New Jersey Real-Time News

    Government shutdown 2018 ends as House passes temporary spending bill

    Government shutdown 2018 ends as House passes temporary spending bill


    The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday cleared a spending bill to end the government shutdown of 2018, and fund the government through Feb. 8. WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House on Monday cleared a spending bill...

    The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday cleared a spending bill to end the government shutdown of 2018, and fund the government through Feb. 8.

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House on Monday cleared a spending bill to fund the government through Feb. 8 and allow it to reopen.

    President Donald Trump signed the bill into law shortly after the House acted, ending the three-day shutdown.

    Senate Democrats had refused to vote for legislation that did not provide full funding for the military, border security, opioid addiction treatment, veterans' benefits and other domestic programs; and also did not allow 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.

    The vote was 266-150, with 45 Democrats in favor. The House action followed an earlier 81-18 Senate vote in favor of the temporary spending bill.

    Deal reached to reopen government

    "I know there is great relief that this episode is coming to an end," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who supported the House Republican-led shutdown in 2013 and voted against a bipartisan bill to reopen the government. "This shutdown did not need to happen. However brief, it inflicted needless costs on the country.

    Besides funding the government, the legislation also renews for six years the Children's Health Insurance Program. Congressional Republicans initially had refused to continue CHIP, which expired Sept. 30, unless it was paid for by cuts to the Affordable Care Act.

    The bill also suspends several Affordable Care Act taxes enacted to help fund the expansion of health care to millions of uninsured Americans.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier had secured enough Democratic support to pass the spending bill after promising to bring up legislation enable the so-called dreamers to stay in the U.S.

    The immigrants are known as dreamers after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which had been blocked by Senate Republicans.

    The budget brouhaha could resume when the current temporary spending bill expires unless House and Senate negotiators can agree on legislation to fund the government through the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year.

    "Republicans control the House, Senate, the White House," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "We could have brought up a long-term bill long before now. Because of the Republican majority's weakness, we still don't have a long-term spending bill that funds the military and the domestic investments that keep America strong," 

    Once again, 60 votes will be needed in the Senate, forcing congressional Republicans to compromise with the Democratic minority or risk another shutdown.

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

    Over 9K sign online petition to keep N.J. drag strip open

    Over 9K sign online petition to keep N.J. drag strip open


    More than 9,000 drag racing fans signed an online petition appealing to the owners of Raceway Park in Old Bridge, whose owners announced they would discontinue drag racing Watch video A online...

    More than 9,000 drag racing fans signed an online petition appealing to the owners of Raceway Park in Old Bridge, whose owners announced they would discontinue drag racing Watch video

    A online petition to keep drag racing at Raceway Park has garnered thousands of signatures, after its owners announced that both amateur races and National Hot Rod Association events would no longer be held on the drag strip that's been the heart of Middlesex County motorsports complex for more than 50 years.

    The Raceway Park petition page on Care2.com states that, "Racers need to stand up to keep drag racing at Raceway Park."

    "Raceway Park has announced that it will be no long having any drag racing of any kind starting this year," reads a statement by the petition's author, Steven Nelson, a 31-year-old fan and amateur drag racer from Little Silver. "I go there most Wednesday(s) and many events like Honda day and Summernationals. I look forward to going there every year and i know I'm not the only one. They will lose a lot of business if they discontinue. Raceway Park has been open since 1965 and drag racing is their main attraction and we need to make sure they don't let that tradition go!!!!!"

    The petition page went up last week, and as of Monday afternoon had more than 9,100 signatures, including more than 5,000 from New Jersey alone, en route to its goal of 10,000.

    "The history and drag racing culture of raceway park is something you can't find anywhere else," wrote one signatory from New Jersey, who didn't post his or her name.

    In an interview Monday, Nelson said he hoped the petition would help Raceway Park's owners appreciate what the drag strip means to people. He said he was initially hoping for 1,000 signatures, and has been overwhelmed by the response.

    "I didn't have high hopes for this," said Nelson, an auto mechanic at Middletown Service Center, who races a gutted Honda Civic.

    The region's hot rodders were rocked by last week's announcement that drag racing would no longer be held at the longtime home of the NHRA's annual Summernationals and bracket racing on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesday nights for amateurs and semi-pro drivers.

    Nelson said it takes him half an hour to drive his Honda to Raceway Park for the ten nights or so a year he races. But he said it will take hie three times as long to get to either one of the two remaining drag strips in New Jersey, Atco Dragway in Camden County to the south, or Island Dragway in Warren County to the northwest.

    "I'm right in the middle them," he said.

    Other forms of racing, including motocross, carting and drifting, will continue at Raceway Park, as will non-motorsports events like flee markets and Tough Mudders charity mud races, according to Raceway Park's owners, the Napp family, which founded the drag strip in 1965 and continues to operate expanded motorsports park.

    Englishtown latest in line of closed N.J. tracks

    But the quarter-mile drag strip that has been the heart of Raceway Park will be dedicated to concerts, according to Old Bridge Township officials who were briefed on the matter by Raceway Park's owner prior to the announcement.

    Steve Mamakas, the Old Bridge economic development director, said township officials had asked if there was anything they could do to keep drag racing alive, but the answer was no. 

    "That question has been asked," Mamakas said on Monday. "There's nothing that we have."

    The announcement set off a social media storm of anger, sorrow and nostalgia among the countless drivers and race fans who grew up or spent much of their lives at the strip watching or driving funny cars, dragsters and stock cars tearing up the quarter-mile or 1,000-foot track in bursts lasting less than 10 seconds.

    No one's been picking up the phone at Raceway Park since the announcement last week, and its principal owner, Michael Napp, could not be reached independently or through township officials who have met with him. Despite widespread media coverage and the outpouring of public sentiment generated by the announcement, Mamakas said Napp was laying low for the time being.

    "One of his responses was, 'I just have to let the dust settle a little bit,'" said Mamakas, who used to race his Dodge Challenger at the drag strip. 

    Raceway Park's drag strip is just the latest of about two dozen racing venues around the state that have shut down and, in most cases, torn down, after having opened in the early or mid-20th Century.

    The list includes drag strips, dirt and wood oval tracks and street courses, for everything from go-karts to IndyCars. Even Formula 1 fans have had their share of disappointments in New Jersey, where plans for the state's first F1 race along the Hudson River waterfront never materialized.

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Meet Murphy's pick for new NJ Transit boss. Can he fix 'national disgrace'?

    Meet Murphy's pick for new NJ Transit boss. Can he fix 'national disgrace'?


    The vice -president of a transportation consulting company that worked on the cancelled ARC Tunnel could be Gov. Phil Murphy's choice to head NJ Transit. The vice president of a national transportation consulting...

    The vice -president of a transportation consulting company that worked on the cancelled ARC Tunnel could be Gov. Phil Murphy's choice to head NJ Transit.

    The vice president of a national transportation consulting company is expected to be nominated to head NJ Transit by Gov. Phil Murphy to fix the agency Murphy has called a "national disgrace," NJ Advance Media has learned.

    Murphy is set to nominate Kevin Corbett as NJ Transit's next executive director, possibly as early as this week, several transportation sources said.

    Corbett is North American vice president of AECOM, a global infrastructure firm, which has worked on major NJ Transit projects including the canceled ARC Tunnel

    He is also on the Regional Plan Association's board of directors, which just released an ambitious 30-year plan to remake the metro region's transportation system. Corbett is co-chairman of RPA's transportation committee and the association issued a statement on Monday congratulating him. 

    Corbett brings both local, regional, national and international experience to running NJ Transit, said Tom Wright, RPA executive director, in an email. 

    Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit executive director nominee. (RPA Photo)
     

    "He has been a senior executive at the world's largest infrastructure firm for many years, and before that worked in the public sector -- including helping New York recover from 9/11 when he worked at the Empire State Development Corporation," Wright said. "Kevin knows how to manage large institutions - and how to run things on time. It's a great selection."


    A spokesman for Murphy did not answer emails about Corbett. A business news website reported that Corbett was Murphy's nominee and said an announcement could be made this week.

    Murphy, who called NJ Transit a "national disgrace," has vowed to make over the troubled agency, and  issued an executive order on Monday calling for an audit of the organization.

    A source who worked with Corbett on transportation issues and asked not to be identified said he was "well regarded" and made "sound contributions" to issues under his purview. 

    Corbett's name surfaced last week as a candidate who was being considered, sources said. If nominated, he would have to be approved by a vote of NJ Transit's board of directors. Pending that, he takes over an agency cited for federal safety violations and criticized by commuters for delays, overcrowding and reliability issues.   

    If approved, Corbett would take over the helm from Executive Director Steven Santoro, who announced on Jan. 4 that he would resign in April and work with his replacement to have a smooth transition.  

    AECOM was part of a joint venture with two other companies that were awarded a $111 million contract to do final designs on the ARC Tunnel, which would build two new rail tunnels across the Hudson River. It was canceled by Gov. Chris Christie in October 2010.

    Larry Higgs may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @commutinglarry. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     

    Man shot dead by police after calling 911 to say he was armed, officials say

    Man shot dead by police after calling 911 to say he was armed, officials say


    No gun was recovered at the scene, authorities said A Millville police officer shot and killed a city man Monday morning following a call the man made to 911 reporting he had a loaded gun and was at a city...

    No gun was recovered at the scene, authorities said

    A Millville police officer shot and killed a city man Monday morning following a call the man made to 911 reporting he had a loaded gun and was at a city intersection, authorities said.

    Edward C. Gandy Jr., 47, of Dock Street, called 911 at 10:47 a.m. and told a dispatcher he had a loaded gun and was at High and McNeal streets, the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office said.

    The office did not provide any details about what transpired when officers responded to Gandy's location before and after an officer shot him.

    No gun was recovered at the scene, the office said.

    The office also did not give any other details about the nature of Gandy's call, including whether he was threatening to harm anyone or himself. 

    Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said Monday afternoon she will not be commenting further on the incident.

    A woman told The Daily Journal that she heard the gunshots and saw a man lying in the middle of the street

    In accordance with regular procedures, the prosecutor's office has initiated a deadly force investigation and the officer who shot Gandy has been placed on administrative leave, Webb-McRae said.

    Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office Detective Nicholina Pennington at 956-362-0751.

    Police-involved shooting under investigation in Millville https://t.co/fJKFydkVFy pic.twitter.com/gshZB46yPD

    -- Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) January 22, 2018

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     
    Anti-abortion protesters in N.J. praise Trump, Christie for their support

    Anti-abortion protesters in N.J. praise Trump, Christie for their support


    Opponents of abortion rallying in front of the Statehouse in Trenton praise President Trump, former Gov. Chris Christie for their support and promise to keep fighting for life. Watch video Hundreds...

    Opponents of abortion rallying in front of the Statehouse in Trenton praise President Trump, former Gov. Chris Christie for their support and promise to keep fighting for life. Watch video

    Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Statehouse courtyard annex in Trenton Monday to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, 45 years ago.

    The rally organized by the New Jersey Right to Life group was held three days after the nationwide anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C., which included a visit and speech from President Donald Trump.

    Leaders, elected officials, and clergy aligned with the anti-abortion movement addressed the crowd as they held signs distributed by the organization.  

    Father Peter West, an associate pastor at St. John's Catholic Church in Orange, kicked off the rally with a prayer.

    Marie Tasy, New Jersey Right to Life, executive director, praised Trump and former Gov. Chris Christie for their support of the movement. Tasy pointed out that Christie was the state's first anti-abortion governor.

    "We will work to make sure that he won't be our last," she said.

    The theme of the march this year was 'Love Saves Lives.'

    "Ours is a movement of love and hope," she said. "It's why we continue to call for the overturning of this tragic decision."

    Patti Sapone may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram @psapo, Twitter @psapone.  Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     
    Wall Street to Murphy: N.J. budget may be hurt by Christie sales tax cut, Trump tax law

    Wall Street to Murphy: N.J. budget may be hurt by Christie sales tax cut, Trump tax law


    New Jersey's new governor is on track to face a revenue shortfall in his first budget, warns a Wall Street credit-rating agency. A pair of contrasting tax policies sets the stage for a revenue shortfall -- and major...

    New Jersey's new governor is on track to face a revenue shortfall in his first budget, warns a Wall Street credit-rating agency.

    A pair of contrasting tax policies sets the stage for a revenue shortfall -- and major headache -- for Gov. Phil Murphy when he crafts his first budget, a Wall Street ratings agency says. 

    Moody's Investor's Service warned in a report Monday the state' economy isn't growing fast enough to pay for increased contributions for public worker benefits and that the state will lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars from a cut to the sales tax former Gov. Chris Christie signed as part of a gas tax hike plan.

    The sales tax decreased from 7 percent to 6.875 percent on Jan. 1, 2017, and to 6.625 at the beginning of the year. That's $400 million in lost revenue for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and another $500 million at the end of Fiscal Year 2019, according to the report.

    Murphy orders audit of NJ Transit

    Baye Larsen, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's, said the cut means "revenue will struggle to catch up over the next six months."

    And then there's the other tax policy that will leave "many New Jersey taxpayers with less disposable income and wealth," according to the report.

    Federal reforms drafted by congressional Republicans and signed by President Donald Trump that reworked state and local deductions are expected to drop home values by 7.5 percent on average, Moody's reported.

    The bad news comes on the heels of Christie's administration boasting a 30 percent spike in income taxes collected by the state just before he left office compared to the previous year.

    The Treasury reported FY 18 revenue was exceeding projections.

    However, Moody's attributed the spike in income tax collections to people who moved up their payments to avoid the the changes under the new federal law. If that's the case, the state should prepare itself for offsetting declines in April 2018 tax payments.

    Matt Arco may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MatthewArco or Facebook.

    2 dead, 1 wounded in afternoon shooting in Trenton

    2 dead, 1 wounded in afternoon shooting in Trenton


    The victims - all males - were found shot in the Chambersburg neighborhood Gunfire in Trenton's Chambersburg neighborhood Monday afternoon has claimed the lives of two men and wounded a third, police said. Two of the...

    The victims - all males - were found shot in the Chambersburg neighborhood

    Gunfire in Trenton's Chambersburg neighborhood Monday afternoon has claimed the lives of two men and wounded a third, police said.

    Two of the men were taken from the Ashmore Avenue scene by ambulance to separate hospitals in the city after responding officer found them in a car. The third walked into one of the hospitals while police were there, Trenton police said.

    Police did not have identities of the victims - all males - late Monday, and did not offer any suspected theories or motives behind the 2:20 p.m. shooting in the 300 block of Ashmore, near the intersection with Washington Street.

    One male died at Capital Health Regional Medical Center, and one at St. Francis Medical Center, nearby, where the second arrived on his own, police said.

    Trenton police did not report any arrests Monday evening. City police and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office's Homicide Task Force are investigating.

    The killings are the city's second and third of the month, and year. Last Tuesday, Jan. 16, Terrence McKinney, 46, was found shot multiple times in the parking lot behind an apartment building on West State Street in which he resided.

    No arrests have been reported in McKinney's killing.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

    Draw a line against deporting Dreamers | Moran

    Draw a line against deporting Dreamers | Moran


    The end of the shutdown is only the start of Round Two in the fight to defend kids who are Americans in every important way. Watch video If you are relieved to learn that the government shutdown is...

    The end of the shutdown is only the start of Round Two in the fight to defend kids who are Americans in every important way. Watch video

    If you are relieved to learn that the government shutdown is about to end, then enjoy the moment. Because it may not last.

    This pause gives Congress and our child president about a month to negotiate a deal. And if Republicans don't agree to protect the Dreamers, then Democrats ought to shut it down again, and keep it shut until they yield.

    The Dreamers are Americans in every meaningful sense of the word, and to deport them is barbaric. They came here illegally as children, with the largest group of applicants just eight years old. Today, their average age is 24. Their language, their clothes, their music, and their attitudes are home-grown American. Their criminal records are clean.

    If no deal is struck by March 5, then 1,200 Dreamers will lose their legal status and be subject to immediate deportation, often to countries where they can't even speak the language. They will lose their jobs, their homes, their friends, and their families. The next day, another 1,200. And so on.

    How can Democrats compromise on that? Maybe send home 800 a day? How about 400?

    No, it's simply wrong to wreck these lives to feed a self-serving political narrative that juices the conservative base, mostly in states with few actual immigrants. Trump, along with media outlets like Fox News, keep spewing lies about these young folks, saying they present a threat to public safety. More than 80 percent came from Mexico, after all, which Donald Trump describes as a haven of rapists. They describe the economic impact with equal dishonesty.

    But the Dreamers are model citizens. You can't be a Dreamer if you have a felony or significant misdemeanor on your record. More than 90 percent are working or enrolled in school. Of the Fortune 500 companies, nearly 3 in 4 employ Dreamers. If politics doesn't kneecap these kids, they fit in fine, and maybe even lift our collective game.

    During the shutdown, Republicans played to form, grabbing the most vulnerable people and threatening to hurt them if Democrats don't yield. Aside from the Dreamers, they threatened the CHIP program, which provides health coverage to millions of needy children, a tactic that seemed to be collapsing on Monday.

     

    New Jersey's two senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, both voted against the measure that ended this shut down. Both have been heroes to the Dreamers, and wanted to use this moment to pressure Republicans to yield.

    But what sense does that make? How would extending the shutdown strengthen their negotiating position? It would be more likely to harden the positions on both sides, as politicians rush to whip up their loyal supporters.

    Trump and GOP leaders in Congress are telling their voters that Democrats are shutting down government to protect illegal immigrants. That pitch could endanger several Senate Democrats from red states that supported Trump, while encouraging Republicans to hold fast.

    Booker and Menendez both have their own political challenges. Booker is exploring a run for president, so needs to appeal to the party's hard-core and more combative base. Menendez will be defending himself at trial on corruption charges during this year's re-election campaign, so is in no position to alienate Democrats of any stripe.

    So, our senators were with the 18 holdouts, the Democratic senators who voted to extend this shutdown. That seems overboard. But here's hoping both keep that fighting spirit simmering. We may need it again in a few weeks.

    More: Tom Moran columns 

    Tom Moran may be reached at [email protected] or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

    Top N.J. medical examiner says system in 'desperate need' of overhaul

    Top N.J. medical examiner says system in 'desperate need' of overhaul


    Outdated facilities, low pay and chronic staff turnover plague N.J.'s busiest offices investigating suspicious deaths. New Jersey's system for investigating deaths is in "desperate need" of an overhaul -- from...

    Outdated facilities, low pay and chronic staff turnover plague N.J.'s busiest offices investigating suspicious deaths.

    New Jersey's system for investigating deaths is in "desperate need" of an overhaul -- from rewriting state law to an influx of money to improve outdated buildings and keep underpaid staff -- the state's top medical examiner testified Monday.

    A state Senate committee convened a public hearing on the system in response to an NJ Advance Media investigation in December that found decades of neglect and underfunding had caused widespread dysfunction in death investigations.

    After Gov. Phil Murphy called for "wholesale reform," lawmakers are weighing several proposals that could move the state medical examiner's office from under the attorney general to the health department, and give the top medical examiner more power over county offices.

    The measures could face opposition from county government officials, some of whom argue their offices are better run and better funded than the state's.

    State Medical Examiner Andrew Falzon testified New Jersey's law governing the patchwork system is in "desperate need of updating in order to bring it in line with current forensic pathology practices and guidelines."

    Special investigation: Death & Dysfunction

    Falzon disputed the characterization of the state's system as a "national disgrace," saying it did a disservice to hardworking employees performing a "crucial public service that's definitely not as glamorous as portrayed on TV."

    Still, he conceded outdated facilities, low pay and chronic staff turnover were just a few of the problems undermining the work of pathologists across New Jersey.

    In early January, for example, the state notified funeral directors it was dealing with a backlog of at least 45 cases requiring autopsies or external exams at its northern office, according to George Kelder, the executive director of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association.

    That's more than twice its usual caseload.

    But there was a problem: A cold snap had lingered over Newark, where the office is located, sending temperatures into the single digits.

    And that's when the heat went out.

    "I had doctors working in 40-degree temperatures in the office for several days," Falzon told lawmakers. "Conducting autopsies, trying to get the cases done."

    The medical examiner system in New Jersey is a mixture of state- and county-run offices, and data shows how quickly and thoroughly deaths are investigated varies wildly depending on where the death occurred.

    The eight county offices, which handle death investigations in most of the state, lack oversight and uniform standards, and New Jersey law limits the top medical examiner's authority to intervene, Falzon said.

    The problems are not new. Victor Weedn, who held Falzon's job until he resigned in protest in 2009, told lawmakers that the state had "mismanaged and poorly resourced that office" since long before he took over in 2007.

    Weedn said the top medical examiner is supposed to enjoy autonomy within the Attorney General's Office, but that he left because he couldn't even make basic decisions over staffing and budgets.

    The Attorney General's Office has in recent months made improvements at the state offices, pursuing new hires, increasing pay for staffers who made as little $30,000 a year and authorizing improvements at its facilities. Many of those changes came about after NJ Advance Media began making inquiries to state officials seeking comment on the findings of its investigation.

    Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, asked Falzon whether he had been involved in budget discussions.

    "Recently, I have," Falzon said.

    "Recently, post- Star-Ledger story?" Vitale asked, referring to NJ Advance Media's investigation. "Or during that process of investigation?"

    "I would say during," Falzon replied.

    "OK, so I think we can all figure out why," Vitale said.

    Vitale, who chairs the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, has for years sponsored legislation that would create a state-run system under the state Department of Health, rather than the Attorney General's Office.

    The measure would create statewide standards for training and accreditation of forensic pathologists, and could force counties unable to raise the bar to hand responsibility over to the state.

    Falzon said a statewide system of three or more regional offices under the top medical examiner would be "ideal."

    But the push to consolidate power over death investigations under the top medical examiner could face stiff opposition from counties with offices that are well-funded and have modern facilities, such as Bergen and Middlesex.

    John Donnadio, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, said many of the county-run offices performed better than those operated by the state.

    He said his members were "supportive of improved standards, improved protocols."

    But, he warned, "there's always a cost associated with that."

    Also in attendance on Monday was the family of Tiffany Valiante, who died in 2015 after being struck by an NJ Transit train. The family has been waging a battle to have her death reexamined, arguing that the ruling of suicide on her case was made without full investigation. Falzon's office is currently reviewing the case.   

    Tiffany Valiante's mother, Dianne, said she hopes reforms will ensure future families won't have to endure incomplete investigations and would have a clearly defined way to challenge death rulings.

    "At least then something good will come out of this for Tiffany, she said after the hearing, her eyes tearing. "I don't want other families to go through this."

    Stephen Stirling may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @sstirling. Find him on Facebook.

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     
    Man gets life in prison for fatal stabbing over Devils hat

    Man gets life in prison for fatal stabbing over Devils hat


    Steven Simminger's attorney vows to appeal PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A man convicted of stabbing another man to death near a popular Philadelphia park because of a comment about the killer's New Jersey Devils hat has...

    Steven Simminger's attorney vows to appeal

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A man convicted of stabbing another man to death near a popular Philadelphia park because of a comment about the killer's New Jersey Devils hat has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    Steven E. Simminger (Police photo) 


    Forty-two-year-old Steven Simminger, a Blackwood man who has also lived in Media, Pa.,  was convicted of murder for the 2016 killing of 24-year-old Colin McGovern in Rittenhouse Square.

    Dispute over Devils hat fueled fatal stabbing 


    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Judge J. Scott O'Keefe on Monday added a consecutive 2 1/2- to 5-year term on a weapons count. The judge says the defendant "went out looking for trouble that night" and had shown no remorse.

    Defense attorney Gina Capuano argued her client stabbed the victim out of fear and mental health issues. She has vowed an appeal of the conviction and sentence.

    State worker took $11K in unworked overtime to pay bills, attorney says


    Dorothy Murphy worked as a clerk for the Department of Children and Families in Burlington County. A former clerk for the Department of Children and Families in Burlington County who pleaded guilty to fraudulently...

    Dorothy Murphy worked as a clerk for the Department of Children and Families in Burlington County.

    A former clerk for the Department of Children and Families in Burlington County who pleaded guilty to fraudulently approving her own overtime pay received a sentence of probation on Friday.

    Dorothy Murphy, 58, of New Hanover Township, found a way to approve overtime payments that she did not work, and took $10,931 between November 2015 and May 2017, the state Attorney General's office said.

    Deputy Attorneys General John Nicodemo and Pearl Minato had argued for Murphy to serve 364 days in jail. But Murphy's attorney, Stan Gregory, argued that time in custody would be a detriment to her family, who needs her to work to support them.

    On Friday, Judge Terrence Cook sentenced Murphy to five years probation, and ordered her to pay back the full amount to the state along with a $750 fine. 

    Murphy was tearful at her sentencing on Friday at the county courthouse in Mount Holly. Gregory said Murphy's family has more money going out than coming in, and her husband is ill.

    "She has a stellar record before this," he said.

    Gregory said Murphy has a job offer contingent on her staying out of prison.

    Cook allowed some time for Murphy to make a statement. The courtroom was quiet except for the sounds of heavy breathing as she fought back sobs to speak.

    "I am totally remorseful for what I did," she said. "That's not me."

    In addition to the payments to the state, which will be made in monthly installments of $250, Murphy is barred from holding public employment in New Jersey.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Taxi driver arrested with $800K worth of crystal meth, cops say

    Taxi driver arrested with $800K worth of crystal meth, cops say


    The suspect had 10 pounds of the drug and 4 grams of cocaine, police say A taxi driver from New York City was stopped in Fort Lee by narcotics officers from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office with 10 pounds of...

    The suspect had 10 pounds of the drug and 4 grams of cocaine, police say

    A taxi driver from New York City was stopped in Fort Lee by narcotics officers from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office with 10 pounds of suspected crystal meth and 4 grams of cocaine, Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo said Monday.

    Gerardo Camilo-Nolasco 

    Gerardo Camilo-Nolasco, 42, of the Bronx, was the lone occupant of a vehicle that belonged to a friend of his when he was stopped and arrested Friday morning. The stop was the culmination of a narcotics investigation, authorities said. 

    A search of the vehicle revealed the drugs. The crystal meth has a street value of about $800,000, according to the prosecutor's press release

    Nolasco was charged with first degree possession with the intent to distribute greater than 5 ounces and third degree possession of cocaine.

    He is being held in the Bergen County Jail while he awaits a first appearance at Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack.

    Allison Pries may be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

       

    Man living under false identity indicted on child porn charges

    Man living under false identity indicted on child porn charges


    Investigators seized multiple fake government documents along with electronics when they searched his residence. A man found living under an alias in Union County last year has been indicted on child pornography...

    Investigators seized multiple fake government documents along with electronics when they searched his residence.

    A man found living under an alias in Union County last year has been indicted on child pornography charges, authorities said Monday.

    Fernando Cossagvic (Police photo) 

    Fernando Cossagvic, 22, is charged with both possessing and distributing child pornography, as well as possessing false documents, according to a statement from the office of Acting Union County Prosecutor Ann M. Luvera.

    Authorities said the charges against Cossagvic stemmed from a search warrant investigators served on a Plainfield home in January 2017 after they received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

    The center had tracked to the house an internet upload of a video depicting the graphic sexual abuse of a prepubescent child, Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Barnes said in a statement.

    When they arrested Cossagvic, authorities said, investigators seized multiple fake government documents along with electronic devices. 

    Offenses like those with which Cossagvic is charged can be punishable by five to 10 years in state prison and registration as a sex offender under Megan's Law, according to the prosecutor's office.

    Investigators have not identified the child depicted in the video, authorities said.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Man was building, selling 'ghost guns' out of his home, authorities say

    Man was building, selling 'ghost guns' out of his home, authorities say


    Authorities say so-called "ghost guns" are hard to track because they lack serial numbers A South Jersey man was arrested recently after a search of his home turned up dozens of guns that he was allegedly building in...

    Authorities say so-called "ghost guns" are hard to track because they lack serial numbers

    A South Jersey man was arrested recently after a search of his home turned up dozens of guns that he was allegedly building in his house.

    Gregory Carleton

    Detectives that searched Gregory Carleton's home found all the necessary pieces to build a functional firearm, known as "ghost guns," authorities said. In all, investigators seized 30 weapons.

    The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) says people can make a firearm for personal use. But once the guns are for sale, they must be licensed by the ATF.

    In Atlantic County, the prosecutor's office said Carleton, 56, of Marlton in Evesham Township, was manufacturing firearms that did not contain serial numbers. He had in his home, according to authorities, undocumented handgun and rifle uppers and lowers, and frames.

    Carleton was arrested in Hammonton, the Atlantic prosecutor's office said.

    Parts used to make firearms, including assault weapons, are readily for sale on websites like ghostguns.com. Last fall, A reporter for ABC's Action News in Philadelphia, who purchased all the parts for an AR-15 online, was able to build a semi-automatic firearm in four hours -- and it only cost $600.

    In November, the Giffords Law Center, a gun safety group founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords - critically wounded in the head during a 2011 shooting in her home state of Arizona - implored web servers hosting sites like ghostguns.com to pull the pages.

    "They allow individuals who are legally barred from buying a firearm to buy materials and tools that allow them to assemble guns themselves," a statement from the group states.

    Guns made from parts purchased from these websites are also hard to be traced by law enforcement groups, the Giffords statement said.

    What guns can you legally own in N.J.?

    Ghostguns.com did not immediately return a request for an interview. In a statement provided to the New York Times, the website's president, Kyle Martin, said his company obeys state and federal laws.

    "We deal with a lot of customers that are hobbyists," Martin told The Times in an email. "The customers we have come into contact with usually already own firearms, have the mechanical skills to complete the manufacturing process and come from all walks of life, including many military and law enforcement."

    Furthermore, the website states that a person has the constitutional right to build his or her own gun.

    "Building your own AR15 rifle ... is a practice that stems from the 2nd Amendment of our constitution -- and doing so without the government involvement is the idea behind 'shall not be infringed,'" the website states.

    Carleton, the alleged gun manufacturer from Marlton, had a total of 30 guns in his home, authorities said. The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office could not immediately provide a breakdown of how many of the firearms were "ghost guns."

    He was charged with possession of a handgun without a permit, unlawful manufacture of a gun or other weapon and unlawful sale of a gun or other weapon.

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

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    Man charged in 3 armed robberies, burglary in Secaucus: police

    Man charged in 3 armed robberies, burglary in Secaucus: police


    A 28-year-old man has been charged with robbing a hotel and the same gas station twice over a week's time, authorities said. SECAUCUS - A 28-year-old man has been charged with three armed robberies, two at the same...

    A 28-year-old man has been charged with robbing a hotel and the same gas station twice over a week's time, authorities said.

    SECAUCUS - A 28-year-old man has been charged with three armed robberies, two at the same gas station, and a burglary over an eight-day period, authorities said.

    Kareem Abdelaal was arrested on Sunday afternoon shortly after pointing a knife at an employee working at the Mobil gas station on Route 3, Secaucus police said in a statement.

    Just before 4 p.m., the employee reported a man had taken more than $200 in cash and then fled on foot. Officers arrested Abdelaal, of Secaucus, just a few blocks away from the gas station. He was carrying a knife and a second knife he was accused of using during the robbery was found in the neighborhood a short time later, police said.

    After his arrest, Abdelaal was linked to two other robberies in town: one at the Extended Stay on Meadowlands Parkway on Jan. 19 and a second at the same Mobil gas station on Jan. 15. Abdelaal is alleged to have used a knife in both robberies and stole about $150 in each incident, authorities said.

    He is also charged with burglarizing the Extended Stay on Plaza Drive on Jan. 17, where is alleged to have stolen $300.

    Abdelaal is charged with three counts of armed robbery, weapons offenses, hindering apprehension, making terroristic threats, burglary and theft.  

    Caitlin Mota may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @caitlin_mota. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.