was among at least two dozen priests named Monday by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington as being "credibly accused" of sexually abusing minors.

    In the New Jersey case, a woman reached a settlement with the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese in 2015 over her claims that Monsignor Ronald Tully fondled her 20 times while she was a 16-year-old student in 1977 at Pope Pius XII Regional High School in Passaic County.

    The Archdiocese of Washington listed Tully among 31 others who faced allegations of abusing minors since 1948. Details on the allegations that landed Tully on the list remained unclear. 

    The allegations disclosed Monday were separate from accusations against Tully in New Jersey, according to a diocese spokeswoman. 

    "Our strong commitment to accompany survivors of abuse on their path toward healing is unwavering, but it is also important to note that to our knowledge there has not been a credible allegation of abuse of a minor by a priest of the archdiocese in almost two decades," Cardinal Donald Wuerl said in a statement.

    Diocese reaches 'six figure' settlement over sex abuse claim

    "There is also no archdiocesan priest in active ministry who has ever been the subject of a credible allegation of abuse of a minor," said Wuerl, who is stepping down after criticism over his handling of abuse allegations in Pennsylvania.

    Before coming to New Jersey, Tully was an Augustinian priest and teacher at Archbishop Carroll High School in northeast Washington, D.C. in the 1960s, according to the archdiocese. He became a priest at the Diocese of Paterson in the 1970s, and was a priest at Sacred Heart Parish in Dover before being placed on leave in 2004, church officials said.

    Alleged abuse involving Tully was reported to the The Archdiocese of Washington in 2011, according to the statement released Monday. He was the only priest on the Washington list with apparent links to New Jersey.

    Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based attorney who represented the accuser in the Passaic County case, previously told NJ Advance Media his client reported the allegations to prosecutors, but the statute of limitations for criminal charges had expired. It was unclear if Washington, D.C. authorities were involved in any claims involving Tully.

    Tully was placed on administrative leave more than a decade ago and diocese officials in 2012 filed to have the Vatican defrock him, a process known as laicization in the church, an attorney for the Paterson Diocese said in a 2015 interview. Tully, however, opted to voluntary laicization. 

    The Archdiocese of Washington list was made public as "a necessary step toward full transparency and accountability and the process of healing," the Washington Post reported, citing a letter to clergy.

    Some 50 dioceses have published similar lists of accused priests in recent years, Terry McKiernan, of BishopAccountability.org, told the newspaper. The public disclosures can help victims and encourage more reports.

    "There's enormous value for a survivor in knowing that his or her perpetrator abused someone else," McKiernan told the Post. "It's a sad fact, but it's a validating fact."

    Noah Cohen may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     
    Hillary Clinton stumps for Menendez at Jersey City fundraiser

    Hillary Clinton stumps for Menendez at Jersey City fundraiser


    Hillary Clinton came out to Jersey City to help raise money for embattled New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Monday. Hillary Clinton came out to Jersey City to help raise money for embattled New Jersey U.S. Sen....

    Hillary Clinton came out to Jersey City to help raise money for embattled New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Monday.

    Hillary Clinton came out to Jersey City to help raise money for embattled New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Monday.

    Clinton was the featured guest at the event to raise money for Menendez, his leadership political action committee, and the New Jersey State Democratic Committee. at the Liberty Prime Steakhouse in Jersey City on Oct. 15. Tickets ranged from $500 to $5,400, according to an invitation.

    Menendez, D-N.J., supported Clinton's presidential campaigns in both 2008 and 2016, against her Democratic primary opponents. In endorsing Clinton shortly before the June 2016 New Jersey primary, he called her opponent, Donald Trump, "an unmitigated disaster."

    Menendez's Republican challenger, former Celgene Corp. executive Bob Hugin, launched a million-dollar ad campaign Monday to target unproven allegations that Menendez was involved with prostitutes during trips to the Dominican Republic with friend and campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.

    Menendez was indicted on corruption charges, but after a mistrial and having some counts against him dropped, the federal government said earlier this year that it was dropping its case against him.

    Across the street from the fundraiser Monday night, protesters held signs saying "Tax the rich" and "Stop the Hypocrisy." Many also wore costumes and masks.

    A Journal photographer wasn't allowed inside but the action was visible from outside. 

    Another woman alleges sex assault against ex-Murphy staffer, this time when he was in law school

    Another woman alleges sex assault against ex-Murphy staffer, this time when he was in law school


    Another woman said Albert J. Alvarez tried to rape her 19 years ago while they were in law school. Less than 24 hours after a woman publicly accused a former senior staffer in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration of...

    Another woman said Albert J. Alvarez tried to rape her 19 years ago while they were in law school.

    Less than 24 hours after a woman publicly accused a former senior staffer in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration of rape during the campaign, a second woman came forward Monday, telling her own story of how the same man attempted to sexually assault her during a law school party nearly 20 years ago.

    The woman, who spoke to NJ Advance Media on the condition she not be identified, said Albert J. Alvarez attacked her during a Rutgers Law Review gathering in the fall of 1999, and that she feels remorse for not reporting it to police  

    Alvarez was the chief of staff to the Schools Development Authority until Oct. 2, and played key roles in Murphy's campaign and transition team effort.

    Phil Murphy launches investigation into why alleged rapist was hired for top state job

    The woman said she felt compelled to speak up after reading Katie Brennan's account in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, in which Brennan accused Alvarez of raping her after a campaign event in April 2017,

    "I just wanted people to be aware there were prior allegations, to help support this woman, Katie Brennan, so people don't sit there and say she is lying," the woman said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "I wanted her to know she is not standing alone."

    The woman's account was first reported by Politico New Jersey on Monday afternoon.

    John Hogan, Alvarez's attorney, has denied his client did anything wrong. He declined to comment on the latest allegation Monday.

    The woman described how Alvarez had walked up behind her as she was about to make a telephone call and pushed her against a wall. She told him to stop and tried to fight him off as he kissed her, pulled off her shirt and touched her breasts.

    "It was like he wasn't hearing me," she said. "He just kept doing what he was intent on doing."

    Someone walked into the room, allowing her to break free and run away, she said.

    The woman, who was 26 at the time, said she did not report the violent encounter to the police, not wanting to upend his life. When Alvarez put himself in the running for editor of the law journal, she told the two deans overseeing the law journal, as well as fellow students. He was elected editor anyway.

    The woman, a married attorney with two children, said she was reminded of the assault after the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh sparked a national debate on why sexual assault victims often do not report the attacks.

    Aware that Alvarez had a rising political career, the woman said she wrote a letter to Murphy on Oct. 1.

    Busy with a trial, she sent Murphy the letter Oct. 11, as the rape allegations came to light last week. She sent the letter with a legal certification, attesting to the truthfulness of her claims.

    "For all I know, he may have led an exemplary life since that night at the law school party and it is not my place nor intention to disrupt that," according to the woman's letter, which she shared with NJ Advance Media.

    "I simply write to you now so that if he ever ascends in political circles or is nominated to the bench, I do not want anyone to say that I never told anyone before or to question why I had not raised these allegations sooner."

    In a statement Sunday, Murphy's office made an oblique reference to receiving another allegation involving Alvarez. A spokesman for the governor, Mahen Gunaratna, confirmed that Murphy's office on Oct. 11 received a separate accusation against Alvarez that was "promptly referred" to the state attorney general. 

    The governor's office declined comment on Monday. 

    On Monday, Murphy announced he had hired former state Attorney General and state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero and the law firm of Sills Cummis and Gross to investigate how Brennan's complaint was handled by the administration.

    Murphy said Monday his administration will "conduct a real and exhaustive independent investigation into how this hire was allowed to go forward."

    Murphy said it was a mistake for members of his transition team to offer Alvarez a job after she notified the team of the assault in December.

    In June, a campaign attorney told Brennan that Alvarez would be departing his job soon. But he did not resign until the Journal contacted him on Oct. 2 seeking comment for its story on the rape allegations.

    NJ Advance Media staff writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report.

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook

    Hugin goes nuclear on Menendez by reviving explosive (and unproven) allegations about prostitutes

    Hugin goes nuclear on Menendez by reviving explosive (and unproven) allegations about prostitutes


    Bob Hugin resurrected allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez was involved with prostitutes . The person who first alerted the Justice Department says they were debunked. Watch video WASHINGTON -- A...

    Bob Hugin resurrected allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez was involved with prostitutes . The person who first alerted the Justice Department says they were debunked. Watch video

    WASHINGTON -- A million-dollar ad campaign launched Monday by Republican Senate candidate nominee Bob Hugin resurrected the most salacious charges  against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez: unproven allegations that he was involved with prostitutes during trips to the Dominican Republic with friend and campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.

    The explosive charges were mentioned by the FBI in its investigation of Menendez, D-N.J., but were not part of the 14-count indictment. The Justice Department later dropped the case against Menendez after its first effort ended in a mistrial and a federal judge acquitted the senator of some counts.

    "The people of New Jersey have the right to know all the facts regarding the FBI investigation into Senator Menendez and this ad gives them that opportunity," Hugin said.

    But the person who first brought the prostitution allegations to the attention of the Justice Department said Monday they had been thoroughly debunked.

    "All of these allegations were discredited," said Melanie Sloan, former executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told NJ Advance Media. 

    "It is pretty despicable of Menendez's opponent to bring up stuff that is completely untrue. There's stuff about Menendez that's problematic but this isn't it."

    What Dems are doing to save Menendez

    The Hugin campaign launched the ad in response to Menendez's Senate floor speech opposing the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault.

    The ad called Menendez a "hypocrite" because he said he believed Kavanaugh's accuser, research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, and other women who said they were the victims of sexual assault, but not the women who reportedly said they slept with him.

    The campaign said these accusations were different than those leveled by three women and published by a right-wing website. Those women later were found to have been paid to make the charges.

    The affidavit cited by the Hugin campaign said the FBI was able to confirm some of the information provided and a Justice Department filing cited "specific, corroborated allegations that defendants Menendez and Melgen had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic."

    Neither Menendez nor Melgen were indicted on those charges. Sloan, a former federal prosecutor, said corroboration could simply mean that Menendez and Melgen were in the Dominican Republic as alleged, not that allegations of prostitution were proven.

    Ask Alexa

    "There was corroboration of things that were around the allegations, which is the reason we wrote the letter in the first place," Sloan said. "There was nothing ever confirmed or even corroborated in terms of prostitution."

    Menendez campaign spokesman Steve Sandberg lashed out at Hugin.

    "It is clear that Bob Hugin will say, do and spend whatever he wants to try to deceive New Jersey voters and buy a Senate seat," Sandberg said. "This is a disgraceful act by a desperate man. They are lies and he knows it."

    Several Republicans echoed the Hugin campaign's argument of hypocrisy leveled against Menendez, even though the FBI never proved that the charges were true.

    "Just days ago, in a speech on the Senate floor, Bob Menendez said that we should believe women who make allegations of sexual assault," said former State Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, a Hugin campaign co-chair.

    "Why, then, should we not believe the allegations by these women who claimed to have had sex with Senator Menendez when they were underage?" Allen said.

    The allegations spilled over to New Jersey's competitive House races.

    Jim Hilk, campaign manager for Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th Dist., said the charges  were "found to be credible" and were "backed by corroborating evidence." He asked whether Democratic challenger Tom Malinowski believed Menendez "or does he believe federal law enforcement?"

    Responded Malinowski campaign manager Colston Reid: "Lance lost all credibility on this issue when he publicly disparaged Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations before she even testified. He proved himself to be grossly out of touch, and has no record of actual accomplishment to run on, so now he's distracting you with Bob Menendez.  

    Ronica Cleary, a spokeswoman for state Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said the allegations meant that his Democratic challenger in the 11th District, former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill, "can't vote for Bob Menendez and claim to be a champion for women."

    Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

     
    Microsoft co-founder, Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen dies at 65

    Microsoft co-founder, Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen dies at 65


    Allen, who also owned the Portland Trail Blazers, died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire...

    Allen, who also owned the Portland Trail Blazers, died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist who invested in conservation, space travel and professional sports, died Monday. He was 65.

    His death was announced by his company, Vulcan Inc.

    Earlier this month Allen announced that the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that he was treated for in 2009 had returned and he planned to fight it aggressively.

    "While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much-loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend," said his sister, Jody Allen, in a statement.

    Allen, who was an avid sports fan, owned the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks.

    Allen and Gates met while attending a private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.

    Gates so strongly believed it that he left Harvard University in his junior year to devote himself full-time to his and Allen's startup, originally called Micro-Soft. Allen spent two years at Washington State University before dropping out as well.

    They founded the company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to program and operate the machine.

    After Gates and Allen found some success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives moved their business in 1979 to Bellevue, Washington, not far from its eventual home in Redmond.

    Microsoft's big break came in 1980, when IBM Corp. decided to move into personal computers and asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.

    Gates and company didn't invent the operating system. To meet IBM's needs, they spent $50,000 to buy one known as QDOS from another programmer, Tim Paterson. Eventually the product, refined by Microsoft -- and renamed DOS, for Disk Operating System -- became the core of IBM PCs and their clones, catapulting Microsoft into its dominant position in the PC industry.

    The first versions of two classic Microsoft products, Microsoft Word and the Windows operating system, were released in 1983. By 1991, Microsoft's operating systems were used by 93 percent of the world's personal computers.

    The Windows operating system is now used on most of the world's desktop computers, and Word is the cornerstone of the company's prevalent Office products.

    Microsoft was thrust onto the throne of technology and soon Gates and Allen became billionaires.

    With his sister Jody Allen in 1986, he founded Vulcan, the investment firm that oversees his business and philanthropic efforts. He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into nuclear-fusion power.

    Allen later joined the list of America's wealthiest people who pledged to give away the bulk of their fortunes to charity. In 2010, he publicly pledged to give away the majority of his fortune, saying he believed "those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity."

    When he released his 2011 memoir, "Idea Man," he allowed 60 Minutes inside his home on Lake Washington, across the water from Seattle, revealing collections that ranged from the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock to vintage war planes and a 300-foot yacht with its own submarine.

    Allen served as Microsoft's executive vice president of research and new product development until 1983, when he resigned after being diagnosed with cancer.

    "To be 30 years old and have that kind of shock -- to face your mortality -- really makes you feel like you should do some of the things that you haven't done yet," Allen said in a 2000 book, "Inside Out: Microsoft in Our Own Words," published to celebrate 25 years of Microsoft.

    His influence is firmly imprinted on the cultural landscape of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, from the bright metallic Museum of Pop Culture designed by architect Frank Gehry to the computer science center at the University of Washington that bears his name.

    In 1988 at the age of 35, he bought the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team. He told The Associated Press that "for a true fan of the game, this is a dream come true."

    He also was a part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, a major league soccer team, and bought the Seattle Seahawks. Allen could sometimes be seen at games or chatting in the locker room with players.

    An 'epidemic' is wiping out raccoons in 3 Jersey Shore towns and your dog could be at risk

    An 'epidemic' is wiping out raccoons in 3 Jersey Shore towns and your dog could be at risk


    "It's running rampant through their colonies," Animal Control Officer Jack Neary said. "I've seen it before many years ago, but not to this degree. This is really pretty intense." An "epidemic" of canine distemper, a...

    "It's running rampant through their colonies," Animal Control Officer Jack Neary said. "I've seen it before many years ago, but not to this degree. This is really pretty intense."

    An "epidemic" of canine distemper, a disease that usually affects dogs, is killing raccoons by the dozen in three Ocean County towns, officials said.

    Point Pleasant Police and Animal Control Officer "Muskrat" Jack Neary issued the warning to residents of the borough, as well as Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach, on Monday.

    "I don't know how many exactly, but I'd say we've had to put down between 35 and 40 in the three towns," Neary said. "I've put down three, four of five a day over the last few days."

    He said the disease is popping up "predominantly" in Point Pleasant Beach and Point Pleasant, and that most of the raccoons are adolescents.

    "It's running rampant through their colonies," he said. "I've seen it before many years ago, but not to this degree. This is really pretty intense."

    A dog that is not vaccinated for canine distemper can also become infected.

    "All the raccoon would have to be doing is hanging around an outside food or water bowl," he said. "All the dog needs to do to get it is to inhale it."

    "We don't know exactly how it started, but a dog probably had the virus and infected a raccoon," Neary said."Raccoons have no immunity to it, so if they get it, they have to be put down or they will die a slow, agonizing death."

    The symptoms of canine distemper mimic the ones animals with rabies show including the fact that the raccoons act "strange" during daylight hours, a post on the Point Pleasant Police Department Facebook page said.

    An infected raccoon's eyes will look like they are "gummed up with green discharge," and the animal will "smell like it's decomposing."

    Neary said the main concern with the virus is that, unlike rabies which is spread through saliva, it is spread through the air, allowing it to pass more easily to other raccoons.

    Humans cannot catch the disease.

    Neary asked anyone who sees a raccoon exhibiting the behavior of canine distemper to call the police immediately so the animal can be removed. 

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

    N.J. could become 1st state to license all pet groomers on heels of NJ Advance Media investigation

    N.J. could become 1st state to license all pet groomers on heels of NJ Advance Media investigation


    The Pet Grooming Licensing Act was pushed through after an investigation by NJ Advance Media documented dozens of cases of dogs dying shortly or after groomings at PetSmart since 2008. New Jersey could become the...

    The Pet Grooming Licensing Act was pushed through after an investigation by NJ Advance Media documented dozens of cases of dogs dying shortly or after groomings at PetSmart since 2008.

    New Jersey could become the first state in the country to regulate pet groomers after a bill unanimously passed a committee hearing Monday. 

    The Pet Grooming Licensing Act was pushed through after an investigation by NJ Advance Media documented dozens of cases of dogs dying shortly or after groomings at PetSmart. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle introduced the bill in 2014

    "Everyone I tell, they're surprised groomers don't require licensing," she said. "There's room for regulation. No one is against safety. It's time to put pets over profits."

    The bill, known as Bijou's Law, would establish a Pet Groomers Advisory Committee within the Division of Consumer Affairs and require groomers pass an exam for a license. The groomer would also need to be at least 18 years of age and "be of good moral character."

    Bijou's Law, named after a 6-year-old shih tzu that died during a routine grooming at a big box pet salon, is sponsored by Huttle, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty.

    Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman is sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate, which has yet to receive a committee hearing. 

    Rosemary Marchetto, Bijou's owner, testified to committee members that her goal is to make it mandatory for groomers to be licensed across the country, but said she's proud to see New Jersey taking the first step. 

    "I'm elated the state assembly sees and recognizes the need for dog grooming to be a regulated, licensed industry," Marchetto said. "This has been four years in the making, but it's well worth it knowing New Jersey dogs will be safer at groomers."

    Other states, such as Colorado, require grooming facilities and private groomers to register with state agencies, providing some oversight of what is largely an unregulated industry. 

    While groomers who spoke at the committee meeting said they mostly supported what the bill calls for, they expressed concerned about the financial burden of licensing and the credentials of the oversight committee members. Some groomers said education and consumer transparency should be the focus.

    "We want to get rid of those bad apples but legislation won't enforce that. The license is only as good as the integrity of the holder," said Lisa Correia, a pet groomer and educator.

    Huttle said the renewed interest in the bill came after NJ Advance Media's expansive investigation into PetSmart, the nation's leading pet-retailer. Similar bills have also been introduced. 

    The report documented 47 cases of dogs dying during or shortly after PetSmart groomings during the past decade. But that's hardly a definitive number as most groomers are not required to publicly report deaths.

    The probe revealed the company has offered affected families money, sometimes as little as a few hundred dollars, in exchange for non-disclosure agreements. In addition, former employees detailed allegations of inadequate training and intense pressure to grow profits.

    PetSmart -- which operates more than 1,600 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico -- fiercely defended its safety record and denies wrongdoing.

    "As a company of pet lovers who are dedicated to the health and happiness of all pets, we empathize with these grieving families," it said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we are not aware of any evidence suggesting that PetSmart services caused the deaths of these pets."

    [Read the company's full response to the investigation]

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her at @snietomunoz

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

    This time, let's really investigate the Murphy staffer accused of rape | Editorial

    This time, let's really investigate the Murphy staffer accused of rape | Editorial


    Lawmakers should call on the Attorney General to investigate how the prosecutor handled this, then hold their own hearings on what the governor's office did. Gov. Phil Murphy had a chance to investigate a top aide...

    Lawmakers should call on the Attorney General to investigate how the prosecutor handled this, then hold their own hearings on what the governor's office did.

    Gov. Phil Murphy had a chance to investigate a top aide accused of sexually assaulting a woman, before the guy was hired for a government job. He blew it.
     
    Even worse, so did the prosecutor. So while we welcome the probe that the governor promised Monday, to be headed by former Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero, it still won't be enough.
     
    Verniero is a Republican, so this is not just some partisan wash job. That said, though, we're a state that has been burned by the fictional Mastro report. So why take that risk?

    Phil Murphy launches investigation into why alleged rapist was hired for top state job
     
    Part of the Legislature's job is to oversee the executive branch. Sen. Loretta Weinberg is calling for hearings on the handling of sexual misconduct, but we also need to look at this case specifically, and why Al Alvarez flew under the radar for so long.
     
    The woman who came forward is also a Murphy official, and has a credible story. Katie Brennan told the Wall Street Journal that Alvarez gave her a ride home, entered her Jersey City apartment on the pretense of using the bathroom and then forced himself on her until she managed to escape.
     
    She immediately reported the assault to her husband, close friend and police, and got a rape kit done in the emergency room. Her accusations and the corroborating statements seem like solid evidence.
     
    So our first question is, why did Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez's office decline to press charges?

    Woman accusing Murphy staffer of rape says she 'received no justice'
     
    Now that the press has wind of this, she's handed it off to the Middlesex County Prosecutor, citing a conflict of interest, because she knows both Brennan and Alvarez. Suarez claims she didn't realize that earlier. We find that hard to believe. How close was this prosecutor, really, to Alvarez?

    "I don't know how to answer that," said her spokesman, Raymond Worrall, on Monday night, when asked if Suarez is friends with Alvarez. He added, "You're going down a path that I'm not comfortable going down."
     
    After Brennan reported the alleged assault to Hudson county prosecutors months ago, she says Alvarez claimed it was consensual. If that's his defense, it's dubious, given her reaction at the time. Women don't typically rush out to get a rape kit done, and call a husband and best friend, right after having consensual sex.
     
    Brennan's friend said she was in such a state of shock that she was physically shaking. Now Suarez's office is trying to tell us a jury shouldn't have had a chance to weigh Alvarez's claim against the testimony of these three people?
     
    And what about his reported offer to pay a $15,000 settlement to shut Brennan up? And another accuser who just came forward, saying Alvarez also sexually assaulted her, back in law school? Claims like Brennan's often expose a pattern of predatory abuse.
     
    Legislative leaders should call on the Attorney General to investigate how the prosecutor handled this. Then they should hold their own hearings with subpoena power to learn how Alvarez was vetted for his job.
     
    How is it possible that the governor never heard about this, when senior staffers like his chief counsel, Matt Platkin, knew the details as early as March?
     
    The woman emailed both Murphy and his wife directly in June, citing a "sensitive matter." The governor moved to set up a meeting with her, but it never happened. Why didn't he express curiosity, or at least have the decency to hear her out?
     
    Why did no one call the AG directly, instead of channeling this to its office of "Equal Employment Opportunity," to handle a sexual assault allegation? Was it just to give the appearance of consulting the AG, without really doing it?
     
    Now they have a problem of public trust. "The folks in power are less than willing to investigate when it may gore their own ox," as retired lawmaker John Wisniewski, who helped shine a light on Bridgegate, put it.
     
    It took real guts for Brennan to step up. None of this gets fixed without someone like her leading the way, at great personal cost. The very least we owe her is an investigation that isn't a sham.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Here's another potential headache for Murphy. Operative hired was facing scandal in Bermuda.

    Here's another potential headache for Murphy. Operative hired was facing scandal in Bermuda.


    The governor's campaign paid the consultant $2 million over two years for outreach. Phil Murphy's campaign for governor paid $2 more than million to a political consultant under investigation for his work in...

    The governor's campaign paid the consultant $2 million over two years for outreach.

    Phil Murphy's campaign for governor paid $2 more than million to a political consultant under investigation for his work in Bermuda.

    Two news outlets report that Derrick Green, owner of Green Consultants, became embroiled in a Bermudian political scandal years before he was hired by Murphy for campaign outreach. 

    Green was then hired this year for a $140,000 job as a government representative in the Secretary of State's office.

    Politico New Jersey reported that the consulting firm also employed Marcellus Jackson, who stepped down in September from his $70,000-a-year job as a special assistant in the state Department of Education's Office of Civic and Social Engagement. He was determined to be disqualified from serving in any public office in New Jersey due to a felony conviction for accepting a bribe.

    Records from the Election Law Enforcement Commission indicate Green Consultants was paid more than $2 million by the Murphy campaign between June 2016 and November 2017.

    He then served as senior adviser for outreach during the transition.

    Murphy launches investigation into how staffer's allegation of rape was handled

    A campaign official told Politico the firm was hired during the campaign for canvassing and faith-based outreach focusing on African-American communities. 

    Northjersey.com spoke to two people in the Secretary of State's office who said they had never heard of Green, even though he's listed in that office's employ.

    That report quoted an anonymous source saying, however, that Green's job is in "elevating the voices and participation of urban and faith based communities in the administration"."

    Northjersey.com reported Green was hired for similar get-out-the-vote work in Bermuda by the One Bermuda Alliance party, which was working to oust to sitting government.

    Green and another consultant set up a checking account that became embroiled in a political scandal. The account received $350,000 from American developer Nathan Landow and his associates who were reportedly interested in building casinos there.

    Party leaders were not aware of the checking account or payments, according to Bermuda news reports.

    Findings of an internal party investigation into "Jetgate" note that Green said the money was spent on campaign-related activities but that the party could not verify the expenditures independently.

    Green has denied allegations that he introduced the former head of One Bermuda Alliance, who later resigned amid scandal, to the American developer. The scandal gets its name from the private jet belonging to Landow the former leader took to a private meeting with him in Washington D.C., according to news reports.

    Green has not been charged with a crime, and Politico New Jersey reports the matter is still under investigation.

    Green did not respond to the news outlets for comment.

    A Murphy spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Samantha Marcus may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @samanthamarcus. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

    Jersey City hospital to pay 'voluntary' taxes after city challenged tax-exempt status

    Jersey City hospital to pay 'voluntary' taxes after city challenged tax-exempt status


    JCMC, now part of the RWJBarnabas Health system, owns four properties in Jersey City. JERSEY CITY — After city officials appealed Jersey City Medical Center's tax-exempt status, the Downtown hospital has agreed...

    JCMC, now part of the RWJBarnabas Health system, owns four properties in Jersey City.

    JERSEY CITY — After city officials appealed Jersey City Medical Center's tax-exempt status, the Downtown hospital has agreed to kick in $550,000 annually to the city's coffers for the next six years.

    The agreement, which is part of a legal settlement between the hospital and the city, comes three years after a tax court judge ruled that Morristown Medical Center should pay Morristown property taxes because it fails to meet the legal test that it operates as a nonprofit. That ruling led dozens of towns statewide to sue hospitals seeking tax revenue.

    JCMC, now part of the RWJBarnabas Health system, owns four properties in Jersey City, tax records show. Its main campus, located on Grand Street in an upscale area of the city, is assessed at $12.6 million. If the hospital were not tax-exempt, it would pay $800,000 in property taxes this year, city attorney Nick Strasser told the City Council on Oct. 9.

    The settlement, approved by council members on Oct. 10, comes in two parts. The first includes JCMC's agreement to pay $300,000 in "voluntary" property taxes annually until 2023, retroactive to 2016. In exchange, the city will end its challenge of the hospital's tax-exempt status and the hospital will drop its counterclaim.

    A second agreement has JCMC agreeing on annual "health care collaboration" payments to the city, also retroactive. The payments for 2016 and 2017 will be $1 million total and from 2018 through 2023 they will amount to $250,000 annually.

    The tax agreement does not preclude the city from challenging the hospital's tax-exempt status after 2023.

    A bill under review by state lawmakers would require nonprofit hospitals in New Jersey pay a "community service contribution" equal to at least $2.50 per bed daily. If that becomes law, the agreement between the city and JCMC would allow JCMC to reduce that contribution by the amount JCMC will pay under the settlement.

    JCMC has about 320 beds.

    At the council's Oct. 9 caucus, Councilwoman Joyce Watterman asked if the settlement was the best the city could do.

    "It's perhaps not the best we could do but it's definitely not the worst we could do," Business Administrator Brian Platt told her. "The worst is actually zero, is what we get now."

    The council approved the JCMC agreements 8-0-1. Council President Rolando Lavarro abstained from voting. His wife, Veronica, works at Barnabas in media relations.

    "Jersey City Medical Center is pleased that the City of Jersey City has accepted this agreement," Veronica Lavarro said in a statement. "We look forward to our collaborative work to reduce health disparities and improving health equity in Jersey City."

    Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

    Have MacArthur's Obamacare repeal efforts hurt his re-election chances?

    Have MacArthur's Obamacare repeal efforts hurt his re-election chances?


    Rep. Tom MacArthur's lead over Democratic challenger Andy Kim is within the margin of error in a new Stockton poll. WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom MacArthur's key role in helping House Republicans repeal the Affordable...

    Rep. Tom MacArthur's lead over Democratic challenger Andy Kim is within the margin of error in a new Stockton poll.

    WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom MacArthur's key role in helping House Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act has hurt his re-election chances, according to a Stockton University poll that gave him a statistically insignificant lead over Democratic challenger Andy Kim.

    MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., was ahead of Kim, a former national security aide, 47 percent to 45 percent among likely voters, well within the margin of error of 4.2 percentage points in the survey released Monday.

    "In a race this close, whoever does a better job of turning out their voters will have a big advantage," said Michael W. Klein, interim executive director of Stockton University's William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy.

    The Stockton survey mirrors the findings of an August Monmouth University Poll that gave MacArthur a 41 percent to 40 percent lead among potential voters, defined as those who have voted at least once since 2010 or have newly registered.

    New York Times/Siena College poll last month though, gave Kim a 49 percent to 39 percent lead over MacArthur. The Cook Political Report called the race a toss-up while Inside Elections gave Kim a slight edge. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight gave Kim a 62 percent change of winning.

    Experts say MacArthur didn't protect pre-existing conditions

    Even as the Stockton poll put MacArthur ahead, it highlighted his biggest weaknesses.

    Voters said health care was their No. 1 issue, with 52 percent wanting the Affordable Care Act strengthened or left alone and 44 percent supporting repeal or weakening the law.

    In addition, more than three-quarters, 76 percent, said the federal government should continue to protect those with pre-existing conditions.

    MacArthur's amendment to the House Republican bill allowed it to pass, even as it would leave 23 million more Americans without coverage and end New Jersey's Medicaid expansion.

    While MacArthur has claimed that the House GOP bill with his amendment protected those with pre-existing conditions, the Congressional Budget Office, health care experts and medical groups disagreed.

    More than twice as many likely voters, 32 percent, said they were less likely to vote for MacArthur because of his stand on health care than the 16 percent who said they were more likely to support him. Almost half, 49 percent, said it made no difference or didn't know enough to offer an opinion.

    While MacArthur has supported Donald Trump more often than any other member of the state's congressional delegation, 55 percent of voters said the president's performance in office was either fair or poor, compared with 44 percent who rated him as good or excellent. 

    In the Senate race, Republican challenger Bob Hugin led U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., among 3rd District voters, 49 percent to 40 percent, with 4 percent supporting Libertarian Murray Sabrin.

    In 2012, Menendez carried Burlington and Ocean counties, parts of which comprise the 3rd District, by less than 6,000 votes over state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth.

    The poll of 546 likely voters was conducted Oct. 3-10.    

    Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

    N.J.'s top woman lawmaker calls for hearings after ex-Murphy staffer accused of rape

    N.J.'s top woman lawmaker calls for hearings after ex-Murphy staffer accused of rape


    State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg is calling for the hearings. Watch video New Jersey's highest-ranking woman state lawmaker is seeking a special joint legislative committee to hold...

    State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg is calling for the hearings. Watch video

    New Jersey's highest-ranking woman state lawmaker is seeking a special joint legislative committee to hold hearings into the state's laws and policies regarding sexual misconduct in the wake of allegations that a senior staffer in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration raped a woman while he worked for the governor's campaign last year.

    State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said in a statement that "system failed" Katie Brennan, a state official who publicly said Sunday that Albert J. Alvarez sexually assaulted her in the spring of last year. 

    Brennan, chief of staff of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, said she alerted Murphy's team of the accusations three times over the last year. But Alvarez remained in his job as chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority until Oct. 2. 

    "After surviving a terrifying sexual assault, it took incredible courage and determination for her to fight to have her voice heard in the pursuit of justice," Weinberg said in a statement.

    Phil Murphy launches investigation into why alleged rapist was hired for top state job

    "It is painfully obvious that her complaints fell on deaf ears both in the criminal justice system and at the highest levels of government," the lawmaker added. "Clearly, reforms are needed so that no more survivors are forced to endure what Ms. Brennan has experienced."

    Weinberg cannot order a probe herself. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, would need to approve it. 

    Sweeney did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday. He said Friday that legislative leaders are considering an investigation into the matter but want to see "hard documents" first.

    Weinberg's comment came just hours after Murphy, a fellow Democrat, announced he ordered an independent investigation into the allegations. It will be headed by Peter Verniero, a former state attorney general and state Supreme Court justice. 

    Murphy insisted that investigation will be "real" and won't be a "whitewash."

    He also said his administration will look into how to strengthen New Jersey's laws and policies protecting sexual assault victims.

    "It is critical we learn from her experience," the Democratic governor said of Brennan. "For her and all women across New Jersey, we must ensure system works.

    Republican state lawmakers have spent days demanding the Democrat-controlled state Legislature launch a separate probe into Murphy's "hiring practices."

    Weinberg is not seeking an investigation just into Murphy's handling of the Alvarez allegations. Instead, she said she wants a committee to examine the practices and procedures of police officers, prosecutors, the courts and defense attorneys, as well as hear from survivors and advocates.

    The goal would be to recommend "stronger laws with more clarity, special training for police officers and court officials, and additional safeguards that ensure the proper treatment of the survivors."

    "The system must work in ways that treat survivors with respect and dignity." Weinberg said.

    "We need a top-to-bottom examination of the system to identify the flaws and failures that need reform," she added. "I am pleased that the governor has now asked for an investigation, but the Legislature has a responsibility to act and an important independent role to play."

    Republican state lawmakers have spent days calling for a legislative investigation into how Murphy's team handled the matter.

    On Monday, all five Republican women serving in the state Assembly introduced legislation calling for a legislative investigation into the Murphy administration's hiring practices.

    "If the victim had the courage to speak up as often as she did, the Legislature should have the courage to find justice in the matter," said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, a sponsor of the resolution. 

    Added Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union: "The public needs to know the facts and testimony needs to begin immediately."

    Democratic leaders in the Assembly said in a joint statement Monday that "as the situation continues to unfold and new facts are presented, we will swiftly determine the appropriate next steps with every option on the table."

    Democratic leaders in the Senate said in another joint statement Monday that they demand a "full and straightforward accounting" of how the allegations agains Alvarez were handled. 

    But no Democrats besides Weinberg officially called for hearings or said they would be forthcoming. 

    Murphy wouldn't say Monday whether he supported hearings on top of the independent investigation.

    "I think these are very meaningful steps we are taking right now," he said. "This is a moment where folks can either grandstand or calls balls and strikes to make New Jersey better for victims of sexual assault."

    Brent Johnson may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

    Cops say man was shot while sleeping in his home

    Cops say man was shot while sleeping in his home


    No many details were divulged about the early Monday incident A Hamilton man was treated for a gunshot wound after he was shot while asleep in his home early Monday, police said The 28-year-old told first responders...

    No many details were divulged about the early Monday incident

    A Hamilton man was treated for a gunshot wound after he was shot while asleep in his home early Monday, police said

    The 28-year-old told first responders he was asleep in his home on the 1500 block of Genesee Street around 6:20 a.m. Monday morning when he accosted by a gunman.

    The victim was taken to a local hospital and treated for injuries that police say are non life-threatening. 

    Police later Monday would not divulge any more details about the incident, or any suspected shooter or shooters, or how they may have entered the man's home.

    No one has been arrested and the investigation into the shooting is ongoing, police said. 

    Anyone with information regarding the shooting is asked to contact Hamilton Detective Jason Moulds at 609-689-5825 or the Hamilton crime tipline at 609-581-4008.

    Paige Gross may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @By_paigegross.