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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Gov. Phil Murphy also said opposition to his proposal for a millionaires tax and a state sales tax hike is "a bit like denying climate change." Watch video

    Locked in a heated battle over the state budget with members of his own party, Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday pitched his plan to some of New Jersey's most beleaguered residents: 

    NJ Transit commuters.

    Murphy argued that only his budget proposal -- and not a rival plan being advanced by his fellow Democrats who control the state Legislature -- will help fix New Jersey's oft-troubled bus and train agency in the long term.

    The governor touted how his budget would increase funding to NJ Transit by $242 million, which will help pay for 110 new employees, new software, and more. And all of it, he said, would come without a rate hike. 

    To get the money for that and other priorities, Murphy wants to raise taxes by more than $1.5 billion, including a millionaires tax and reverting the state sales tax to 7 percent from 6.625 percent. 

    "This one investment in NJ Transit is the beginning of a journey," Murphy said during a a news conference at Trenton train station. "When you're digging out of a mess that's been made for eight years, you can't turn this thing around overnight. We're gonna need year-in, year-out sustainable sources of revenue."

    But top lawmakers aren't on board with Murphy's tax hikes, leaving New Jersey possibly only 11 days from the second state government shutdown in two years.

    They say their alternative budget includes most of Murphy's priorities, including transportation funding increases. 

    But instead of taxing residents, their plan is anchored by a proposal to hike taxes on the state's very largest corporations to the highest level of any state in the U.S.

    Dueling Democratic budgets bring N.J. closer to a shutdown

    Still, Murphy warned that could risk the future of NJ Transit because the corporate business tax hike runs out in two years.

    "We can't have a one-shot or a two-shot infusion once every decade and expect to fund a safe and reliable mass transit system," Murphy said. 

    Murphy also said he doesn't understand the opposition to the millionaires tax and sales tax increase. 

    "These are obvious no-brainers, and every bit of evidence support it," he said. "This is a little bit like denying climate change."

    State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

    Murphy and the Legislature have until a week from Saturday -- June 30 -- to enact a budget. Otherwise, that could trigger a state government shutdown -- which might include closed state parks, beaches, and agencies over the July 4 weekend.

    Murphy succeeded Republican Chris Christie in January, giving Democrats control of the New Jersey's government for the first time in eight years.

    But the governor said he's trying to "break the mindset" in Trenton of relying on short-term budget fixes.

    "We cannot do this from year to year," Murphy said. "We cannot enter every June in crisis. I refuse to look only at the short term. 

    Murphy has vowed to veto the Legislature's budget, but legislative committees are meting Tuesday to advance the plan, with a full vote expected Thursday. 

    Murphy said he remains "optimistic we're gonna figure this out."

    "We're not throwing food at each other," he said. "I'm available to meet every minute of every hour of every day. I've got nothing higher in my books in terms of priorities than this."

    Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.

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    Less than 10 days after the first series, Tebowmania returned to Trenton Tuesday night. Binghamton came to Arm & Hammer Park for the first of three games, its last trip to Trenton this season. Tim Tebow was in the lineup, in the eighth spot, as the DH for the Rumble Ponies. Like he does before every series, he spoke...

    Less than 10 days after the first series, Tebowmania returned to Trenton Tuesday night.

    Binghamton came to Arm & Hammer Park for the first of three games, its last trip to Trenton this season. Tim Tebow was in the lineup, in the eighth spot, as the DH for the Rumble Ponies. Like he does before every series, he spoke to the media before the game.

    Tebow expounded on all manner of subjects, from the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win, to the World Cup, and even about Thunder batboy Tommy Smith.

    But he spoke firstly about his time with the Rumble Ponies this season.

    "It has been a great journey," Tebow said. "It has all been really fun, and I have enjoyed it. I don't know if it is tougher than I thought it would be. I had my eyes very open coming in, knowing what it was going to be, and how tough the journey would be.

    "I think it is very similar to what I expected coming in, but it is a really fun game that I am blessed to be able to play."

    With the Eagles fulfilling every Philadelphia fans' dreams in February, Tebow, who was in the camp with the Eagles during the 2015 season, was happy for his friends on the squad.

    But he was also in camp with the Patriots as well in 2013, so Tebow had friends on both sides of the emotional spectrum after the whistle was blown.

    Yankees prospects watch from A to Z

    "I was happy for them," Tebow said. "I actually had a lot of former friends on both teams. So you obviously text with them for two weeks leading up, and you wish all the guys luck on both teams. You try to be a good friend, and support them either way. But I was happy for them."

    While the 2018 World Cup is in full swing, Tebow has not had much of a chance to follow the action. 

    "I really haven't been able to watch too much of it," Tebow said. "We hear a little bit about it after games. I think it is pretty exciting, obviously, with the amount attention that it brings.

    "I think it would be something that would be really fun to play in. Just that excitement, and how fun it seems. I didn't necessarily grow up the biggest soccer fan, but I appreciate the game. Just becoming friends with certain people that have been good at it, it makes you more intrigued."

    The Tim Tebow Foundation, and its "Night to Shine", works with special needs children and adults around the world. This year, 537 churches honored around 90,000 people with a prom night experience.

    Tebow got a chance to speak with Tommy Smith, the Thunder bat boy who recently took bronze at the Special Olympics New Jersey softball competition.

    "He is awesome," Tebow said. "I was trying to get him to come over and hang with us, and be our bat boy. But for some reason, he wouldn't do it.

    "He said yes, but then he said he had to stay. He is really cool. I love it every time he gets a bat, and puts his hands up, to get the crowd hyped. It brings me a lot of joy to watch that, and also watch the crowd react to that as well."

    While minor league baseball takes up a lot of his energy during the season, Tebow makes sure he puts aside some time each day to work on the foundation.

    "No, I keep it going," Tebow said. "Thankfully, I have a really great team. But you can't train all day, right?. You have to have a little balance. I stay involved in that heavily, and working on everything we are doing at the foundation, and everything else we have going on.

    "That doesn't take away from training, and trying to improve as well."


    The Yankees made five moves pertaining to the Thunder Tuesday.

    INF Abiatal Avelino and INF/OF Ryan McBroom came down from Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, while INF Rey Navarro and OF Zack Zehner moved to Scranton.

    First baseman Chris Gittens was placed on the 7-Day DL with a left hip injury, retroactive to Monday.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    Four teenagers were swimming behind Riverview Plaza in Trenton at about 5 p.m. when one of the teens went under and never resurfaced.

    A 16-year-old boy drowned while swimming in the Delaware River on Monday, authorities confirmed.

    Four teenagers were swimming behind Riverview Plaza in Trenton at about 5 p.m. when one of the teens went under and never resurfaced, according to Trenton Fire Department Chief Mark Augustyn. 

    Rescue workers were able to locate the teen and divers pulled him out of the water at 5:20 p.m., officials said. 

    Augustyn said a language barrier between rescue workers and the teens involved made the rescue slightly challenging. 

    The victim was rushed to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead around 6 p.m., authorities confirmed.

    Alexis Johnson may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @alexisjreports. Find on Facebook.

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    Should our criminal-justice system write off these teenagers and adolescents as incapable of being rehabilitated, even while their brains are still in the process of developing? Watch video

    Life imprisonment without parole is a harsh sentence, appropriately reserved for those men and women who commit the most heinous of acts against society.

    But should it be applied to juveniles? Should our criminal-justice system write off these teenagers and adolescents as incapable of being rehabilitated, even while their brains are still in the process of developing?

    With these issues in mind, we salute the passage of a joint resolution to establish a commission to review life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders.

    Sponsored by Nellie Pou (D-35th District) and Linda Greenstein (D-14th) in the Senate and Carol Murphy (D-7th) in the Assembly, the resolution envisions a commission that would examine sentences of young people who are tried as adults for serious, violent crimes.

    The 15-member panel would weigh in on such matters as mitigating factors, accessibility of legal counsel at parole hearings, and whether state criminal-sentencing practices should be revised.

    Significantly, it would also consider the impact that any resentencing or parole alternatives might have on the crime's victims, making sure any recommendations satisfy the constitutional mandate to treat such victims with fairness, compassion and respect.

    Should children who commit a crime be given a second chance?

    In June of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws requiring juveniles convicted of murder to be sentenced to die in prison violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

    In her majority opinion, Justice Elana Kagan wrote that mandatory life without parole for juveniles does not take into consideration their chronological age and its attendant features, including immaturity, impetuosity and the failure to appreciate risks and consequences.

    The practice also prevents the courts from taking into account the family and the home environment from which the young person came, "and from which he cannot usually extricate himself, no matter how brutal or dysfunctional," Kagan said.

    Early last year, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously to overhaul the way Garden State judges sentence juveniles convicted in violent crimes that could send them away until they are elderly ... or dead.

    The highest court in the state said judges must consider such factors as age, family environment and peer pressure before they impose lengthy sentences of young offenders.

    In the decision, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner referred to the 2012 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which laid out those very factors.

    Under the terms of the resolution, the new commission would include lawmakers and members of the public appointed by the governor. It would issue a report within six months, and then disband.

    Society has learned much about the effects of a brutal home environment on a still-maturing brain. It's time to apply that knowledge when deciding the fate of our youngest criminals.

    The goal is not to coddle them, certainly, but to recognize all the mitigating factors before sending them away for life.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    The boy, described as the only African American in his class, later transferred to public school.

    In December of 2016, an eighth grader at St. Joseph Grade School in Toms River was already having a tough time dealing with racist, bullying behavior from his classmates, according to his parents. When his grandmother died, he became more distraught.

    His caucasian classmates called him the n-word and monkey, and made other racist comments, sometimes eliciting laughter from those in earshot, the suit said.

    When the boy suggested in a social media group chat that he was thinking of hurting himself, his bullies did not lay off or apologize, according to a lawsuit filed on his behalf Tuesday.

    "A group of approximately 11 classmates began bullying [him] and, during school hours, encouraging him to kill himself," the lawsuit claims. "Certain classmates, during school hours, walked by [him] and made a cutting motion on their wrist as if they were committing suicide with a razor blade."

    The boy did not kill himself, but eventually left the school when the bullying only intensified, according to the suit.

    Parents Michael Lombardo and Jane Mason claim in their civil complaint in federal court Tuesday that teachers and administrators refused to prevent or punish the racism and bullying, which one teacher acknowledged was "relentless."

    It's a shocking allegation in a time when awareness of teen suicide has schools and parents taking bullying claims more seriously. But the claims are not unfamiliar, either. Also on Tuesday, the parents of a Rockaway 12-year-old who killed herself in 2017 filed suit, claiming her classmates cyber-bullied her, including teasing her about when she would end her life.

    On behalf of their son, Lombardo and Mason are suing a teacher, a guidance counselor, two administrators, St. Joseph's Parish and it's head pastor, Rev. G. Scott Shaffer, as well as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Trenton.

    In a statement Tuesday, the school said it could not comment on ongoing litigation. Messages left for Shaffer, the other staff members and the spokeswoman for the archdiocese were not returned Tuesday.

    In their lawsuit, Lombardo and Mason state that their son, who is identified only by his initials, was the only African American in his seventh grade class when he started attending St. Joseph in 2015.

    The harassment ratcheted up in the end of 2016, when they mocked him about his comment about self-harm, the suit says.

    It also claims that on the same day, the boy suggested in the group chat that they all go to a trampoline park -- but his invitation was met first with silence and then teasing, and repeated comments about no one wanting to hang out with him.

    In another incident, his parents said, the boy was harassed by his classmates who claimed he was lying about having a girlfriend, as she did not go to the school. He reported the harassment to his parents and they asked the school to intervene, but his parents said they got limited reassurances from administrators, and virtually no action.

    Lombardo and Mason said in the suit that they had a March 24, 2017 meeting with guidance counselor Divina Roche -- who had previously warned them about their son's comments about self-harm -- and then-Principal Michelle Williams. Roche acknowledged that she had witnessed the boy being bullied, as had other teachers, and described one incident as "relentless," the suit said.

    The parents said Roche blamed the boy for the bullying and said their "hands were tied" because he would not tell on his classmates.

    "Williams' and Roche's solution to end the harassment was for [the boy] to tell the abusive classmates 'you're funny,' when they harassed him," the complaint states.

    In a later meeting, Roche told the parents that she had told the students accused of bullying to stop talking to the boy completely, and teacher Christopher Tobin said he told his entire class to not communicate with the boy in person and on social media.

    "In short, Tobin encouraged his class to make [him,] a child clearly being bullied and abused and the only African American child under his care and supervision, to feel invisible, isolated and worthless," the suit says.

    There was one incident that resulted in punishment, according to the lawuit. On May 2, 2017, the complaint claims, the boy "found a note in his desk saying the 'KKK is coming 4 u" with a drawing of a Klansman wearing a white hooded robe."

    He showed it to Tobin, who reported it to Roche, and two students were identified as the authors, the suit said. They received suspensions of one day and three days respectively, and the boy was called a snitch by several classmates, his parents claimed. They withdrew him from the school a week later.

    The lawsuit said the boy was denied his right to a safe, welcoming school environment and suffered from psychological and racial abuse, causing his parents to incur medical and other costs for their son. They are seeking damages for suffering, negligence and  breach of contract, among other claims.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.


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    As prom season winds down, compiled a collection of some of the best dressed prom attendees from 2018.

    As prom season winds down, compiled a collection of some of the best dressed prom attendees from 2018.


    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Be sure to check out the complete prom coverage at

    Ed Murray may be reached at Follow Ed on Twitter at @EdMurrayphoto. Find NJ.COM on Facebook.

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    Now, during the 25th anniversary Thunder season, Freed got a chance to return to one of the stadiums where he honed his profession.

    There have been many players that have come through Trenton over the last quarter century that have found their way to the major leagues.

    But the Thunder organization has not only made big league players, it has seen some others associated with the team make the jump to Major League Baseball.

    Andy Freed is one of them.

    Freed was a radio presenter with the Trenton Thunder from 1996-2001, along with current Philadelphia Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy, in the early years of the franchise. Freed left Trenton after the 2001 season, and is now in his 14th season as a radio announcer for the Tampa Bay Rays. 

    Last weekend, Freed got a chance to return to one of the stadiums where he honed his profession.

    Freed was inducted into the Trenton Baseball Hall of Fame, joining his former partner McCarthy, and was honored Saturday night before Trenton's game with Erie. He came south from New York with Dave Wills, his partner in the booth for his 14-year career with the Rays, after the Yankees 4-1 win.

    "It is super nice (to return)," Freed said. "This franchise is very successful. They would have been successful if I had never come along. But it is nice to know that maybe I had a teeny, tiny part in helping this thing get off the ground, working with Tom McCarthy, and all the great people in the front office.

    "Seeing that some of them are still around is just amazing, and it really feels wonderful to be back."

    Tim Tebow returns to Trenton, talks Eagles, World Cup, and life

    Freed has fond memories of the press box at Arm & Hammer Park (which was called Waterfront Park then), which has gone through some changes over the years. 

    "It feels like coming home," Freed said. "We are talking here in the press box, and two booths down is where I met my wife, right here in this press box. That is three kids that we have that would not have been here without the Trenton Thunder, so it really is like coming home."

    Freed returned to Trenton just weeks before Arm & Hammer Park hosts its third All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 11, with the Case's Pork Roll Home Run Derby Tuesday, July 10. The first time the Thunder hosted the event, back in 1996, was one of the moments that really put the franchise on the map.

    "I think the first really big moment this franchise had was the 1996 Double A All-Star Game," Freed said. "I can look out here and still envision Vladimir Guerrero out there in right field, misplaying a ball that a Thunder player Todd Carey hit, who was our third baseman that year. But he was probably the best minor league player that every came through here, Guerrero."

    While Freed obviously learned much in the booth with the Thunder, it was his time spent around a lot of great baseball people that allowed him to grasp the other parts of the business, and succeed at the highest level of the business.

    "There were some great Thunder teams, with Ken Macha as manager, and DeMarlo Hale," Freed said. "What was great, in working with Tom, and those guys, is how much I learned.

    "To me, working here for five years was like getting a post-graduate degree in baseball. You learned everything: how to pull the tarp, how to sell tickets, how to sell advertising. We used to go to the schools with Boomer.

    "In getting to the major leagues, it is just like a minor league team, but obviously on a larger scale. So I feel like I have an appreciation for what the other members of the front office do, because we all did it here in Trenton."

    Freed's time with Tampa Bay started in 2005, when the franchise was in the midst of one of the worst 10-year runs in baseball history. The team, which started playing in 1998, finished last in the American League East in nine of the 10 years from 1998-2007.The only "bright spot" came in the 2004 campaign, which saw the Rays finish fourth in the AL East (30.5 games out of first).

    But everything changed when Joe Maddon was hired in 2006, Freed's second season with the club. Tampa Bay won its first division title in 2008, and went to the World Series after its first American League pennant. The Rays would go to the playoffs four times in six seasons, with two division crowns.

    "They were so bad when I got there," Freed said. "We would regularly be a joke on the Late Show with David Letterman. He had a running gag about how bad the Devil Rays were, and he was right; they were terrible.

    "But Maddon came in 2006, and the whole thing turned around. The closest thing the 2008 Rays can be compared to is the 1969 Mets. The only difference is, we lost in the World Series, while the Mets won.

    "The fact that we went from worst team in baseball to American League champs, and I think the best team in baseball that year, was just a remarkable thing to be a part of."

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    Day seven of the 2018 World Cup gave us our first two knockout stage teams, both out of Group A. It also had two brutal Group B battles, one which was won by the best player on the planet, and the other that had the 2010 champions still alive to advance. The tournament continues to throw up surprising results....

    Day seven of the 2018 World Cup gave us our first two knockout stage teams, both out of Group A.

    It also had two brutal Group B battles, one which was won by the best player on the planet, and the other that had the 2010 champions still alive to advance.

    The tournament continues to throw up surprising results.


    Portugal 1-0 Morocco

    Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia

    Iran 0-1 Spain


    Rui Patricio, Portugal

    Had the second highest rating (7.73) on, but the keeper was the star man for a Portuguese side that was on the ropes after the fourth minute. Wolverhampton is getting a gem in Patricio.

    Luis Suarez, Uruguay

    The Barcelona forward was the Man of the Match with a 7.57 rating, mostly because he scored the game winner. Best of a bland match.

    Isco, Spain

    While Diego Costa got the goal, it was the midfielder that was the boss of the pitch in the 1-0 win over Iran. The Man of the Match with a 7.99 rating, Isco was everywhere for the Spaniards.

    Day 6: Early red card, controversial goal, Russia all but advances


    While it will be Cristiano Ronaldo's name in the headlines once again, it was Portugal's goalkeeper Patricio that saved the day.

    The 2016 European champions took the lead in the fourth minute against Morocco from a Ronaldo header, as the Portuguese forward became the all-time leading European scorer with his 85th goal.

    Portugal was then put under immense pressure for the rest of the match. Morocco had Portugal on the ropes, but could not finish any of the 15 chances it had, with Patricio coming up big time after time.

    Saurez's 23rd minute winner advanced both Uruguay and Russia out of Group A, but it was not a very convincing victory for the Uruguayan side. Russia, with a vastly superior goal difference, just needs a draw Monday to win the group.

    Finally, Spain scraped by Iran, thanks to a Costa goal and an Iranian goal disallowed by the VAR for offside (the correct call). It sets up a fantastic final day of Group B, with three teams alive to advance. Portugal and Spain are tied at the top with four points, and a plus-one goal differential. Iran has three points, and an even goal difference.

    Iran plays Portugal Monday, while Spain plays Morocco.


    Two Group C matches will take the stage first, as France will play Peru at 8 a.m. EDT on FS1, and Denmark will face Australia at 11 a.m. EDT on Fox. Both matches can also been seen on

    The final match of the day should be the best, as Croatia can all but win the group with a victory over Argentina at 2 p.m. EDT on Fox and


    Can France all but qualify with a win over a tough Peru team reeling from a match day one loss to Denmark?

    Les Bleus are one of the very few top 10 teams that actually won their first round game, 2-1 over Australia. But they need to be better, starting on Thursday.

    Will Denmark punch its ticket to the knockout stages? A win for the Danes, who won 1-0 over Peru, will give them six points. Wins for France and Denmark mean both advance.

    Will the final match of the day be the best one of the group stages? It will have to be great to beat the Spain Portugal game, but the potential is there. Croatia, which would have six points with a victory, can put Messi and Argentina in a bad spot.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    The shooting at Art All Night in Trenton was quickly deemed a 'mass casualty incident' Watch video

    The first dispatch for ambulances to respond to a reported shooting at the Art All Night festival this past Sunday sounded routine for a weekend in Trenton.

    "Rescue North and South, Medic 792, City of Trenton, 675 South Clinton Avenue, Roebling Shopping Center, gunshot wound, unsafe scene..."

    The Mercer County dispatcher broadcast it on an EMS channel at 6:46 a.m. (Rescue north and south are Trenton EMS units, and Medic 792 is a county paramedic unit.)

    Moments later, a Trenton EMS chief - call sign 7400 and pronounced 'seventy four hundred' - asks about victims.

    "At least seven," a county dispatcher answers.

    "I'm sorry, did you say seven victims?" the chief asks.

    "PD's reporting seven - at least,' the dispatcher responds.

    The call is now anything but routine and moments later, the EMS chief declares the scene a "mass casualty incident," or MCI in the first responder world.

    First responders and medics would find more than seven victims, and their voices grew in volume and urgency as they described the scene, archived radio transmissions from the incident show.

    Expo preview

    The gunfire and stampede to escape Art All Night wounded or injured nearly 30 people and left one man - Tahaij Wells, one of the suspected shooters - dead.

    Arriving Trenton police engaged in gunfire with suspects, and authorities later charged two wounded men - Amir Armstrong and Davone White - with firearm charges. Both remained hospitalized Wednesday.

    Four Trenton police officers involved in the gunfight remain on administrative leave, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said.

    After arrivng at the scene, the EMS chief and county dispatchers start calling ambulance units from towns outside Trenton to respond and help them get the wounded to hospitals.

    "Keep em coming," one says from the scene.

    The EMS units stage at nearby South Broad and Dye streets and are directed either inside or outside the Roebling Wire Works building, where the 24-hour festival is held.

    As they find more people to treat, an EMS chief says: "Just keep sending me whatever you got."

    EMS crews are asked to bring their stretchers and be ready to roll. 

    "We're gonna load and go," one says.

    The EMS chief also notifies Capital Health's Regional Medical Center in Trenton, home to a level II trauma center. (Ambulance crews still refer to the hospital as simply "Fuld," a name which was part of the hospital for decades.)

    "Notify Fuld...we have at least eight trauma victims...tell them to get everything they can ready, and get ready for a massive influx," an EMS chief says.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.

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    An investigation found that he used a mobile app to secretly track the woman's location

    A Burlington County man was convicted Wednesday afternoon of killing his friend after she turned town his romantic advances, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said.

    William Gennett.jpgWilliam Gennett (police photo) 

    William Gennett, 54, of Tabernacle, was convicted on one count of the first-degree murder of Shannon O'Rourke, 45, of Lumberton, who he strangled to death at her Nassau Road home in July 2016.

    A jury also convicted him of fourth-degree stalking.

    Gennett and O'Rourke were friends, and he used a mobile app to track her location without her knowledge, an investigation by the prosecutor's office found.

    Assistant Prosecutors Bob VanGilst and Courtney O'Brien argued in Gennett's trial that he killed O'Rourke after she rejected his attempts to turn their friendship into a romantic relationship.

    Gennett is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 16.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.


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    Cops said Eric Howell kept a hidden camera on the edge of his briefcase and waved it under female students

    A former high school chemistry teacher who admitted to recording "upskirt" videos of female students was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday.

    erichowell.jpgEric Howell (Police photo) 

    Eric T. Howell, 44, of Maple Shade, had pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child in March after an investigation into his conduct at Lenape High School in Medford. 

    School officials came to police in May 2017 after someone reported seeing Howell trying position his briefcase under a female student's skirt.

    Detectives found that Howell would conceal a camera in a box of coconut water that he kept in an outer pouch of his briefcase. To record, he would unscrew the cap and walk toward students wearing skirts or loose-fitting shorts.

    Police wrote in a report that Howell stored the pictures and videos on his classroom computer.

    Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina commended the students who reported Howell's behavior.

    "Parents and students have every right to expect that students will be safe from any form of sexual misconduct while they are in school, particularly by their teachers," Coffina said in a statement. "This defendant betrayed that sacred trust and rightfully is paying a significant price for his actions."

    There was no evidence in the investigation that Howell shared any of the recordings, the statement said.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

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    President Donald Trump's administration's vicious practice of grabbing children from their parents and locking them up in cages did not play well in New Jersey. Watch video

    President Donald Trump's administration's vicious practice of grabbing children from their parents and locking them up in cages did not play well in New Jersey.

    Nor should it, as the policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexican border continued unchecked and unabated through Wednesday, conjuring grim images of the Nazi concentration camps and the internment camps that once housed Japanese-Americans in World War II.

    Bruce Springsteen called Trump's immigration policies "inhumane." And earlier this week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order prohibiting any state resource from being used to aid in family separations.

    The signing took place as state Attorney General Gurbir S. Gerwal joined 20 colleagues from across the country in demanding an end to the forced separations, which to date have seen more than 2,300 youngsters torn from their parents since April and warehoused in wire enclosures.

    Let that image wrap itself around your brain.

    Why are we still warehousing children? | Editorial

    Both of our U.S. Senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, demanded an end to Trump's coldly calculating use of children as pawns in his determination to get his wall built, while the entire New Jersey delegation in the House of Representatives - yes, even all five of our GOP congressmen - are now on record against it.

    "They're not coming here to take anybody's jobs," said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-6th District), referring to the asylum-seekers who had crossed the border to escape violence and looming death back home, only to watch in despair as their children were taken away.

    Pallone was one of six federal lawmakers from New Jersey and New York who spent part of Father's Day touring the federal detention center in Elizabeth, where some of the young detainees were being held.

    "They were fleeing persecution, which this country has always been a haven from. They're going to be tortured or murdered when they go back."

    None of the solutions that lawmakers are frantically working on at this point is perfect, and some are more draconian than others. Meanwhile, the cries of the children echo endlessly in our ears, and tear at our hearts.

    Can we at least reunite these innocents with their parents while the so-called "grownups" in the room find a way out of this horror show?

    The harm Trump's inhumane "zero-tolerance" policy is doing is incalculable, two-thirds of Americans now agree. The psychological scars imprisonment and abandonment leave on vulnerable children can last a lifetime.

    Bowing to pressure, Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ending the practice. "It was a dramatic turnaround for Trump," the Associated Press reported, "who has been insisting, wrongly, that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision."

    Many Garden State residents felt helpless in the face of such evil being carried out in our names. We can only continue to do what we do best: march in the streets, donate to humanitarian groups supporting the families, keep the heat on Congress to fix the system.

    And when the time comes, we can use the power of our votes to tell Trump in no uncertain terms that his vile policy was wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    If you can't find something good to eat in New Jersey, you aren't hungry.

    As if we needed to be told ... tells us that "New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the diner capital of the world." According to's own Pete Genovese, we have more than 600 diners to choose from.

    The Cornelius Low House Museum in Piscataway hosted an exhibit on diners in 2015, and Mark Nonestied, the museum's division head of historic sites and history services, offered this as a reason why New Jersey rules when it comes to diners.

    636312477998277301-diner3.jpgThis classic diner table scene was part of the Low House exhibit on diners.

    "New Jersey had a very early, highly developed transportation system. When people drove, they needed to stop and eat," he said. "Diners filled that need -- and our location between New York and Philadelphia along with this road network through New Jersey becomes part of the reason why there were so many."

    According to Nonestied, the diner's success in New Jersey also had to do with people who lived in the state. That is, "Initially, when diners became popular, they were places where working class communities could get a good, cheap meal to eat at any time of the day. And New Jersey had a very diverse working-class population--and diners became that go-to place to get a good meal."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    As for the future of the diner, Nonestied remains optimistic: "I think there will always be a need for them. Diners reinvent themselves as society changes, and each time, they seem to find a way to keep up with the new pace of things--and flourish."

    Just like the residents of the state that they call home.

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos diners and eateries around New Jersey; if you don't see one of your favorites, check the links below to earlier galleries. And if you still don't see it ... send in a photo for our next gallery!

    Vintage photos of N.J. diners

    Vintage photos of diners in N.J.

    Vintage photos of diners and eateries in NJ

    Vintage photos of eclectic eats in N.J.

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

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    Highlighting the state's top players after a busy spring full of softball action.

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    The buy has agreed to invest an additional $16 million in Westminster, Rider says

    Rider University announced on Thursday it has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Chinese company to sell its Westminster Choir College in Princeton.

    The Lawrence-based university said in February it had a non-binding, $40 million deal with Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd. for the sale of Westminster.

    Now, Rider and Kaiwen have agreed on a binding deal that Rider says includes:

    -- Offering comparable benefits to existing Westminster full-time faculty and priority adjuncts, as well as full and part-time Westminster staff.

    -- A commitment to operating Westminster at the current campus for no less than 10 years and substantially maintaining the current academic offerings for no less than five years.

    -- An obligation to continue student aid and to work with Rider on a transition plan for the smooth transfer of Westminster operations.

    The price is still $40 million, "but is subject to transaction adjustments," the Rider announcement said. 

    But Kaiwen has agreed to invest an additional $16 million into the choir college over a five-year period, for working capital and capital expenditures, Rider said.

    The final closing is scheduled to occur before July 1.

    Rider's decision in early 2017 to essentially put Westminster up for sale due to financial issues caused protests by students and faculty, as well as legal battles.

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

    On Thursday, Rider signed the agreement with three entities that Kaiwen has formed for the deal: the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation, a New Jersey non-profit corporation, which will operate Westminster.

    After the closing, the nonprofit will shorten its name to: Westminster Choir College.

    The other two -- Beijing Wenhuaxuexin Education Investment Limited Company, a Kaiwen Education subsidiary and Princeton Westminster International LLC, a subsidiary of Beijing Wenhuaxuexin - will operate the Westminster Conservatory and Westminster Continuing Education, respectively.

    "This contract sets the foundation for a process that creates opportunities for Westminster to evolve into a renewed institution with a strong future. This includes plans to broaden and expand Westminster far beyond what Rider is able to do, and attract more international students to the Choir College, Conservatory and Continuing Education," Robert S. Schimek, chairman of Rider's board of trustees said.

    Rider president Gregory G. Dell'Omo said Kaiwen Education has a mission to sustain and grow Westminster Choir College's reputation as a world-class institution while maintaining it as an artistically pre-eminent, academically rigorous and fiscally sound institution.

    "It is our hope that the entire Westminster community can come together to help bring this process to a successful conclusion so the legacy of Westminster can carry on far into the future," Dell'Omo said in the announcement.

    Rider said Thursday their world-wide search for a Westminster buyer included 281 potential suitors and 13 formal proposals of interest, five that were interested in Rider's preference of keeping Westminster in Princeton.

    No U.S. higher education institution expressed interest in operating Westminster in Princeton, and only one U.S. education institution expressed interest in taking Westminster to its own campus.

    That one entity -- which a Rider spokeswoman declined to name -- pulled out after limited due diligence.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.

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    Where is the best place to see fireworks in New Jersey? What time does fireworks start? Fourth of July 2018 fireworks events and displays near you. This complete listing includes all 21 counties.

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    Day eight gave us our third and fourth knockout stage teams, with a teenager, and one of the best midfielders in the world, leading the 1998 champions onto the next round. But the top spot in Group C is still in play, and headed to match day three, as is the second place qualifier. In Group D, a former...

    Day eight gave us our third and fourth knockout stage teams, with a teenager, and one of the best midfielders in the world, leading the 1998 champions onto the next round.

    But the top spot in Group C is still in play, and headed to match day three, as is the second place qualifier.

    In Group D, a former Ballon D'Or winner had the pressure of a country on his shoulders, but it was the former dark horses that might become a huge shout to win the tournament.


    Denmark 1-1 Australia

    France 1-0 Peru

    Argentina 0-3 Croatia 


    Henrik Dalsgaard, Denmark

    The right back picked up the Man of the Match with a 7.69 rating, just ahead of team mate Christian Eriksen's 7.61. Dalsgaard shut down the Australian attack, which grew into the match after the Eriksen goal.

    Paul Pogba, France

    Even though the midfielder is playing deeper than he should be, he has controlled the action now twice. Rated out at a 7.71 on, and made the key pass for Kylian Mbappe-Lottin's game winner.

    Ivan Rakitic, Croatia

    The best player on the pitch. He was the Man of the Match with a massive 9.10 rating, scoring the third goal to ice the contest. Along with Luka Modric, made the Argentina look pedestrian.

    World Cup Day 7: Uruguay and Russia advance; Spain and Portugal survive


    It was supposed to be Lionel Messi's last run at a tournament title with Argentina, but the 2018 World Cup is turning into a train wreck for the South American side.

    Luka Modric captained the Croatians second half rampage, where they scored three times, and made sure his side became the fourth team to advance to the knockout stage.

    It was a tap in from one yard for the teenage forward, but Kylian Mbappe is now the youngest goal scorer in France history. His goal was set up by a brilliant moment from Paul Pogba, who helped the French boss the midfield for the first 60 minutes. But Peru, with its tournament life on the line, put the pressure on over the final half hour. It was not enough, and now Peru is eliminated, and France has a match with Denmark to top the group.

    In the first game, Denmark blew a chance to advance, as VAR gave the Australians a lifeline in the match, and Group C. A penalty for handball was awarded, harshly some say, but Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick. Yussuf Poulsen gave away his second penalty, and now will miss the match with France due to an accumulation of yellow cards.


    Two Group E games, sandwiched around a Group D battle, will take to the pitches Friday.

    The opener will pit pre-tournament favorite Brazil against Costa Rica at 8 a.m. EDT on FS1.

    At 11 a.m. EDT, Nigeria will face Iceland in Group D action on Fox. Finally, Serbia will play Switzerland at 2 p.m. on Fox. 

    All matches can be seen on as well.


    Will Neymar be healthy enough for the Selecao to lead them to a win? 

    He limped out of training Tuesday, and is still not 100 percent after he fractured his foot with PSG this winter. Is Brazil better off without Neymar in the lineup, if he is not entirely healthy?

    After the other Group D match Thursday, can either Iceland or Nigeria give themselves an opportunity to advance? A win by either makes the final matches very interesting.

    Can SMS lead Serbia to the knockout stages? Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was brilliant in the first match, and should be key against Switzerland.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    Police say they found evidence that Matthew Vanderbeeks planned to obtain a firearm

    36002957_1645594358871951_5265242705004331008_n.pngMatthew Vanderbeek.

    A 19-year-old former student planned to shoot victims at New Egypt High School's graduation on Thursday evening, police said.  

    Matthew Vanderbeek of Cream Ridge is charged with making terroristic threats with a threat to kill and attempting to possess a firearm for an unlawful purpose.

    Authorities say he used social media to make the threats.

    Police said they searched Vanderbeek's Cream Ridge home to check for weapons and found evidence Vanderbeek was attempting to obtain a firearm.

    A number of people saw the posts and alerted school officials, who alerted police on Tuesday, according to Plumsted Township School District's Superintendent Gerald North. 

    Vanderbeek was taken into custody without incident and taken to the Ocean County Jail where he was lodged pending a detention hearing.

    Tonight, New Egypt will graduate 114 students, North said. He said the ceremony will be held outside with an increased police presence.


    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyoFind on Facebook


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    Police responded to a threat toward a minor during the annual family festival

    A threat of violence made toward a minor at Saint Gregory the Great Church's annual carnival in Hamilton Wednesday night led to two arrests, township police said.

    Two boys, ages 15 and 17, were identified as the source of the threats and taken into police custody without incident, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schroeder said. They were charged with making terroristic threats.

    saint-gregory-the-great-in-hamiltonjpg-9f2125f7e5968c07.jpgSaint Gregory the Great Church in Hamilton, file photo

    No one was armed, and no fights broke out at the festival, Schroeder said.

    The annual carnival started Monday and runs evenings through Saturday night, ending with fireworks.

    The incident remains under investigation.

    Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Detective Stacy Pollard at 609-581-4026, or the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at 609-581-4008.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.

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    His charge was updated from assault to manslaughter when a party fight led another man to die from his injuries

    The Mercer County man accused of fatally beating another man at a Saint Patrick's Day party earlier this year has been indicted in the case, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office announced Thursday.

    Buckalew.jpgHoward Buckalew (police photo)

    Howard Buckalew, 52, of Ewing Township, was indicted by a grand jury on one count of first-degree aggravated manslaughter.

    Buckalew was first charged with aggravated assault on March 26, two days after police responded to a disturbance at a party on Hartman Drive.

    Upon arrival at the scene, police found Jeffrey Pageau, 58, who was bleeding from his head and laying on a cement patio in his backyard.

    Witnesses told police they saw Buckalew confront Pageau and push him off the porch.

    Pageau underwent emergency surgery at Capital Health Regional medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery, but died from his injuries a week later on March 31.

    Following Pageau's death, Buckalew's charge was upgraded to manslaughter.

    St. Patrick's assault victim was a retired family man who loved pets

    Superior Court documents say Buckalew grabbed Pageau by the shoulders and shoved him against kitchen cabinets, repeatedly hitting Pageau's head. Buckalew kept pushing him out of the kitchen and onto the porch.

    The pair struggled, missed the steps, and Pageau fell backwards, hitting his head on the pavement -- then Buckalew landed on top of him and continued to pound his head against the pavement, court documents said.

    Buckalew is currently being held in the Mercer County jail.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.


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