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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    How the vehicle got into the water remained a mystery late Tuesday Watch video

    How a pickup truck got into the Delaware River Tuesday morning remained a mystery later in the day, Trenton police said.

    Authorities were alerted to the vehicle being in the water off Riverside Drive near Bloomfield Avenue at about 9 a.m., police said.

    The Trenton Fire Department's marine unit searched the vehicle and found nobody inside, and later worked with a tower to hoist it ashore after cutting trees to clear a path up the bank

    The truck had Pennsylvania plates and police said they had no information on where the vehicle got into the river or under what circumstances.


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    Trenton Water Works serves about 225,000 customers and has been under scrutiny.

    A Democratic state lawmaker whose constituents are served by Trenton Water Works is proposing changes in N.J. public waters systems amid ongoing scrutiny of the city's troubled utility.

    Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo introduced three bills last week that he said would improve communication about boil-water notices and other emergencies, while expanding the applicant pool for water treatment systems operators.

    In an interview, DeAngelo said he was prompted by longstanding concerns with Trenton Water Works, from concerns about water quality and public notifications to inadequate staffing.

    His 14th District includes Hamilton, one of the four municipalities in addition to Trenton served by the 159-year-old utility.

    "I'm just trying to bring everything up to level," said DeAngelo, who chairs the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

    State, Trenton reach deal to fix failing water utility

    "I'm not criticizing Trenton. I'm just saying, if you were a private industry, you'd be held to a higher standard," DeAngelo said.

    In response, a spokesman for Trenton referenced recent steps taken by the city, including an administrative consent order reached two weeks ago by Mayor Eric Jackson with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    "We are doing what he set out to do, which was to bring in a contractor to help us run the water filtration plant," city spokesman Michael Walker said.

    In January, Trenton reached a 12-month emergency contract with Wade Trim, a civil engineering company.

    The 16-page agreement with the DEP resolved multiple violations issued to Trenton Water Works, most recently on Jan. 5, and set out an improvement plan.

    Walker declined comment on DeAngelo's legislation, but said that problems in Trenton Water Works predated Jackson's administration.

    "We are the ones who brought in a solution, and we are executing that solution," Walker said.

    Jackson recently announced that he is not seeking a second, four-year term as mayor this spring.

    DeAngelo, asked about the agreement with the state DEP, said it shows the utility is "moving in the right direction."

    "I'm thankful to DEP for keeping on them," he said.

    Trenton Water Works provides water to approximately 225,000 customers in Trenton and parts of Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrence and Hopewell. 

    DeAngelo introduced his bills Feb. 12 and all three were referred to the committee that he chairs.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at rjennings@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook  


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    He was caught on surveillance cameras at the TD Bank on Chester Avenue in Delran

    A man clad in maroon and sporting a striped cap and sunglasses fled a TD Bank robbery with cash in Delran on Sunday.

    Delran police were called to the branch on Chester Avenue near Route 130 around 3 p.m. They were told a man wearing a maroon hat and shirt, black pants and sunglasses demanded money.

    The bank's security cameras recorded the crime, police said.

    It was not clear how much money the man got away with. He was last spotted behind the Edge Fitness across Chester Avenue from the bank, and did not appear to be armed, the police department wrote in a news release.

    Anyone who recognizes the man or has information about the incident should contact Delran Police at 856-461-4444 or at their confidential tip line, 856-461-9010.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Former Gov. Jim McGreevey opened a New Brunswick chapter of his nonprofit, which provides formerly incarcerated people with life and spiritual resources. Watch video

    Reenty.jpgFormer Gov. Jim McGreevey (right) and former inmate Kendar Hall help to open a new office Tuesday for the New Jersey Reentry Corporation in New Brunswick. (Paige Gross | For NJ.com) 

    Kedar Hall was losing his eyesight when was released from his most recent stint in prison. First, former Gov. Jim McGreevey came to his aid and lended him his glasses. Then, McGreevey's agency, the New Jersey Reentry Corporation helped him get glasses and resume his life on the outside.

    The Reentry Corporation Tuesday opened its ninth office to help former inmates like Hall, this one in a basement space in downtown New Brunswick.

    "This here is a second sight, this is a second chance," Hall said of the new office at 57 Livingston Ave. "I used to live here in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is one of those spots where they really need that help. You just need to let people know that the help is there."

    The Corporation helps former inmates deal with a myriad of obstacles, starting with obtaining housing and finding a job, McGreevey said at the center's opening. It also provides addiction treatment, legal services and healthcare and spiritual mentoring. 

    "So often people are being sent to prison instead of drug treatment, it's a big issue for our clients," said McGreevey, who runs the nonprofit. They're "just rotating in and out of prison, in and out of prison."

    The organization also assists "max-out" prisoners, or people who serve the entirety of their sentence before being released. They are often reentering their lives decades later, and don't have the same programs available to them than those who re-enter under parole conditions.

    Another client, John Sanchez, said he struggled with getting certifications for the skills he gained while incarcerated. A lawyer with the Reentry Corporation reached out to him and found him a job and stable housing.

    "And that just changed my life," Sanchez said.

    McGreevey estimates that the agency currently work with about 2,500 formerly incarcerated clients. That number will continue to rise in the coming years as more people are released back into society, he said.

    The agency's other offices are in Elizabeth, Hackensack, Jersey City, Kearny, Neptune, Newark, Paterson and Toms River. All do not offer full 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Ricardo Cruciani pleaded guilty to assaulting seven patients in 2016 while he worked at Drexel University

    A neurologist who had pleaded guilty to groping women at a Philadelphia clinic was arrested on Tuesday on charges he repeatedly raped a patient in New York City.

    Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, who worked in Mercer County until late 2015, was taken into custody and will be arraigned in New York on multiple counts of rape and other sex crimes, police said.

    The former patient, Hillary Tullin, 45, called a sexual abuse hotline last year and reported that Cruciani had abused her between 2005 and 2012, authorities said.

    Tullin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she testified before a grand jury about two weeks ago.

    N.J. doctors still practicing despite sex crime convictions

    "I don't know that he's going to go gently into the good night, but I'm very hopeful," she said. "He needs to be locked up."

    The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Tullin has done. She told her story publicly to the AP last year.

    Cruciani's lawyer, Mark Furman, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

    The AP reported in November that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey had stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct in encounters dating back at least a dozen years. 

    Women who said they were sexually abused by Cruciani told the AP that they felt they had no alternative but to continue seeing the Ivy League-trained neurologist, who specialized in rare, complicated syndromes that produce debilitating pain.

    Tullin said she too felt she had no choice but to continue seeing Cruciani because he was one of the very few doctors who could treat her condition.

    On Tuesday, she praised New York City police and prosecutors for taking her case seriously.

    "This is for all the women he tortured and abused and mistreated," she said.

    Two law enforcement officials confirmed Tullin is the woman whom Cruciani is charged with raping. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to provide the names of people who say they have been sexually assaulted.

    Cruciani pleaded guilty to assaulting seven patients in 2016 while he was chairman of Drexel University's neurology department. Under a plea agreement, he was sentenced to seven years' probation. He also had to register as a sex offender and forfeit his medical license.

    "I'm truly sorry if I caused any harm or any pain," he said at his sentencing hearing.

    Before going to Drexel, where Cruciani was the chair of the Department of Neurology in the College of Medicine, he was a chief neurologist at Capital Health's Institute of Neurosciences at their Hopewell Township campus.


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    For the first time, New Jersey rated each public high school on a scale of 0-100. See which schools cracked the top 50.


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    The controversial pipeline has begun making eminent domain claims after receiving federal approval for the project.

    Carla Kelly-Mackey has been fighting to keep a pipeline off of her farm for years.

    Now, the private company is looking to use eminent domain, a right usually reserved for the government, to get at the land.

    Kelley-Mackey lives with her husband, Dan Mackey, on a 137-acre hay farm in Delaware Township.

    In 2014, the couple was informed that their property was along the route for PennEast pipeline; a proposed 120-mile long natural gas pipeline that will run from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania to Mercer County.

    The pipeline, estimated to cost $1 billion, would cut diagonally across Kelly-Mackey's property for more than a mile, underneath the hay fields and passing just 63 feet from the house.

    "We're hay farmers," Kelly-Mackey said. "Why they would need to put a pipeline right on top of our house like that is a mystery to me."

    The pipeline construction would be the farm's undoing, she said, because it would damage the soil. She added that the heat produced by the pipeline underground would harm the plants growing above.

    "I think PennEast thinks you just sprinkle a little grass seed back on the ground and there you go, you've got new hay," Kelly-Mackey said. "But it doesn't work like that."

    "As soon as we received their letter telling us that they wanted to put their pipeline on our farm, I immediately wrote them back a letter informing them that they were not welcome to set foot on our property and if they did we would be charging them with trespassing," Kelly-Mackey said. "So all the interactions have been them leaving messages on our answering machine."

    They're not alone; opposition to the pipeline has been widespread along the New Jersey portion of the route.

    In an effort to overcome the homeowers' resistance, PennEast is turning to eminent domain to force its way onto land it doesn't own.

    Eminent domain is generally used by local, state and federal agencies to seize private land for projects that serve the public good.

    But PennEast, a private, for-profit natural gas companies can use eminent domain thanks  to the federal Natural Gas Act, a 1938 law that was originally created to establish America's natural gas infrastructure and ensure a steady supply of energy throughout the nation. As long as PennEast can prove that the pipeline serves a public need and the project gets federal approval, the pipeline company can use eminent domain.

    Approval troubles

    On January 19, PennEast received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The pipeline has also been approved by Pennsylvania.

    The last remaining hurdles for approval are from New Jersey and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

    In order to get FERC approval, PennEast argued that the new pipeline was needed to ensure that New Jersey utilities could meet the Garden State's natural gas demands. Opponents argue that the state already has enough natural gas and that PennEast is just a way for the pipelines stakeholders, which include New Jersey Resources and South Jersey Industries, to save money and boost profits.

    Trying to get New Jersey's approval, however, has been a roller coaster for PennEast. Last June, the DEP told PennEast that their application was administratively closed because they had not provided all the necessary information.

    On Feb. 1, the DEP sent a letter to PennEast as a reminder that the application was still denied and that a new one would have to be submitted with more information.

    And therein, lies the problem for PennEast.

    The company needs to do more survey work along the proposed route to assess the environmental impact. But the pipeline company has been thwarted in that effort by landowners who will not allow surveyors onto their land.

    "It's very simple: If you oppose a project like this, one way to stop it is to deny survey access," said Mike Spille, a West Amwell resident whose property abuts the proposed pipeline route. Spille is the founder of West Amwell Citizens Against The Pipeline.

    Enter eminent domain. 

    PennEast is filing eminent domain lawsuits against the unwilling owners, claiming that receiving federal approval gives them the right to access and survey the land. PennEast sent final offers to landowners on Jan. 20, just a day after getting federal approval, and set a Feb. 5 deadline.

    "Unfortunately, organized and unaccountable opposition groups have their own political agenda and use landowners' withholding survey access to advance that agenda -- to the detriment of the landowners," said Patricia Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast, in a statement. "While PennEast views legal proceedings as emotional, burdensome and costly for all involved, it exercised that last-resort option Feb. 6."

    Resistance in the Garden State

    According to PennEast, 75 percent of landowners along the proposed route have agreed to provide access for survey crews. But that number incluces New Jersey with Pennsylvania, and the difference in attitude toward the pipeline is staggeringly different in the two states.

    According a list compiled by Spille, 50 eminent domain cases have been filed by PennEast in Pennsylvania, which has two-thirds of the proposed route. In New Jersey, which has the final third of the pipeline route, PennEast has filed 147 cases. Those New Jersey claims are spread across six municipalities: Alexandria Township, Delaware Township, Holland Township, Kingwood Township, West Amwell and Hopewell Township.

    "The majority of people are against it," Spille said of attitudes towards the pipeline in New Jersey. "There's pockets of people who are for it for whatever reason, whether for personal gain or they believe that this is for the greater good for whatever reason, but they are definitely in the minority by a big shot.

    It's not just private homeowners who are refusing to allow PennEast access. Nonprofit organizations like the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, municipalities along the route, and Hunterdon and Mercer counties have all had eminent domain claims filed against them.

    "It's one thing when eminent domain is used for a legitimate public purpose," said Tom Gilbert, a campaign director for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "It's another thing when it's for a project that there's very significant evidence and criticism that there's no public purpose."

    Even the state itself is facing an eminent domain claim from PennEast after it refused to accept a deal with the pipeline. On Feb. 2, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sent a letter to PennEast rejecting the offer.

    "The State cannot accept PennEast's offers and sign the Right-of-Way because the [FERC] Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity is still subject to legal challenge and PennEast has not provided sufficient information regarding the bases for the offers and the terms contained in the proposed Right-of-Way, some of which are ambiguous or contrary to law," Grewal wrote in the letter.

    Challenging federal approval

    On Friday, the DEP filed a request for rehearing with FERC. If granted, the pipeline's federal approval would be stayed and eminent domain claims would be put on hold.

    Requests for rehearing have also been filed by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association and the New Jersey Sierra Club. Even some individual landowners, like Spille, have filed challenges to the FERC approval.

    N.J. environmentalists use new legal strategy to fight pipelines

    The PennEast eminent domain cases are expected to be in court for months, and the first batch of hearings is scheduled for April 5 in U.S. District Court.

    Despite that, and despite the questions surrounding permits from New Jersey and the DRBC, PennEast said it expects construction to begin later this year.

    Read the DEP's request for rehearing:

    Michael Sol Warren may be reached at mwarren@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MSolDub.


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    How accurate will our reporters prove to be?


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    Our wrestling writers preview all eight regions and make picks in every weight class

    The march to March and the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City resumes Wednesday with eight regional tournament across the state.


    MOREComplete 2018 NJSIAA region wrestling brackets (printable)


    The top four wrestlers in each weight class, in each of the eight regions advances to the state championship March 2-3-4 at Boardwalk Hall.

    NJ.com gets you ready for the regions with preview and selections in all eight tournaments. Previews will be added as they are completed to check back often to get the latest information.

    • Region 1 at West Milford
    Region 2 at Mount Olive 
    Region 3 at West Orange 
    Region 4 at Union
    Region 5 at Hunterdon Central 
    Region 6 at Brick Memorial 
    Region 7 at Toms River North
    Region 8 at Egg Harbor

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    NJ Advance Media ranks all the counties with D1 women's basketball players.


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    The company, from China, plans to keep the renowned music school in Princeton

    Rider University announced Wednesday it has a non-binding deal in place to sell its Westminster Choir College in Princeton to a Chinese education company for $40 million.

    The Lawrence-based university said the company, Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd., plans to keep the choir college in its Princeton location, and make employment offers to faculty and staffers, which Rider had already said in past statements about their intention to sell the music school.

    Rider President Gregory G. Dell'Omo called the deal the "beginning of an exciting new era for Westminster Choir College, its faculty, staff and students."

    "Kaiwen Education put forth an impressive proposal rooted in their sincere interest in the Westminster brand and in keeping the institution as a part of the Princeton community. We are eager to continue collaborating with Kaiwen Education to develop a binding agreement, the next step in this process," Dell'Omo said.

    Rider's decision nearly a year ago to seek a buyer for the college - due to financial issues - caused protests by students and faculty, as well as legal battles that are ongoing.

    Westminster professors, who area in a union with Rider professors, recently went to federal court in Trenton seeking to block any sale of the college in their ongoing fight to keep their jobs, after Rider issued them precautionary layoff notices.

    Rider U., its professors head to court over sale of choir college

    Kaiwen Education owns and operates the Kaiwen Academies, two prominent K-12 international schools in Beijing, Rider said in the announcement.

    The schools offer international education and athletics for all grade levels, with an American teaching structure and a combination of Chinese and American curricula, the statement and the Kaiwen website say.

    To assist with the transition, Kaiwen Education also announced the hiring of two consultants recommended by Westminster to assist in a planned transition.

    Catherine (Kitty) Jarjisian, an accreditation consultant who is retired from a career in music education and administration, will lead and coordinate efforts to obtain accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

    And Larry Livingston, currently the chair of the Department of Conducting at the University of Southern California's Flora L. Thornton School of Music, will serve as the project manager and liaison to guide this process to a successful conclusion.

    Rider said he'll work to assure Kaiwen receives all necessary regulatory approvals.

    Rider board of trustees chairman Robert S. Schimek said the board was committed from, "the very beginning" to find a partner buyer who would preserve and enhance the Westminster "brand, mission and history."

    "The completion of the (deal) is a definitive sign of progress and a clear declaration that Westminster will continue operating in Princeton," he said.

    Dell'Omo said the purchase price is indicative that the partner has the resources to invest in Westminster and is committed to its long-term viability. "They are well positioned to continue the significant investment in Westminster that Rider has made over the past 25 years," he said.

    Westminster has been at its current, 23-acre location in Princeton 1934. It became a part of Rider in 1992 amid financial troubles when it was forced with two options, a merger or closure.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Social media posts spreading around the internet accuse a religious group of trying to lure women into the sex trade.

    There is no truth to social media posts swirling around the internet accusing a religious group of trying to lure women into the sex trade, officials said.

    As the posts continue to be shared on Facebook and Twitter, officials on college campuses around New Jersey are releasing statements and letters to the public assuring them there is no threat.

    "Our officers have investigated these reports and spoken directly with people associated with this group," TCNJ interim police Chief Tim Grant said in a statement. "At this time, we have found no cause for concern but will continue to monitor the situation."

    The posts, which are mainly circulating around student bodies on college campuses, warn that members of the World Mission Society Church of God are attempting to lure women into the sex trafficking.

    The posts allege women who attend bible studies about "God the Mother" -- a belief that differentiates the church from other religious groups -- are disappearing.

    College officials said the social media posts claim that church members are engaging in highly-aggressive recruiting tactics on campuses on The College of New Jersey, Rowan University and Rider University.

    Church officials say they have nothing to do with the posts, that the posts have caused church members to be discriminated against, and that they've even received death threats from the public over social media. 

    "Recently, we were made aware of a social media post in which someone appears to accuse the Church and its members of being linked to a ring of human trafficking. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a church of Christian love and denounce any such activities wherever they may be carried out," the statement said.

    "Unfortunately, it appears they have not only falsely accused us, but also others have shared this erroneous information without verifying its accuracy. This has led the Church and the Church members to be religiously discriminated and Church activities to be disrupted. This is not only unfair, it has endangered innocent people who are simply trying to worship God as their heart moves them. Our Church has been very active in the community since the year 2001 and has never experienced this type of treatment," it continued.

    The World Mission Society Church of God, which says it's in 175 countries across the world, has locations in Belleville, Bogota and Ridgewood.

    Victor Lozada, a missionary with the church, said it does send members to college campuses to spread their beliefs to other students. 

    "Our church is very active in evangelizing," he said. "We encourage our college students to preach in school.

    "We've been doing this for a long time and never had an issue like this," Lozada continued. "That's why its very troubling and we're finding ways to calm it down. It's nothing nefarious." 

    A spokesman for Rowan University said school officials noticed an uptick in social media posts after a religious group visited the campus. The spokesman did not name the religious group. 

    "They're a religious group that followed rules just like any other group that visits campus," said the spokesman, Jose Cardona. "They didn't do anything wrong." 

    These posts are not isolated to New Jersey; police around the country are releasing statements to news media organizations debunking the allegations.

    "We would like to ask the public to please help us stop spreading this wrongful accusation," the church implored, "and help us stop the harassment our members are experiencing due to it."

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The man was seeking information on restraining orders when he suddenly became violent

    A man who got into an argument with a family court employee at the Mercer County Civil Courthouse tried hit the employee and shattered the protective partition window between them, the Mercer County Sheriff's office said. 

    The man was seeking information on restraining orders when he suddenly became violent around 2 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff's office said Wednesday.

    Incident Glass 2-2018.jpgSuspect in the glass breaking incident
     

    After smashing the window, the man was seen on surveillance footage exiting the building through the front door, and then leaving the area on a bicycle. 

    A search for the man is ongoing.

    "It is our sworn duty to protect the courts, its employees and all those who conduct business in our public buildings. We cannot and will not tolerate violence in our courthouses," said Sheriff Jack Kelmer in a statement. 

    The man could face criminal charges of destruction of public property, criminal mischief and attempting to cause bodily injury. The court employee was not injured. 

    The suspect is described as being 6-feet tall and wearing a navy blue coat and a dark knit cap, and may have injured his right fist or elbow.

    He is considered dangerous. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Mercer County Sheriff's Office at 609-989-6111. The public is cautioned not to attempt to detain this individual themselves. All calls are confidential and anonymous tips are welcome.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    One more suspect will be sentenced in the case next month

    Two Trenton drug dealers were sentenced to federal prison Wednesday for their roles in a cocaine operation that was based in Trenton, authorities announced. 

    Khalfini Richardson, 33, was sentenced to 13 years and Capitol T. Wellons, 32, to seven years by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp, in Trenton.

    Both had admitted conspiring to distribute over a kilogram of cocaine and 100 grams of crack cocaine, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey announced.

    Richardson and Wellons were arrested in 2016 along with Trenton-area drug dealers Bobby Williams and William Enmond, as part of an investigation by local and federal authorities.

    Authorities arrested 10 people in all during 10 raids in Mercer and Bucks (Pa.) counties and seized 5 kilos of an assortment of drugs and several vehicles. The dealers operated from two Trenton residences, and controlled a drug turf on Southard Street in the city.

    Authorities said the effort - Williams was the leader of the four - had strong gang ties and supplied drugs - it was a pipeline - to other central New Jersey markets, as well as towns in the Pocono region of Pa.

    Williams pleaded guilty in November and is scheduled to  be sentenced in March. Federal authorities say he faces a mandatory minimum of five years behind bars, maybe more.

    Enmond was sentenced to five years in prison last summer.

    Williams, Richardson and Wellons were also arrested in 2007 and each sent to prison or jail for being part of another Williams-led cocaine operation that also operated from Trenton in the 2000s.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee has voted to expand the use of net metering, permitting owners of solar arrays to be paid for the electricity their panels generate when it is fed back into the power grid.

    Proponents of clean energy have reason to cheer this week with news that state lawmakers are embracing a policy offering businesses and homeowners an incentive to install solar panels.

    The Senate Environment and Energy Committee has voted to expand the use of net metering, permitting owners of solar arrays to be paid for the electricity their panels generate when it is fed back into the power grid.

    But the advantages of net metering extend beyond the pocketbooks of users of solar-array panels, advocates say.

    In addition to reducing the need to build humongous (read: expensive) power plants, the policy eases peak energy demand on hot and sunny days, while also helping reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and other toxins into the air we breathe.

    The move is particularly welcome on the heels of a 2017 report by the National Solar Job Census, which said that although the rest of the country had witnessed a 25 percent increase in job growth in the solar sector last year, New Jersey had lost jobs - a discouraging 1,000 of them, to be exact.

    Great Adventure aims to be world's biggest all-solar park

    Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned passionately on the need to expand the state's reliance on renewable energy. His administration has set a goal of having 100 percent of the state's power come from cleaner sources by 2050, with solar energy representing a vital component.

    One of Murphy's first acts in office was signing an executive order mandating that New Jersey begin the process of reentering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state pact from which New Jersey withdrew in 2012 under the orders of Chris Christie.

    The initiative provides credits to solar-power users which are sold to producers of dirty energy to offset their environmental damage.

    The bipartisan measure currently working its way through the Senate, S-595, would lift a cap allowing utilities to stop offering net metering when the generating capacity of solar panels by net-metered customers reaches 2.9 percent of the state's peak demand for electricity.

    Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex and Somerset) and Christopher Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) are co-sponsoring the bill, which doubles that cap to 5.8 percent of total electricity sales.

    Solar companies doing business in the Garden State argue that without these accommodations, the economics of installing solar panels on homes and small businesses just don't add up. Doug O'Malley, director of the non-profit Environment New Jersey, called the bill a "great first step."

    Despite the cold shoulder the previous administration gave the industry, New Jersey has traditionally ranked in the top five states in terms of solar projects, with an estimated 86,000 installations within its border, according to the state's Office of Clean Energy.

    It's encouraging that the new governor and the new Legislature are united in their determination to turn their backs on fossil fuels and lift their faces to the sun.

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


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    We need common sense gun laws. In all these mass shootings, like the one in Parkland, Florida, there has been a common denominator - guns in the hands of unstable people. Watch video

    "Something has to be done." That's the refrain we hear over and over again after another mass shooting occurs.

    But, sadly, we know very little changes and the slaughter erupts again, as illustrated in last week's Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that claimed the lives of 17 people.

    You would think that after 20 young and innocent students and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 that something would have been done to stop or lessen the insanity.

    But nine months after Sandy Hook, a disgruntled contractor went on a rampage at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, killing 12 people. Then came San Bernardino, Calif. (14 killed); Orlando, Fla. (14 killed); Las Vegas, Nev. (58 killed); and Southerland Springs, Texas (26 killed).

    The list of mass killings just goes on and on and the call to "do something" goes unheeded by our leaders in Washington.

    N.J. students plan walkouts after Florida school shooting

    But something is different in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre. Young people, most of whom aren't old enough to vote, are demanding action from our lawmakers and our president.

    David Hogg, a survivor of the carnage at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, echoed the outrage many of his fellow students felt with politicians' failure to enact meaningful gun control laws.

    "We're children. You guys are the adults," Hogg told CNN.

    "Instead of condolences, give us action. There is something seriously wrong here," Hogg said.

    Parkland students took their own initiative. They boarded buses to Tallahassee to urge state legislators to pass gun restrictions. But the gun-friendly Florida House of Representatives rebuffed the students and turned back an effort to ban assault-style weapons like the one used by the 19-year-old shooter in Parkland.

    That setback is not stopping these fired-up kids.

    They are planning a nationwide "March for Our Lives" in Washington and other cities to "shame" politicians into action.

    The social-media savvy generation is using YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to get its gun-control message out and it is being heard across the land.

    This week, a group of students rallied against gun violence on the steps of the Ocean County Library in Toms River. Other similar demonstrations were held in Battle Creek, Mich., Bakersfield, Calif., Iowa City and many locations in Florida.

    These young voices may be the spark that ignites an explosion of public opinion that will break the hold the gun lobby has on Washington.

    We are starting to see some results.

    President Donald Trump, no friend of gun control, broke his embarrassingly long silence on what action he would take in the wake of the Parkland shooting and announced a ban on "bump stock" devices like the ones used by the Las Vegas shooter to turn his weapons into rapid-fire killing machines.

    This, however, was hardly a bold move by the president since the National Rifle Association already gave its blessing to bump-stock restrictions back in October, allowing NRA-supported politicians the leeway to make gun-control concessions.

    This crumb of gun reform from Trump, which he may not even have the power to do, is at least a step in the right direction. Remember, he is the one who last year approved repealing an Obama-era rule intended to block gun sales to certain mentally ill people.

    But others are heeding the swelling youth demand for action.

    Gov. Phil Murphy this week paid tribute to the outspoken Parkland survivors.

    "God love them, man, because our generation ain't getting it done, at least nationally," Murphy said at a Trenton news conference, where he vowed to sign gun-control legislation that was blocked by his predecessor, Gov. Chris Christie.

    New Jersey already has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the country. The push now is on Washington to stop its political bickering and come to some kind of bipartisan accord on real gun reform.

    Such reform is possible. In 1994, Congress passed a 10-year ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. Sadly, the law was allowed to lapse.

    We need common sense gun laws. In all these mass shootings there has been a common denominator - guns in the hands of unstable people.

    The answer is very obvious: don't allow violent or unstable people to have guns, particularly weapons capable of firing many rounds in mere seconds.

    Maybe this time the young voices clamoring for gun control will make a difference. Maybe we will finally be able to say, "Something has been done."

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

     

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    Before convenience stores, there were neighborhood food stores.

    The time before the convenience store was the time of the neighborhood food store. And, although neighborhood food stores still exist, they're getting harder and harder to find.

    As I recall, neighborhood stores were alike in many ways, but not in the indistinguishable way of today's convenience stores. The neighborhood stores had sawdust on the wood floors, meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling and unpackaged foods that created a heavenly aroma that those of us who experienced it will never forget. Perhaps what was most memorable for me was the total organized clutter.

    small-food033.JPGMary Morello displays a choice cut of meat for a customer in the G. Morello and Sons Market on Cherry Street in Vineland in this photo from the late 1960s. 

    I had the good fortune of having one of these stores in my family, G. Morello and Sons on Cherry Street in Vineland, where I could experience the sensory wonders firsthand. Every square inch of space in my Uncle Lou's store, and stores like it, was used to display products that ran the gamut from national brands to local specialty items. And the proprietors of such stores always knew where everything was.

    Before convenience stores, Morello's and its ilk were where you went to get cold cuts ("lunch meats" in my family) or a good cut of meat for dinner. And "Cheers" wasn't the only place where everybody knew your name; you were greeted as an old friend when you entered these neighborhood food stores.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    They were located throughout the state. There was the U-Buy Market in Somerset, Celentano's Market in Newark (the birthplace of what eventually became a national brand), the Somerset Fish Market in North Plainfield with the huge crustacean on the roof, Moe's Market in Hammonton, Cameron's Meat Shoppe in Kearny and so many others.

    Here's a gallery of neighborhood food stores from New Jersey, and links to other similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of small food stores in N.J.

    Vintage photos of eclectic eats in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. diners

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Favorites, contenders and more for each section of the tournament.


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    Forchion's most recent attempt to be released from jail before the re-trial of his witness tampering case failed Tuesday.

    Marijuana activist Edward "NJ Weedman" Forchion has been dealt another defeat.

    His most recent attempt to get out of the Mercer County jail before his retrial failed Tuesday.

    Forchion was ordered detained in March 2017 in order to ensure safety to witnesses or informants in a case of alleged witness tampering - which was connected to his 2016 marijuana dealing arrest.

    He's since been found not guilty on one count of witness tampering, but faced a hung jury on the second count in November 2017, and an eventual retrial.

    Forchion had filed an appeal with the state Appellate Division on Jan. 29, which agreed to review a Jan. 12 denial of pre-trial release in Mercer County Superior Court. 

    In jail interview, NJ Weedman talks running for mayor, helping inmates

    The appellate court reviewed Mercer County Judge Anthony Massi's decision, including the original detention order, and cited witness testimony from Forchion's trial. The court found Massi properly exercised his discretion when coming to the decision to keep Forchion locked up.

    "Innocent until proven guilty is obviously a dead doctrine in NJ," Forchion said in a phone call to NJ Advance Media.

    He has previously expressed that he feels his pre-trial detention is a form of "pre-trial punishment."

    Forchion's appeals attorney, John Vincent Saykanic, said on Wednesday they've filed an emergent review of the matter to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

    In the legal documents he filed, he argues Forchion is being detained, "in retaliation for his three lawsuits filed against the City of Trenton and due to his invocation of his free Speech rights." 

    Forchion, in the call Tuesday evening, said he was especially crushed because he wanted to campaign for mayor of Trenton, for which he's filed to run in the May election.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook 


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    Favorites, contenders and more on each section of the girls basketball state tournament.


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