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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    The fountain at Agabiti Park keeps a young girl and her dog cool Watch video

    Janehiry Torres, 9, calls it, "My favorite place ever."

    She was speaking of Agabiti Park in Trenton, where she was walking her dog. Coco, while getting doused with cool water from the park's stainless steel fountain on Thursday.

    On a sunny "dog day of summer" Thursday, Torres walked the perimeter and Coco navigated a raised concrete ledge round and round again under varying amounts of fountain-provided drizzle and downpour.

    Expo preview

    An oasis in the city, Agabiti Park is bounded by Roebling, Whittaker and Emory avenues. Completed in 2002, it's stainless steel fountain and furniture provide respite from the heat in summer months.

    The season is drawing to a close, however and the first day of classes for Trenton children is Thursday, Sept. 6.

    For some in N.J., Labor Day weekend is off to a very rainy start Updated

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso, Instagram @michaelmancuso and Facebook @michaelmancuso


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    In 2015, Brian Brady was sentenced to one year unsupervised probation. That was an error

    A state appeals court has ruled that a former mayor and police captain needs to be resentenced because a judge improperly downgraded his convictions for misusing police databases.

    In 2015, Brian Brady, 55, of Sparta was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation for having a dispatcher look up information in police databases as personal favors for friends, like one who worked at a minor league baseball team.

    Brady - a then captain at the state Department of Human Services Police Department - elected to be tried in front of a judge, who found him guilty of two second-degree crimes, official misconduct and computer theft. (He was acquitted of several others.)

    Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 3.52.31 PM.pngBrian Brady, file photo

    The same judge, though, downgraded both for sentencing purposes, and gave him probation.

    State prosecutor's appealed, arguing the crimes have a presumption of custody - and possible jail.

    The appeals court agreed, and said in a Friday decision that their only option was to send the case back for resentencing after they found it the judge's original sentence to be "illegal."

    The appeals court found that the judge's non-custodial sentence did not reflect the original second-degree charges reflecting that Brady had "misused the power of his public office for petty personal matters."

    The judge was not mentioned in the appeals decision, but he was identified in prior news stories as Mercer County Judge Andrew Smithson.

    During Brady's July 2015 sentencing, Smithson considered the number of supportive letters he'd received vouching for Brady's character, and laid some blamed the state's "dysfunctional Human Service Police Department" that he said had thrust an extra burden of duties on  Brady.

    The downgrading was just, Smithson said from the bench, because defendants found guilty of second-degree crimes can dodge imprisonment if in "regard to the character and condition of the defendant, it is of the opinion that his imprisonment would be a serious injustice which overrides the need to deter such conduct by others."

    The appeals court disagreed, and found Smithson's reasoning flawed and not aligned with state sentencing guidelines.

    Before being found guilty, Brady was the third-highest ranking officer of the state Human Services Police.

    According to court documents and new stories, Brady asked a senior dispatcher to run people's names for warrants and past offenses, like drunken driving convictions, for baseball players on the Sussex Skyhawks.

    Once state prosecutors appealed, Brady cross-appealed and argued the state had had not proven their case against him.

    He lost that argument in the Friday decision. The appellate court found that Brady was not at liberty to access the "highly sensitive data" to do a personal favor for two men he knew socially, and affirmed his convictions.

    Brady previously served as Sparta's mayor from 2008-2009, and a term on the town's council from June 2006 to June 2010.

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Trenton went 7-2 on its final road trip, to close the gap with New Hampshire to one game heading into the final four game series

    For the third season in a row, the Trenton Thunder will make an appearance in the Eastern League playoffs.

    Whether it is as Eastern Division champion for the second straight year will be determined over the final series of the regular season, which starts Friday night at Arm & Hammer Park against Reading.

    The Thunder clinched on the road, powered by a six-game winning streak, which has them 10.5 games ahead of the third place Fightin Phils. 

    Trenton will look to continue its hot streak over the weekend and into the playoffs. The best-of-five series with New Hampshire will start with two games at the home of the second place club Wednesday and Thursday, followed by three games (if necessary) at the first place team's home park Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

    "I have probably been scoreboard watching for a couple weeks now," Thunder manager Jay Bell said. "Just to pay attention to what is going on earlier this month, for different reasons. Reading was playing well. They had a streak of eight or nine in a row.

    "There were some teams still in it, and had a good chance. Based upon the teams we were going to play, like Reading, Hartford had been playing really well against us, and also we had that series against New Hampshire. So there were no guarantees.

    "There is something to winning the division. There is something to having the best record in the league. It is a pat on the back for staff and players alike. They way that they have competed all year matters. It just is a good feeling, to play well for 140 games.

    "So I would really like to win it. We are in the playoffs. That is a fantastic thing, and a pat on the back as well. But still, there is something to winning the division, and that is a goal that is certainly attainable. We have the tiebreaker, so if we do tie, we win the division."

    Thunder outfielder Trey Amburgey, who was named to the 2018 Eastern League Post Season All-Star team this week, has been to the playoffs all four years he has been a minor leaguer. But the celebration last Sunday, after Trenton clinched a spot in the Eastern Division Championship Series, surpassed any of the others.

    "We had an all day celebration," Amburgey said. "I was saying to some of the guys, I have been to the playoffs for all four years in pro ball, and that was the best celebration I have been a part of."

    Thunder host Hamilton/Northern Burlington 13-year-old SJ champions

    * Trenton went 7-2 on its final road trip, to close the gap with New Hampshire to one game heading into the final four game series of the season for both teams.

    The Fisher Cats have played two less games than Trenton, and with the playoffs scheduled to take place starting Wednesday, there is nowhere to make up the extra games. 

    The Thunder will host Reading starting Friday, while New Hampshire will welcome Hartford.

    * There were multiple roster moves in the last week, and there may be more this weekend.

    Pitcher David Sosebee left to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, but returned on Wednesday to the Thunder.

    Pitcher Domingo Acevedo came off the 7-Day DL, and got the win Tuesday in relief of Jonathan Loaisiga.

    Pitcher Trevor Lane was placed on the 7-Day DL Wednesday (shoulder).

    Pitcher Ryan Bollinger was promoted to Scranton Thursday, with pitcher Adonis Rosa coming down to the Thunder.

    * Local product Brandon Wagner ended the road trip on fire at the plate.

    Wagner was 10-for-17 (.588) in the four games against Altoona, helping the Thunder win the series three games to one. Extended out to his last 10 games, Wagner was 12-for-33 (.364), with seven runs scored and 10 walks. He has his average with Trenton up to .264 in 33 games, and is looking like a pivotal piece of the offensive attack heading into the postseason.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    A N.J. couple's cash was confiscated during a traffic stop in West Virginia

    Dimitrios Patlias and Tonya Smith have no plans to visit West Virginia ever again.

    The Egg Harbor City couple say a traffic stop there in June turned into a summer-long ordeal.

    Police suspected the couple of nefarious activities and confiscated more than $10,000 in cash from them, as well as gift cards and casino rewards cards during the highway stop, but didn't charge them with a crime. 

    Patlias and Smith say they had to fight to get their possessions back and feared they could have lost all of it through the way police took it - civil forfeiture.

    Under West Virginia's civil forfeiture statute, items may be confiscated and subject to forfeiture for a variety of reasons, including if they were "incident to a lawful arrest or pursuant to a search under a search warrant or an inspection warrant" or if an officer has "probable cause to believe that the property was used or intended for use in violation" of state law.

    After police found no criminal wrongdoing by the couple, they finally told them to come back to West Virginia to retrieve their belongings last week. 

    (And that happened after a West Virginia councilman drove to their New Jersey home to hear about it, and a West Virginia newspaper started looking into it.)

    A state police spokesman has not responded to requests for comment about the case.

    Vacation plans cut short

    The saga began on the evening of June 9 as Patlias and Smith were traveling to Charles Town on their way to Hollywood Casino after making recent successful visits to other casinos along the way.

    Smith, a registered nurse at Princeton Medical Center, was on maternity leave and eight months pregnant. As her husband drove, she had a book open studying for an upcoming advanced cardiac life support test.

    Just outside of Charles Town city limits, a state trooper pulled over their vehicle, telling Patlias that he had drifted out of his lane. He took Patlias' license and registration and walked back to his patrol car.

    Soon he returned and told Patlias to exit his vehicle. Smith figured it was a sobriety check. "Maybe he wants to test him to make sure he's not drinking," she said.

    Patlias complied, but didn't like his next request.

    N.J. laws allowing cops to seize assets among 'worst in country'

    The trooper asked him how much money he had in his possession and Patlias said he refused to answer the question.

    "How much money do you have on you? That's a question a thief is going to ask you, not a cop," Patlias said this week as he recalled the traffic stop.

    The trooper handcuffed Patlias and radioed for a K-9 to sniff the car for drugs. The cop searched Patlias and removed money from his pockets, as well gift cards he had in his possession, Patlias said.

    As another trooper prepared to search the 2003 GMC Envoy, Patlias insisted they needed a warrant. The officers disagreed and scoured the vehicle.

    Casino cash confiscated

    In all, the couple was carrying $10,478 in cash between them, which were proceeds from several casino jackpot winnings in the previous few days, they said. The couple carried documentation to show these were legitimate, taxable winnings, they said.

    Concerned that police were counting his cash in the patrol car, where he could not see what was happening, Patlias told his wife to call 911. A trooper told her she would be arrested for making a false report if she made that call.

    She was also removed from the vehicle and the couple say they were forced to stand along the side of the highway for nearly two hours as officers searched the vehicle and their possessions.

    "I was 34 weeks pregnant and standing on the side of the road for almost two hours and my husband is in handcuffs and not even arrested," she said, still in disbelief over their experience.

    The officers explained they had issues with drug and cigarette smuggling in the area, but they found no contraband during the search, Smith said.

    Police seized $171 from a man. It'll cost him $175 to get it back

    Then, the issue turned to the subject of gift cards. The couple had 27 gift cards they had received from other casinos they had recently visited. As frequent casino guests, they rack up comps, the couple explained.

    The search also turned up scores of casino rewards cards. The cards were in the couple's names and, since they were traveling in a vehicle owned by Patlias' father, officers found old cards in his parents' and siblings' names, Patlias said.

    All of these cards, 78 total, were described as "gift cards" in a property disposition report the police gave the couple.

    The officers suggested the cards may be the products of a gift card scam or -- in the case of the ones with other names on them -- may indicate an identify theft scheme, the couple said.

    Patlias said he had documentation with him to support the legitimacy of the cards and his casino winnings, but that didn't seem to impress the troopers, he said.

    They were eventually told they weren't in trouble, that police were investigating gift card fraud in the area, but that police would keep the cash, cards and Patlias' cellphone for the time being. Police would be in touch by phone regarding their possessions.

    After giving Patlias the warning for failure to maintain lane, they sent the couple on their way.

    They drove off with only $2 in cash.

    "They violated my Fourth Amendment rights. They took me and my pregnant wife out of the car on a dangerous highway and left us with $2 to get home," Patlias declared.

    'It's not West Virginian'

    Back in New Jersey, they waited to hear from police. Smith gave birth to a boy in July.

    They kept up the pressure on West Virginia authorities because they feared, after reading horror stories from others, that they might lose their possessions forever through civil forfeiture.

    Their plight got the attention of Charles Town Councilman Michael Tolbert.

    Tolbert found out about the situation through an email the couple sent to local officials and actually drove to New Jersey to speak with them.

    Cops found pot in his Mercedes, now they own his car

    "It was probably one of the strongest, most powerful letters I had ever gotten," he said. "I had this need to go up there and apologize. This was a traumatic thing. This isn't what we West Virginians do."

    Tolbert met the couple and their family in Egg Harbor City and got the whole story. While the incident happened just outside of his city, he was angry about the circumstances of the traffic stop and urged them to keep writing letters and demanding a response.

    "This should not have happened," he said. "Their possessions were taken from them along the side of the road. That's not right. It's not West Virginian."

    What's shocking to Tolbert is that everything that happened was apparently legal.

    "People need to know that these things are going on in their name," he said, "... this is not the way we want to represent ourselves."

    The couple reached out to the state police, the Jefferson County prosecutor and local media for help. Days after contacting a reporter with the Charleston Gazette-Mail, they were contacted by police and told they could come get their belongings.

    A prosecuting attorney can file a forfeiture petition to begin the civil court process of seizing confiscated property in West Virginia, but there was no reason to do so in this case, explained Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Harvey.

    "After that traffic stop, my office was contacted about it," Harvey said this week. "We declined to file a petition for forfeiture based on the facts as they were presented to us."

    West Virginia's law only allows agencies to file forfeiture petitions in cases involving proceeds from drug crimes or the smuggling of tobacco products.

    While Harvey stressed that there was no indication the couple was involved in illicit activity and that nothing illegal was found, he imagined the officers probably saw a few red flags between the large amount of cash and the gift cards.

    "Just generally speaking, this is an area that's been hard hit with heroin," he said. "We have a lot of out-of-state people that come in and deal. Gift cards are a currency that's used in the drug world."

    'Nervous when I see police'

    While they have their possessions back, they remain upset about the experience and say they have no plans to return to West Virginia.

    "I will never set foot in that state again," Smith said. "I'm nervous when I see police now. What kind of country do we live in anymore?"

    Tolbert hopes they will reconsider his state in the future.

    He offered to meet the couple should they ever return.

    "It's an incredibly nice state," he said. "West Virginia has a lot of very decent people and you have to be decent to be West Virginian."

    Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us: nj.com/tips.


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    A teen retreat aims to help teenagers and young adults recognize the importance of peer support throughout their ALS journey

    In addition to other camps, the non-profit Hope Loves Company (HLC) is now offering a free weekend retreat for teenagers and young adults who have been closely affected by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.

    "We hope that this new paradigm will address the unique needs of young adults who are caregivers, who have more responsibilities in their roles transferring people with ALS, seating and dressing them," said Jodi O'Donnell-Ames, the founder of HLC. 

    O'Donnell-Ames said HLC is trying to help campers with their emotional and physical wellness by providing a safe haven of peer support and relaxation for these young people, who are often also caregivers. 

    This new HLC Teen Retreat is open to young men and women, ages 15-21, and will offer many fun experiences allowing attendees from across the nation who have attended Camp HLC before to reconnect with old friends while making new ones.

    It takes place Sept. 7 to 9 at the Barn at Gravity Hill in Titusville, Hopewell Township.

    You can learn more about ALS and Camp HLC in a Today Show on NBC at this link.

    Follow NJ.com on Twitter @njdotcom. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Both players hit huge home runs in the state tournament, none bigger than Harrington's walk-off grand slam to win the state title. Watch video

    Kyle Harrington and Darrius Land were two key parts of the Broad Street Park Post 313 New Jersey American Legion state championship team.

    Both players hit huge home runs in the state tournament, none bigger than Harrington's walk-off grand slam to win the state title 6-4 over Whitehouse Post 284.

    But the run to the crown, just Broad Street Park's second in its history (1975), may have never come to fruition if the two college players had not decided to play this summer.

    Harrington was coming off a six month layoff following the fall ball season at Mercer County Community College, the first time he had ever taken time away from the sport, and was unsure if he would be able to return to full fitness. All he did was win the Mercer County American Legion League triple crown, along with the league Player of the Year award.

    "I was scared, honestly," Harrington said about his time off. "I wasn't sure if future wise, it was going to benefit me or hurt me a lot, or maybe nothing would happen. If I played, was I pushing it too much? If I sit, am I going to stale out? Maybe I am not the same player?

    "It is not like riding a bike, and get back on it. It takes time. Three weeks before the season is when I actually started feeling good, when we had tryouts. I realized that I could play, and that it wouldn't hurt me. But he took it easy on me all summer. I played DH, and caught about nine games, played the outfield. But I was nervous about it.

    "I felt good body wise, but it was in the back of my head that I wasn't sure what was going to happen. So I kind of guessed, and I did it."

    So now after the summer exploits, Harrington will head back to Mercer next week, ready to challenge for a spot on the team.

    "I feel like I improved as a player," Harrington, who was in his fifth year with the team, said. "I got stronger. That is all I did when I wasn't playing: lift, eat right, and improve my core. I fell right now that I am the best I have ever been.

    "I was on the shelf from October to May. It was a long time. That was the first time in 14 years I had a spring off. It really paid off. I could tell in April it was paying off." 

    Thunder clinch 3rd straight playoff berth, now pushing for division

    For Land, who played 40 games as a freshman last year for 36-11 Cumberland County College, this summer was his first with Broad Street Park. But he is another that will head back to college next week with supreme confidence after this run.

    "I wanted to be a leader with this team, and try to get everyone better when I joined," Land said. "I was looking for a team, and my friend kept nagging me to come over and play for Broad Street. I knew we had it in us to win a state championship, but I didn't know if we were going to do it or not.

    "It was an amazing run, the best I have ever had."

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    Police say they are early in their investigation and have closed off the area near Morris Ave.

    A Trenton man was shot dead Saturday morning, authorities say.

    The man, who name officials have not yet released, was found shot multiple times in his car at the intersections of Morris and Commonwealth avenues shortly after 8 a.m., Trenton Police Capt. Mark Kieffer said.

    The man was taken to St. Francis Medical Center where he died from his injuries, Kieffer said.

    Police have closed off the area on Morris Avenue, which is next to Wetzel Field, as they investigate. 

    More details are expected to be released later Saturday, Kieffer said.

    The Mercer County Homicide Task Force and Trenton Police Department are investigating the incident. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    With the Hornets at home, they will look to head into the international break with 12 points, and already looking safe for another season.

    While Liverpool and Chelsea both continued their hot starts to the 2018-19 Premier League season, West Ham United, a team that many thought would be much improved this campaign, is reeling going into the international break.

    The Hammers, two minutes away from their first point of the season, saw Carlos Sanchez give away possession in stoppage time. It was the break that Wolverhampton needed, as Leo Bonatini found substitute Adama Traore, who slotted home in the 92nd minute to pile more pressure on Manuel Pellegrini.

    The victory for Wolverhampton was its first in the Premier League since February of 2012.

    In other matches, Southampton, buoyed by the absence of Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha, knocked off the Eagles 2-0 for its first win of the campaign.

    SATURDAY RESULTS

    Leicester 1-2 Liverpool

    Brighton 2-2 Fulham

    Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth

    Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton

    Everton 2-2 Huddersfield

    West Ham 0-1 Wolverhampton

    Man. City 2-1 Newcastle

    SATURDAY'S THREE STARS

    Eden Hazard, Chelsea

    The Belgian is once again making his case as the top player in the Premier League. Hazard's 85th minute goal put guaranteed Chelsea a 12 points from 12 to start the season. He was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with an 8.95 rating.

    Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Southampton

    The midfielder iced Southampton's first win of the season, 2-0 over Crystal Palace, with a 91st minute goal. He was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with a 8.42 rating.

    Adama Traore, Wolverhampton

    The 62nd minute substitute made a huge impact for Wolves. Traore's 92nd minute goal was the winner, as the Wanderers knocked off West Ham 1-0. He was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with an 8.25 rating.

    Champions League draw sees 3-time champs Real Madrid looking for 4th

    WEST HAM UNITED STRUGGLES COULD CONTINUE FOR AWHILE

    After four weeks, there is just one team that has lost all four matches.

    West Ham has zero points, with a minus-eight goal difference, heading into the break. 

    While the two week hiatus may give the Hammers a chance to regroup, their schedule coming out of the international break is brutal. West Ham travels to Everton (Sun. Sept. 16, 11 a.m. EDT), hosts Chelsea (Sun. Sept. 23, 8:30 a.m. EDT), hosts Manchester United (Sat. Sept. 29, 7:30 a.m. EDT), visits Brighton (Fri. Oct. 5, 3 p.m. EDT), and hosts Tottenham (Sat. Oct. 20, 10 a.m. EDT) over its next five matches.

    Much like Crystal Palace last season (started with seven straight losses), it is conceivable that the Hammers could sit at the foot of the table with minimal points entering November.

    The last two times before this season that West Ham started the season with a point or less from its first four games, it has been relegated. The Hammers began the 2010-11 season with four losses, which is their joint worst start to a Premier League campaign, and finished last.

    MANCHESTER CITY WEEKLY PREMIER LEAGUE UNBEATEN WATCH

    Did Manchester City lose this week?

    No.

    The Citizens beat Newcastle 2-1, powered by Kyle Walker's 52nd minute rocket.

    The Citizens have lost just one time at home in their last 33 Premier League matches, dating back to December of 2016.

    City now sits two points behind Chelsea and Liverpool.

    SUNDAY MATCHES

    Cardiff vs. Arsenal, 8:30 a.m. EDT (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Burnley vs. Man. United, 11 a.m. EDT (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Watford vs. Tottenham, 11 a.m. (NBC Gold)

    WHAT TO WATCH FOR SUNDAY

    Cardiff City has two draws in its first three matches back in the Premier League, but can it get a result against Arsenal?

    Manchester United is struggling big time, but gets a chance to play a Burnley team that was knocked out of the UEFA Europa League playoffs by Olympiacos Thursday night. The Red Devils will look to heap more misery on Burnley, which comes in to the match with one point from three.

    Finally, both Watford and Tottenham have won their first three matches. With the Hornets at home, they will look to head into the international break with 12 points, and already looking safe for another season.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/box-to-box-football/id1208561351?mt=2


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    A 34-year-old Pennsylvania man has been identified as the man who was found shot Saturday morning. He later died at the hospital.

    Authorities have identified the man who died after being found with gunshot wounds in his car in Trenton. 

    Eric Rue, 34, of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, died Saturday, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office. 

    Police say they found Rue suffering from multiple gunshot wounds about 8 a.m. Saturday near Morris and Commonwealth avenues. 

    Rue was transported to St. Francis Medical Center but died shortly after, Trenton police Capt. Mark Kieffer said. 

    The Mercer County Homicide Task Force and Trenton Police Department are investigating. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyoFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Court documents mention a former federal investigation into Frank Nucera Jr. and give more information on the officers who recorded the racist rants central to his criminal case


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    The Hopewell Valley native has caught fire at the plate over the last couple weeks, and came into Saturday's game with Reading hitting .406

    It took Brandon Wagner some time to settle in at Double A with the Thunder.

    But now, he is reaping the benefits, and so is Trenton.

    The Hopewell Valley native has caught fire at the plate over the last couple weeks, and came into Saturday's game with Reading hitting .406 (13-for-32) in his last 10 games, including a six game hitting streak. In those last six contests, Wagner had three two-hit games, and two three-hit games.

    Wagner went 0-for-3 Saturday night, in Trenton's 3-0 win over the Fightin Phils, to end his streak. The victory means the Thunder will clinch the division with one more win, or one New Hampshire loss.

    His average on the season with Trenton is now at .258, and he is at .266 including his average from Tampa. His overall line this year reads 21 home runs, 67 RBI, and a slash line of .266/.378/.463.

    So what has changed over the last few weeks for the player?

    "I was just seeing it well," Wagner said. "I was talking to Ty (Hawkins, Thunder hitting coach) and just simplifying it as much as possible. I want to look for something up. It has kind of helped me lay off some of the curveballs and the off-speed stuff. 

    "So it was a bit if an adjustment I made. Just trying to put a good swing on it and not trying to do too much. I think that has helped me out."

    His hot streak has coincided with the Thunder's hit streak, which clinched a playoff berth. After the 3-2 win Friday night, Trenton currently is even with New Hampshire at the top of the Eastern Division.

    "I think as a baseball player, you love it when things are going well," Wagner said. "And when things aren't, it feels kind of hopeless. But making adjustments as quickly as possible when you realize things are off is important. It is something that I have been learning over the season.

    "I have had some highs and some lows, and I am working to fix those lows as quickly as possible. I am trying to stay within myself. The playoffs are coming up, and that is something as a team we are looking forward to. So anything I can do to help the team, I will do." 

    Thunder honor Broad Street Park 313 state champs before Reading opener

    Amburgey has been with the team all season, and was honored during the week with his selection to the 2018 Eastern League Postseason All-Star Team.

    It is another honor for the outfielder, who was selected to the mid-season All-Star Game, and also participated in the Home Run Derby.

    Thunder manager Jay Bell spoke highly of Amburgey before the series with Reading.

    "Trey is the MVP of this team," Bell said. "Easily Trey. The pitchers have done a wonderful job as well. Overall, the guys that have been here all year, and played every day, there is no question that Trey has been fantastic."

    Amburgey, who is in his fourth minor league season, is fourth in the EL with 74 RBI, and has been one of the offensive leaders all season for the Thunder. 

    "I am happy with the year that I have had," Amburgey said. "I have tried to enjoy every moment of it. I go the All-Star nod, so I am happy about that. But obviously, we still have unfinished business.

    "I would say mentally I have made the biggest strides. Last year, I was just all over the place trying to figure everything out. But if I had to pick something on the field, I I would say defensively. I have cleaned up a lot of things.

    "I trust the process, finally buying into what I have been doing. I wouldn't say I have figured everything out yet. I still have a lot of work to do, but I have trusted my work more." 

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    In the 11 a.m. EDT kickoffs, Manchester United got a much needed 2-0 win after two weeks of turmoil

    Just when it looked like Cardiff City was going to go into the international break with a good result against Arsenal, the Gunners found a way to pull out a win, despite not playing their best.

    For Cardiff, the game showed that it can play with the teams in the Premier League. But moral victories and draws, which the Bluebirds have two from their first four matches back in the top flight, will not be enough to stave off relegation. They need to get some wins on the board.

    In the 11 a.m. EDT kickoffs, Manchester United got a much needed 2-0 win after two weeks of turmoil, while keeping Burnley near the bottom of the table with just one point from four.

    Watford continued its torrid start to the campaign with a massive 2-1 win over Tottenham, to join Chelsea and Liverpool on 12 points from four matches. It is the first time in team history that the Hornets have won their first four matches in the top flight.

    SUNDAY RESULTS

    Cardiff 2-3 Arsenal

    Burnley 0-2 Man. United

    Watford 2-1 Tottenham

    SATURDAY RESULTS

    Leicester 1-2 Liverpool

    Brighton 2-2 Fulham

    Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth

    Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton

    Everton 2-2 Huddersfield

    West Ham 0-1 Wolverhampton

    Man. City 2-1 Newcastle

    SUNDAY'S THREE STARS

    Alexander Lacazette, Arsenal

    He was a live wire all match, and came up huge late to lead Arsenal to a victory. Lacazette's 81st minute goal was the winner in the 3-2 Gunners' win. He was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with an 8.88 rating.

    Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United

    In their biggest match of the early season, the Red Devils got a brace from Lukaku, and an overall dominant performance.

    He also had other opportunities, and may be coming out of his slump.

    Lukaku was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with an 8.87 rating.

    Troy Deeney, Watford

    Another goal, but more importantly, another win for Watford.

    Deeney was instrumental in the 2-1 win over Tottenham. He was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with an 8.16 rating.

    STAR OF THE WEEKEND

    Eden Hazard, Chelsea

    The Belgian is once again making his case as the top player in the Premier League. Hazard's 85th minute goal put guaranteed Chelsea 12 points from 12 to start the season. He was the Whoscored.com Man of the Match with an 8.95 rating.

    West Ham loses fourth straight to start Premier League season

    HORNETS STING ANOTHER OPPONENT, WITH MANCHESTER UNITED NEXT

    Four of the top five in the Premier League table after four matches are teams that most people would expect.

    But the fifth team is surprising. Watford, after its 2-1 win over Tottenham Sunday, sits in third place on goal difference, with four wins. The Hornets have been a good team offensively at times over the last few seasons, but the start of this campaign has seen them take it to a new level.

    Watford is a solid team, and the Hornets could be the surprise team, a la Burnley from last season, to make a run at a Europa League place.

    The Hornets will take on Manchester United at home after the break, in another match that could see them cement their spot as a contender.

    TOP GAME OF WEEK FIVE

    The next round of fixtures will not come until after the international break on September 15-17, but it opens with the best match of the weekend.

    Tottenham will play host to Liverpool at Wembley Stadium Saturday, September 15 at 7:30 a.m. EDT (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv).

    While Liverpool has started out well, it has played a fairly easy schedule so far. Can the Spurs provide a first speed bump to the title challenge?

    WEEK FIVE SCHEDULE

    All times EDT

    Saturday

    Tottenham vs. Liverpool, 7:30 a.m. (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Bournemouth vs. Leicester, 10 a.m. (NBC Gold)

    Chelsea vs. Cardiff City, 10 a.m. (NBC Gold)

    Huddersfield vs. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. (NBC Gold)

    Manchester City vs. Fulham, 10 a.m. (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Newcastle vs. Arsenal, 10 a.m. (NBC Gold)

    Watford vs. Manchester United (NBC and Fubo.tv)

    Sunday

    Wolverhampton vs. Burnley, 8:30 a.m. (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Everton vs. West Ham, 11 a.m. (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Monday

    Southampton vs. Brighton, 3 p.m. (NBC Sports and Fubo.tv)

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/box-to-box-football/id1208561351?mt=2


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    The Thunder roared back over the last 10 day to catch New Hampshire at the top of the Eastern League Eastern Division standings.

    Spraying champagne in a clubhouse never gets old.

    It is something that the Trenton Thunder franchise has done a lot over the past few years.

    The Thunder roared back over the last 10 day to catch New Hampshire at the top of the Eastern League Eastern Division standings. Sunday night, Trenton clinched it second straight Eastern Division title, with a 3-0 shutout of Reading in the penultimate game of the 2018 regular season.

    Deivi Garcia, the 19-year-old Yankees number 12 prospect, pitched a gem in his first Double A outing of his career. The 5-10 righty threw five no-hit innings, and struck out seven (including his final three batters), to pick up the division-clinching victory.

    "This is really fun, to be a part of this," Garcia said through translator Raul Dominguez said.

    Gosuke Katoh, who has been with the team all season and is second to Trey Amburgey in games played with 118, 

    "You get to see all the guys come through here," Katoh said. "Some guys go to Triple A, some even go to the bigs. You can just tell that our whole organization is just stacked, because we just got a guy from High A who threw a no-hitter through five.

    "Most of our bullpen is from High A. That just shows how deep our organization is. It is tough in the minor leagues to be so consistent, because we have so many moves. A lot of it goes to Jay (Bell, Thunder manager) and the coaching staff. Obviously the players too. 

    "The organizational depth is incredible. Next guy up performs, and that is what is big for us."

    Thunder see Brandon Wagner, Trey Amburgey heat up before playoffs

    "This is awesome," Bell said. "We talked about this for awhile. To go through the course of a season and win your division is a special thing. It is a pat on the back. My guys deserve everything they are celebrating in there.

    "It is just exciting. We celebrated when we got in the playoffs. We celebrated that we won the division. Hopefully, we can celebrate a couple more times. It would be great. It has been a fun year."

    Bell has done a masterful job all season with the team, which is still near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories. But this Thunder team plays good defense, and has seen so many future (and current) major leaguers come through this year on the mound. One look at the major league rosters at the end of September will show nearly a dozen pitchers who have been through Trenton this season.

    "It is pretty exciting to see what they have done as a team this year," Bell said. "Again, you can't do it without pitching a defense. To have pitched as well as we have, and to have played defense as well as we have, I think we are tied for second with Hartford, that is a big deal to me.

    "It is my mantra for the guys. it is making sure that they are ready defensively when they go out there, the first pitch of the game. If they do that, and they have that mindset on a regular basis, it just makes the game a lot smoother. 

    "It has been a pretty cool year."

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    Dogs and cats throughout the Garden State await adoption.

    Some fun and interesting facts about cats and dogs from Nationwide pet insurance:

    *  Dogs only sweat from the bottoms of their feet, the only way they can discharge heat is by panting. Cats do not have sweat glands.

    *  Dogs have about 100 different facial expressions, most of them made with the ears.

    *  A cat can jump as much as seven times its height.

    *  Dogs do not have an appendix.

    *  Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs only have about ten.

    *  Using their swiveling ears like radar dishes, experiments have shown that dogs can locate the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second.

    *  A cat's tongue is scratchy because it's lined with papillae--tiny elevated backwards hooks that help to hold prey in place.

    *  When faced with the choice of going the way around something that untangles herself or the way that makes it worse, my dog will choose the wrong way 101 times out of 100.

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


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    New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a law assuring that the state's elementary school students have the break they need during the school day to refresh tired brains and re-invigorate cramped muscles.

    Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement recognizing the good old-fashioned merits of play.

    "Research demonstrates that developmentally appropriate play ... is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain."

    In plain speak, the scholars are telling us that letting kids be kids, letting them run around on the playground and work off the tensions of the school day, is as important as cramming their heads full of book learning for hours on end. (Which is not to say that book learning doesn't matter.)

    Now comes proof that state lawmakers are on the same page as the medical experts.

    On Aug. 24, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law assuring that the state's elementary school students have the break they need during the school day to refresh tired brains and re-invigorate cramped muscles.

    The measure requires elementary schools to schedule at least a 20-minute recess every day, preferably outdoors if possible. It also sets limits on the reasons teachers and administrators can withhold recess as a means of punishment.

    The bipartisan bill passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

    Recess is now mandatory at N.J. elementary schools

    Its passage marked a victory for state Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, who first introduced a version in 2009, motivated by increasingly alarming reports of obesity in children.

    She proposed it five times after that until it passed in 2016, only to see it knocked down by former Gov. Chris Christie.

    "Part of my job as governor is to veto stupid bills," Christie sneered on Fox News. "That was a stupid bill, and I vetoed it."

    But it wasn't a stupid bill then, and it isn't now.

    Rather, it's an acknowledgment that a brief time out from the rigors of classroom lessons may very well help those lessons sink in better, while also recharging mental batteries.

    Look, we don't need experts to tell us unfettered movement benefits youngsters in so many ways: more energy, stronger hearts, better moods. We have ample evidence that a sedentary childhood leads to obesity, which leads to ... well, you know.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recess also improves children's memories and concentration, helps them stay on-task in the classroom, and even helps prevents disruptive behavior.

    While many, probably most, schools already provide a daily recess period, Turner feared too some were shortening the kids' play time, or jettisoning it altogether to cram in more test-preparation time.

    The new law comes as a needed restorative. Give Turner and her colleagues extra credit for pushing it through.

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

     

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    A look at legal action letters from the Department of Health show the most common reasons medical personnel lose their licenses


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    At least 7 people were shot Sunday night in the state's capital.

    A 16-year-old is in critical condition after what police say was a neighborhood rivalry where at least seven people were shot Sunday night in Trenton. 

    At about 8:54 p.m, Trenton police were called to the area near Stuyvesant and Bryn Mawr avenues for a shooting, according to Capt. Mark Kieffer. They discovered a 22-year-old man suffering from gunshot wounds and transported him to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, police said. 

    While that man was at the hospital, Kieffer said two other adults, ages 25 and 29, and the 16-year-old, who had all been shot in the same area, arrived at the hospital. 

    The teen is currently in critical condition and the adults are in stable condition, according to Kieffer. 

    The shooting was one of several in New Jersey's capital city over the holiday weekend. Saturday morning, a 34-year-old Pennsylvania man was found in a car suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and later died.   

    Later on Sunday, at about 10:33 p.m., three other adults, ages 22, 24 and 29, were also shot near the 400 block of North Montgomery Street, police said. 

    Kieffer said there were no suspects or arrests for the Sunday evening shootings as of Monday morning.

    He said police believe all of the shootings were related to various neighborhood rivalries. 

    Trenton Police ask that anyone with information about the shootings call 609-989-4155. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

     

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    They will open the Eastern Division series Wednesday and Thursday in New Hampshire for games one and two, before they return home Watch video

    It has been a good year to see top pitchers at Arm & Hammer Park.

    With the regular season coming to a close Monday with the finale of a four-game set with Reading, the Thunder, for the second consecutive outing, put a highly-touted starter on the mound making his Double A debut.

    Albert Abreu, the fourth ranked prospect in the Yankees' organization, took on the Fightin Phils Monday, the day after number 12 prospect Deivi Garcia threw five no-hit innings in his debut at this level.

    All Abreu did was no-hit Reading for his five innings as well, allowing just two baserunners all afternoon. He struck out four, but did not get the win like Garcia after Darick Hall's two-out home run in the top of the ninth tied the score at 1-1.

    Trenton won it in the bottom of the ninth 2-1, to go into the playoffs winning 10 out of 11. The Thunder won the most games in the Eastern League, finishing the season with a 79-61 record. They will open the Eastern Division series Wednesday and Thursday in New Hampshire for games one and two, before they return home to Arm & Hammer Park for games three through five, if necessary.

    The pitching debuts of the two highly-rated players was the talk after the contest Monday. The duo were the eighth and ninth of the top 30 Yankees' prospects to pitch this year in Trenton.

    Thunder clinch 2nd straight EL Eastern Division title Sunday night

    "I was watching the game all night (Garcia's start last night)," Abreu said through Thunder defensive coach Raul Dominguez. "I got in my mind that if he could do it, I could do it. I am really excited and happy to be here, because I think I can help the team to win. I am going to do everything I can to put a ring on my finger."

    Sunday night, Garcia picked up the victory in his first start. When he left the game after five innings, right around his pitch count (84), Garcia was getting stronger. He struck out the final three Reading batters he faced in the top of the fifth.

    "After the game, I felt stronger," Garcia said through Dominguez. "I think I can pitch really well here, and handle the situation. I gained a lot of confidence tonight.

    "I felt really good in the fifth, but I didn't want to think about it too much. I just wanted to attack the hitters. I just do what I need to do, and what the pitching coach says to do. I try to establish with the older guys, what I have to do. I want to concentrate on what I have to do."

    While Abreu is 22-years-old and has made 67 career starts in the minors (in 82 total games), Garcia is just 19, with 36 starts under his belt in his young career. But they both arrived in Trenton right before the playoffs, to help the Thunder try to bring home title number four in franchise history.

    Manager Jay Bell said both will play a role in the upcoming series with New Hampshire.

    "For sure Deivi," Bell said about the duo getting starts in the series. "I am not sure about Albert yet. We still have some guys that need to pitch: Greenie (Nick Green), (Nick) Nelson, Steph (Trevor Stephan), and Keller (Brian Keller, who will pitch game one). So I imagine we end up going with a five (man rotation), instead of a six, and putting Abreu in the pen.

    "I will find out. I will talk to Scotty (Aldred) a little more. Now that the season is over, we have the rest of the day and into tomorrow to figure out what we are going to do."

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    The median salary in the top district is more than $100,000.


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    There is a new effort underway to stop Rider University from selling off Westminster Choir College to a Chinese organization.

    There is a new effort underway to stop Rider University from selling off Westminster Choir College to a Chinese organization.

    Westminster Foundation of Princeton New Jersey, Inc. is hoping to raise the money necessary to buy the world-renown music school and keep it under local control. That's a tall order because they might have to come up with more than the $40 million sale price that Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd. offered, and Rider accepted for the 22-acre campus in the heart of tony Princeton.

    The foundation, which is made up of faculty members, former college board members, alumni and supporters of the choir school, maintains that sale to a foreign company with little experience in higher education will be a blow to Westminster's legacy and its future.

    The agreement struck a sour note with faculty and alumni when it was announced earlier this year. The proposed sale, which has not been finalized, has already generated two lawsuits to stop it from going forward.

    Bolstering the foundation's argument against the sale was a white paper commissioned by the Rider University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The paper accused Rider of failing to perform due diligence and carry out its fiduciary responsibility when agreed to the sale. The paper said Kaiwen, as a for-profit company that at the time of the sale was trading as the Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co., only had two years of experience in running K-12 schools in China.

    Chinese company would keep N.J. choir college going, but at what price?

    The paper also questioned whether Kaiwen had the financial wherewithal to maintain Westminster's international reputation.

    Kaiwen, of course, has a different perspective.

    "Kaiwen's vision is to sustain and grow WCC's reputation as a world-class music school, while maintaining it as an artistically preeminent, academically rigorous, and fiscally sound institution," the company said in a statement.

    While the fight over the sale of Westminster rages, one point seems certain: Rider wants to rid itself of the music school.

    When Rider took Westminster under its wings in 1992, it was hailed as a merger that benefited both schools. For Lawrence-based Rider, which had just received university status, it enhanced its reputation to be associated with such a well-known music college a mere 7 miles away in Princeton.

    For Westminster, which was struggling at the time, the union helped enrollment and donations and enabled much needed repairs and renovation on the choir's campus.

    But 26 years later, the situation has changed. Rider now faces a $7 million deficit this year and is counting on jettisoning Westminster's operational costs and an infusion of cash to bring the university back into the black.

    The sale of Westminster is not slated to be completed until June 30, 2019, and it may take longer if the lawsuits are not resolved. A lot could happen in that time.

    In a perfect world, it would be ideal to have Westminster Choir College returned to its glory days as an independent institution controlling its own destiny.

    That's the dream of the Westminster Foundation. But it is going to take some wealthy benefactors to make that dream become a reality.

    But who knows? In Princeton, that might be possible.

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

     

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