Tag Archives: New Jersey

Burglary of Jewelry Store Bungled

Posted by Mihran Naltchayan.

On January 16, 2012 around 1:30am, there was a burglary at a jewelry store named “Taline’s Jewelry” in Edgewater, NJ. Burglary is the breaking and entering into a building with the intent to commit a felony therein.

The jewelry store was arranged with a front display space, and the store next door was empty. The empty store is a big building that wrapped around the backend of the jewelry store. The “Ninja Bandit Burglary Crew” cut into a common wall of the empty store and entered the jewelry store from the backend so nobody can see them from the front side. This crew had three people. They didn’t realize that the walls had a vibration sensor that sends a quiet message to the Edgewater police department. So when the police officers arrived, they tried to run away.

“An Edgewater cop fired at least one shot at a thief who used a police cruiser as a getaway car, after a group of officers interrupted an overnight jewelry store break-in involving an alleged member of the infamous ‘Ninja Bandit’ burglary crew.” (Cliffviewpilot.com). The officers arrested 2 of the 3 people. They found the cop car in Teaneck, New Jersey 9:30 am the same day. The third guy wasn’t found.

The two men were brought to a Municipal Court judge in Edgewater and the judge ordered the defendants to be held on $50,000 bail each; they were charged with burglary, resisting arrest, criminal arrest and possession of burglar tools. (Cliffviewpilot.com).

I wrote about this article because this jewelry store is my father’s, and I thought it would be a good article to use for business law, since we cover criminal law in class.

Mihran is a marketing major at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

State Seeks to Introduce Prior Bad Act in Prosecution of Police Officer

A police officer in New Jersey is accused of witness tampering and official misconduct. The State claims the officer tried to contact a state trooper and convince him not to appear in court on DUI charges against his cousin.

The prosecutor seeks to introduce as a “prior bad act” an incident where the officer tried to intervene on a DUI charge against his uncle. The State’s key witness is a former municipal prosecutor who claims he was in a private meeting with the arresting officers when defendant tried to get his “attention” in the matter. The arresting officers indicated the arrestee was defendant’s uncle. The prosecutor allegedly exclaimed, “You should know better than this, ” and then later had the case transferred to another court. The officer’s lawyer argued to the court, “My guy said nothing. It’s unfair to conclude he was there to interject himself badly. That’s speculation.” He further argued that his client could have entered the room to talk about two other cases in which he was involved at the time. The officer was never charged with any misconduct.

That fact was argued to the the judge.  Because he was never charged, the attorney argued, to allow a jury to hear about it would be “‘very prejudicial . . . You’re asking me to try two cases in front of the jury at the same time.'”

The court questioned the prosecutor extensively as to why he was never charged, but the prosecutor contended the State could not prove the incident beyond a reasonable doubt.  However, the standard, the prosecutor argued, for prior bad acts was a “‘lower standard.'” The standard is clear and convincing evidence, and court inquired how was the evidence clear and convincing when the municipal prosecutor stated the officer did not say anything to him. The prosecutor, however, maintained that the officer made several calls to the processing room and “‘showed interest'” when his uncle was being booked. The judge indicated there was nothing in police department’s policy that prohibited an officer to inquire about the status of a family member.

The State has an uphill battle. It appears they have at least a preponderance of the evidence that the officer did anything to influence the municipal prosecutor but may fall short of the required clear and convincing evidence. Just showing up in a room without saying anything shifts the focus on the arresting officer’s statement to the municipal prosecutor that the arrestee was his uncle and the municipal prosecutor’s assumption that simply by his very presence he was there to influence him not to prosecute his uncle. This may not be enough to get over the hurdle.

New Jersey Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides, in material part, that:

evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the disposition of a person in order to show that such person acted in conformity therewith. Such evidence may be admitted for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident when such matters are relevant to a material issue in dispute.

The rule is substantially similar to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).  N.J.R.E. 404(b) exists primarily “to guard a defendant’s right to a fair trial by avoiding the danger that a jury might convict the accused because the jurors perceive him to be a bad person.” New Jersey Div. of Youth and Family Services v. I.H.C., 415 N.J.Super. 551, 571 (App. Div. 2010).

The federal advisory committee notes state: “No mechanical solution is offered,” and deciding whether to admit evidence of other crimes depends on “whether the danger of undue prejudice outweighs the probative value of the evidence in view of the availability of other means of proof and other factors appropriate for making decisions of this kind under Rule 403.”

Under State v. Cofield, the prosecution must satisfy a four-prong test before evidence of a prior bad act can be admitted:

1. The evidence of the other crime must be admissible as relevant to a material issue;

2. It must be similar in kind and reasonably close in time to the offense charged;

3. The evidence of the other crime must be clear and convincing; and

4. The probative value of the evidence must not be outweighed by its apparent prejudice.

127 N.J. 328 (1992).

In State v. Collier, the appellate division upheld the trial court’s decision to permit testimony about a prior incident involving animal cruelty in order to show the defendant had a motive to rob and shoot the victim, because the defendant knew the victim told the police that defendant was involved in the animal cruelty incident. 316 N.J.Super. 181, 196 (App. Div. 1998).  The fact that both acts were dissimilar is not dispositive as to admissibility. Id. at 194.

In the present case, the State has to show that there was some motive by the defendant to contact the state trooper to stop him from testifying based on his prior act of entering a room when his uncle’s DUI was being discussed by the arresting officers and the municipal prosecutor. That appears to show more a pattern of behavior than motive as required by the rule. And whether or not it amounts to clear and convincing evidence of motive remains to be seen.

NJ Settlement with Exxon: Was it Enough?

Posted by Keith Cleary.

A lawsuit has erupted between Exxon Mobile and the state of New Jersey, particularly two industrial sites in New Jersey, Union and Hudson counties, according to the New York Times (Sullivan). The lawsuit, “which has been filed in 2004 and litigated by four administrations, is a $8.9 billion dollar lawsuit.” (Sullivan). The lawsuit is about the contamination that Exxon left on the marshes and forestland, and New Jersey is willing to pay $250 million dollars to clean up the 1,500 acres of petroleum contaminated fields. The $250 million dollars that Exxon offered to pay is not nearly enough to pay the amount it would actually take to clean the fields.

The amount that Exxon offered to clean up the fields, “infuriated environmentalists and a state lawmaker, after experts determined that it would cost billions to clean up the properties in northern New Jersey.” (Sullivan). In particular, the areas that the lawsuit covers are the facilities of the Bayonne and the Bayway sites, where surprisingly, the use of chemical production and petroleum refining goes back to a hundred years. Those years of spills also contributed to the contamination of the lands. “A report compiled for the state by Stratus Consulting of Colorado determined that it would take $2.5 billion to clean the site up, and an additional $6.4 billion to restore enough wetland and forestland.” (Sullivan).

Many people are questioning why the state decided to settle for such a low amount of money. Debbie Mans, head of NY/NJ Baykeeper, said, “I think it’s criminal to settle so low.” (Sullivan). Settling an almost $9 billion dollar lawsuit with $250 million is by far criminal. It is like paying $500 dollars for a $250,000 Ferrari. However, along with making the state accountable for the cleanup of the area, they were trying to “reimburse taxpayers for the years of lost use—the same way a victim of a car accident can seek lost employment wages from the responsible driver.” (Sullivan). So, not only are they trying to make up for the damages but also lost time.

There was also speculation about donations made from Exxon to the Republican Governor’s Association while Christie was chairman of the organization. “The Exxon Mobile Corporation contributed more the $500,00 to the association in 2014 during Christie’s tenure, and $200,00 in 2013.” (Sullivan). Even though all of these contributions were made, apparently none of it had anything to do with Christie being chairman. With the small settlement, it was called into question what it would be used for. Prior to this, Christie’s administration used $130 million of a $190 million settlement with a Passaic River polluter to the state’s general fund.

Keith is a business law student at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Tesla Triumphs in New Jersey

Posted by Rizzlyn Melo.

The car-manufacturing company, Tesla, has been battling with New Jersey government officials for the right to sell their premium electric cars in the state. Tesla differs from other car-manufacturers because they sell their vehicles directly from small, independently-owned sites instead of large dealerships. Many of Tesla’s facilities are actually located in various malls in New Jersey. The issue with this practice is that under New Jersey law, cars can only be sold through registered dealerships. In the article, this legislation “was put into place at a time when small local dealers were perceived as vulnerable to the moves of major national manufacturers.” Because of Tesla, this law has been targeted and challenged by various carmakers and consumer-rights groups. Fortunately, it can be said that their efforts have not gone in vain. In March, Governor Chris Christie signed new legislation that allows Tesla to operate at four sites in New Jersey. Shortly after this was signed, New Jersey lawmakers approved an amendment granting zero emission car manufacturers the right to operate dealerships in the state.

Tesla’s success story in New Jersey shows that the market is modernizing. Legislation that was once effective in the past can actually be disadvantageous in the present day. While the law requiring sales through registered dealerships was once helpful to small businesses, it prevented a company from potentially helping the environment. Tesla only produces zero-emission, luxury cars. They are a company seeking to reduce society’s carbon footprint by introducing a sleek, fashionable car to the market that does not require gas. The government’s initial refusal to allow this company to conduct its business in New Jersey made legislators look like they would sacrifice an environmental advancement for the sake of large dealerships. Tesla’s win in New Jersey represents more than the right to sell cars; it is a win for the evolving market that is in need of environmentally friendly products.

Rizzlyn is a business administration major with a concentration in marketing at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

 

The Importance of Transparency in Public Meetings

Posted by Briana Brandao.

This article, written by MaryAnn Spoto, brings to question whether or not Rutgers University violated the New Jersey open public meetings law, during one of their meetings held back in September of 2008. Francis McGovern Jr, a lawyer as well as audience member of this meeting, objected to the way these meetings were promoted and handled. McGovern noted that audience members waited over four hours while board members discussed issues behind closed doors. Once the board of governors finally reassembled, many audience members had grown tired of waiting and already left.

McGovern also noted that the Rutgers board of governors failed to mention topics discussed behind closed doors such as talk of Rutgers new football stadium. She stated, “This case is about governmental transparency,” and believes these long and tedious closed sessions dissuade public attendance. During her case, she asked that the court make it mandatory for Rutgers to hold public meetings first. She believed that by not bringing to light all issues discussed among Board of Governors, that Rutgers violated the law.

Although many may argue that McGovern had reason behind her case, the Supreme Court still ruled that Rutgers University was in compliance with the law. The court did not believe that Rutgers conducted their meetings in a way that discouraged public attendance. The court also stated that Rutgers Board of Governors did not violate the open public meetings law.

However, the court did agree that lawmakers should in fact look into tightening the law. Discussion of tightening this law would allow citizens the opportunity to challenge public organizations trying to get around the law. All in all, Rutgers University was pleased with the court’s decision.

Briana is a business administration major with a concentration in management and fashion studies at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

Recording Video of Police in New Jersey is Permissible

Cell phone video capability is commonplace now, and police in New Jersey are getting used to it. Experts claim that under the First Amendment recording police in plain view is protected. A police officer may not seize a cell phone, delete anything on it, or even demand that the person turn it over to him without a warrant. As long as the person is not truly interfering with a police investigation, they can record as much as they want.

Robert W. Fox, president of the New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police, stated police should face the fact that cell phone cameras are a reality.  “‘We tell our officers out there . . . that, anything they do, consider themselves being filmed,'” Fox said. “‘No matter where you are anymore, there is some sort of video on the incident – whether it comes from a building camera or an individual cellphone or things like that.'” Arguably, the videos not only protect citizens but also the police from being falsely accused. For most police, video recording should not matter, because they are doing things by the book anyway.

It should be noted that cell phone videos may not capture everything that is taking place during a police encounter. Therefore, rushing to judgment against police would be unfair.

Tesla Can Sell Directly to Consumers in NJ

It is now legal for Tesla and other manufacturers of zero-emission cars to sell directly to customers in New Jersey. Tesla’s business model includes selling its battery-driven cars from its boutique stores. One of them is located in Short Hills Mall, Short Hills, NJ.

Customers are free to learn about the vehicles through interactive displays and test drives. Tesla does not want to sell its cars through franchises because they sell mostly gas-powered vehicles. Since most of their revenue comes from gas-powered sales, franchises would not be encouraged to sell zero-emission cars.

How Not to Clean Your Money!

Posted by Sam Battista.

I came across this article recently about these topics that were brought up in class, and I thought it was appropriate to write a blog pertaining to this article. Seven reputable members of the Geneovese crime family were recently arrested on accounts of money laundering and racketeering. The group allegedly raked in millions of dollars through the Garden State by gambling, loansharking, and unlicensed check cashing. Most of these charges fall under the RICO laws because this is organized crime.

The group ran a massive loansharking operation, which generated about 1.3 million dollars in interest a year. It operated an offshore Costa Rica Gambling website and an unlicensed check cashing business, making over nine million in fees over a four year run. The group also laundered $660,000 dollars in drug money out of a Florida based check cashing entity. The group also gave out multimillion dollar loans with interest rates upwards of 156 percent. In addition, the group ran a illegal check cashing business out of a restaurant in Newark that cashed-in over 400 million dollars.

All of these violations are prohibited in the RICO laws and are considered organized crime. Most of the acts committed were covered or ran out of legitimate businesses. These individuals were all from New Jersey and are currently being prosecuted for their federal violations. People often think these type of crimes only happen in movies, but the truth is it’s a multimillion dollar business with violations happening everyday.

Sam is a business administration major with a concentration in real estate at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.