Newark Youth jobs program receives $25,000 grant from Wells Fargo

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Newark – Wells Fargo awarded a $25,000 grant to the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation to support a youth employment program.

The grant will fund a six-week summer job program for Newark youth between the ages 14 and 21 during the summer of 2015, according to the corporation.

The youth are paid $8.38 an hour to work in jobs in various corporate, government and nonprofit sites throughout the city, the organization said.

The program will also include leadership development, career training and a coding camp in partnership with Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture, according to Newark CEDC.

“We are grateful for Wells Fargo’s generous gift that will be used to further expand a much-needed, impactful program for our youth–Newark’s Summer Youth Employment and Leadership Development Program,” Newark CEDC president and CEO Otis Rolley said in a statement.

The grant arrives as the organization has experienced major changes in recent months. The corporation relaunched in December with a different name and board structure; The changes also follow a highly-critical report of the organization’s loan programs, which showed a total $3.4 million of $10.6 million in loans were either delinquent or written off as un-collectible.

South Ward carjacking being investigated

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Newark – an early morning carjacking that occurred in the teens block of Nye Ave. in the city’s South Ward has police looking for as many as four black males who participated in the incident where they took a 1998 Nissa Sentra with a reported NJ temporary license plate number “J414206″

It is not immediately clear if the suspects were armed with a weapon.

There were injuries reported.

Violence erupts in Newark’s West Ward

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Newark Police quickly arrested a suspect in the 80’s block of Columbia Ave. after a violent stabbing that left one person seriously injured.

Police were called to the West Ward community shortly before 3 a.m. for reports of a stabbing. Upon arrival, authorities found the victim suffering serious stab wounds to the upper body.

EMS rushed the victim to University Hospital where the outcome of the victim’s injuries have not been released.

Shortly before 2:30 a.m., multiple rounds of gunfire erupted in the 20’s block of Monticello Avenue sending several police units to the scene where gunfire penetrated a house. A search of the area by authorities found several shell casings but no one injured.

The motive for the shooting is under investigation.

Ex-Newark School treasurer stole money and changed her son’s transcripts

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Newark- A former city school district employee was arrested Wednesday after allegedly using her position to access and change her son’s grades, and steal money from the district, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced in a release.

According to authorities, Janita Warner, 38, of Newark, used school computers to alter her son’s high school transcript and forward the changed record to colleges where he was applying.

She also allegedly used her position in the district — treasurer at the Lafayette Street School — to withdraw money from school accounts, and collect student dues without depositing them into school bank accounts, Murray said. She is accused of stealing $2,900 from the district, authorities said.

Warner was working at a new job at an industrial facility in South Brunswick when she was arrested Wednesday, officials said. She is being held at the Essex County Jail on $50,000 bail.

Newark man linked to crime spree

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NEWARK — The series of crimes allegedly began with a taxi ride to McDonald’s, where about $90 worth of burgers and fries were purchased with a stolen credit card.

Over roughly the next month, the crime spree allegedly continued with a carjacking and four robberies, including two incidents where men were gunned down and killed.

At the center of those offenses, prosecutors say, is James Olbert, who is accused of participating in the crimes between Dec. 15, 2011 and Jan. 17. 2012 – including the fatal shootings of Wilfredo Campos and Miguel Torres.

Olbert, now 19, of Newark, was 16 at the time of the alleged offenses.

In closing statements on Wednesday at Olbert’s trial, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller told jurors that Olbert had upended the lives of ordinary people.

“They were all just ordinary people living ordinary lives, doing what ordinary people do, until James Olbert set upon them and turned ordinary upside down,” Miller said. “James Olbert saw ordinary and turned it into opportunity.”

But Olbert’s attorney, public defender Ann Sorrel, maintained that the abundance of video footage, video still and other physical evidence presented by prosecutors had failed to definitively link Olbert to the crimes.

She cited the initial failure of surviving victims of the carjacking and a robbery associated with the spree to positively identify Olbert from an array of photographs, and what she called the state’s reliance on the clothing worn by suspects in the images, which she characterized as unreliable.

“The critical issue is the identification of the perpetrator. Mr. Olbert was not the person,” she said. “The state has proven that the events occurred, but not that it was James Olbert.”
Closing statements in Newark man accused of double murder James Olbert listens to closing statements in his murder trial. Olbert is charged with killing two men during a weeks-long robbery spree through Newark. He is also charged with multiple other crimes. The trial is before Superior Court Judge Martin Cronin at the Essex County Courthouse in Newark. Wednesday, April, 8, 2015(Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for Sapone

While the carjacking victim and one of the robbery victims could not identify their attackers, another robbery victim initially identified Olbert as the perpetrator in her interview with police, according to Miller.

Olbert’s girlfriend also identified him in surveillance video images taken from the carjacking and one of the robberies, Miller said.

The case, however, is based in large part on Olbert’s video-taped statement to police on Jan. 20, 2012, when he admitted to his role in the two killings and most of the other crimes.

Olbert told detectives he was sitting in a car when his accomplice shot Campos on Dec. 28, 2011 during a robbery on Orange Avenue in Newark. Olbert also said he shot Torres on Jan. 17, 2012 during a robbery at his store, JNC Mini Market, in the city’s West Ward.

Miller also highlighted the statements made by Olbert when the detectives were not in the interview room.

During an outburst when he was alone in the room, Olbert cried and exclaimed, “I’m in deep.” Soon after, when Olbert and his mother were in the room by themselves, Olbert told her that if he tells the detectives he killed Torres, “they’re gonna take me.”

“He’s crying for himself,” Miller told the jurors. “Those are tears for him.”

Miller also pointed to the clothing that Olbert is allegedly seen wearing on surveillance video taken from the JNC Mini Market.

Olbert was captured on surveillance video at another convenience store earlier that day, wearing the same clothing, Miller said. The clothing also was later found in Olbert’s bedroom, Miller said.

But Olbert testified on April 1 that detectives had smacked him around, coached him with details of the crimes and forced him to make what he claims is a false confession.

“I said what the detectives told me to say,” Olbert testified.

In her closing statement, Sorrel reiterated Olbert’s assertion during his testimony that his confession was influenced by promises that he would be charged as a juvenile and allowed to go home after providing the statement.

“That’s why my client had an outburst, said what he did,” she said.

Former Newark Superintendent’s legacy questioned after cheating scandal

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NEWARK — Eleven Atlanta educators who worked under former Newark schools superintendent Beverly Hall were convicted last week of racketeering and other charges in connection with a district-wide testing scandal.

The convictions arrive after a state investigation found in 2011 that nearly 180 employees with the Atlanta Public Schools district were involved with a conspiracy to forge student test scores in order to cover up poor performance, according to The New York Times.

Racketeering is a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison, The New York Times said.

The investigation also alleged that former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall “created a culture of fear” that allowed the cheating to go unchecked for years, according to the The New York Times.

Hall served as a state-appointed superintendent of the Newark public school system for four years before being hired by Atlanta in 1999.

She died in her home earlier this year after battling stage IV breast cancer, according to USA Today.

Hall along with more than 30 other teachers and administrators in the school system were charged in 2013 with racketeering, influencing witnesses, making false statements, theft by taking, and conspiracy, according to USA Today.

Of those charged two died before their trials, while 21 educators reached plea agreements, according to The New York Times.

The convictions have prompted some in the media to reflect on Hall’s legacy.

“Thanks to the former APS superintendent, the late Beverly Hall, these teachers and administrators were placed in a no-win situation, forced to choose between cheating on standardized testing or losing their jobs,” wrote Jay Bookman on

Richard Rothstein wrote on Economic Policy’s Institute’s website that while the facts showed that Hall was likely to blame for the testing scandal the circumstances she was under are unclear.

“What the trial did not explore was whether Dr. Hall herself was reacting to a culture of fear, intimidation, and retaliation that her board, state education officials, and the Bush and Obama administrations had created,” he wrote.

“Just as her principals’ jobs were in jeopardy if test scores didn’t rise, her tenure, too, was dependent on ever rising test scores.”

Newark Man Admits Recording His Sexual Abuse of a Girl

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A Newark man today admitted inducing a girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct, while he took pictures and video, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Pedro Rios, 59, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court to sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

Rios admitted that on five separate dates between March 4, 2008 and Nov. 8, 2011, he induced a girl – under the age of 12- to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of taking pictures and videos of the child’s genitals and the sexually explicit conduct. Rios also admitted having images of a child being sexually abused on Feb. 5, 2013.

Several of the videos charged in the superseding indictment, depict Rios’ abuse of the child in the cab of a tractor trailer truck.

Each count of sexual exploitation of a child to which Rios pleaded guilty to carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The possession of child pornography charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Rios will be required to register as a sex offender.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 7, 2015.

Newark father accused of shooting son, pleads NOT guilty

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A Newark father plead not guilty today to charges accusing him of shooting his son on March 16.

Kenneth Tonic, 49, today appeared via video from the Essex County Facility, where he remains in custody in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Judge ordered Tonic today, to have no contact with son or witnesses and denied a bail reduction.

Tonic’s 27-year-old son told police, he was talking on Broad Street on March 16 with another person, when he saw his father brandish a revolver and fire at him.

Tonic was then seen fleeing east on Pennington Street.

According to the son, his father allegedly stole his cellphone ensuing an argument.

Shooting on Miller street, 1 man shot in Newark

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Newark- EMS transported a male victim to University Hospital after a shooting left the man injured overnight.

Reports of shots fired in the single digit block of Miller Street sent authorities to the scene shortly before midnight where the victim was found shot at that location.

The extent of the victim’s injuries are unknown.

Police setup a crime scene and searched for evidence in the residential community.

The motive for the shooting is under investigation by Newark Police.

Teenage Girl shot in Newark’s West Ward

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Newark Police are investigating a shooting in the city’s West Ward that left a 16-year-old injured this afternoon.

Gunfire rang out at around 2 p.m. on South Orange Ave. near South 18th Street sending police to the scene where they found the girl suffering a minor graze wound from a pellet gun. The girl was injured while reportedly walking to the store with her mother.

Police are looking or a red Jeep Cherokee last seen fleeing the area after the shooting.

The girl was taken to University Hospital where she is being treated.