Newark Police pursuit ends with crash, 3 injured

No Comments » Written on August 21st, 2014 by
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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — A police pursuit ended with a collision that closed down one of the city’s biggest intersections this morning, authorities said.

The collision took place at the intersection of University Avenue and West Market Street around 9 a.m., according to Sgt. Ronald Glover.

Three people were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, including the person police were chasing. None of the officers were among the injured.

A gray Jeep with a smashed front-end was being towed away as of 10:45 a.m. The other vehicle involved, a Nissan, was heavily damaged and sitting in bushes adjacent to a building.

The intersection was being re-opened by 11 a.m., and police are still investigating the pursuit and cause of the crash.

Newark drive by shootings leave 3 injured

No Comments » Written on August 21st, 2014 by
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The star ledger

NEWARK — Three people were wounded in a drive-by shooting Wednesday night in the city’s South Ward, police say.

All three are expected to survive, said Sgt. Ronald Glover of the Newark police.

The three people were sitting on a porch on the 800-block of South 19th Street, when shots erupted out of a passing car, Glover said.

Police responded at 11:30 p.m., responding to several calls – and found two males and one female wounded, police said.

The victims were all transported to University Hospital, where they are expected to survive, police said.

A motive and suspects have not been established, police said.

Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call the Newark “Crime Stoppers” tips line at (877) NWK-TIPS.

It was not the only shooting overnight. Less than an hour later and about a mile south of the attack, an unidentified man was shot and killed on Leslie Street, authorities said

Newark PD arrest wanted Trenton man

No Comments » Written on August 18th, 2014 by
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NJ.com

TRENTON — A Trenton man was arrested in Newark Saturday on murder charges stemming from the July shooting death of a Ewing man, authorities said today.

Shaheed Brown, 30, was arrested and charged with murder and weapons charges Saturday night by Newark Police in Newark, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said.

No details on his arrest were immediately available. Brown is being held on $1 million bail, DeBlasio said.

The arrest is the result of a Mercer County Homicide Task Force investigation, DeBlasio said.

Brown is charged in the July 12 shooting death of Enrico Smalley, 20, DeBlasio said.

Police were called to the corner of Poplar Street and North Clinton Avenue around 1:21 a.m. and found Smalley laying on the ground in front of LaGuira Bar suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, DeBlasio said.

Smalley was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton where he was pronounced dead a short time later, DeBlasio said.

Essex County will get newly approved judges

No Comments » Written on August 18th, 2014 by
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TRENTON — The state Senate today confirmed eight judges to serve in the overloaded courthouses of Essex County, a turning point in a long stalemate with Gov. Chris Christie over who gets to sit on the bench in New Jersey’s busiest county.

Christie and the senators last week reached a deal to fill eight of 21 vacant judgeships in the county, where the dearth of jurists has caused some civil trials to be frozen for months. Senators voted 34-0 today to confirm a mix of Democratic and Republican nominees.

There are 13 vacancies remaining in Essex and 44 statewide, but today’s vote was a sign of a thaw in the tense negotiations between Christie and lawmakers over judicial appointments.

“This is a wonderful package for Essex,” said Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex). “We have trial attorneys that reflect a breadth of experience.”

Approving the eight new judges marked a breakthrough in a years-long impasse that clogged the courthouses in Newark and surrounding cities. Courthouses across the state have been dealing with rising case backlogs, leading to more wait times — or months of legal limbo — for people seeking their day in court.

The new judges are: Marcella Matos Wilson of West Caldwell; Richard Sules of West Orange; Marysol Rosero of Livingston; Bahir Kamil of South Orange; Linda Lordi Cavanaugh of West Orange; Jeffrey Beacham of Short Hills; Stephanie Ann Mitterhoff of Scotch Plains; and Neil Jasey of South Orange, who is married to Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex).

Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) said he hoped today’s vote would provide the “momentum” to fill the remaining spots on the bench. “This has been a crisis. We worked through it,” O’Toole said.

Kenneth Rosenberg, president of the Essex County Bar Association, said the lack of judges in Essex has taken a toll on litigants and their lawyers.

“It’s very difficult to obtain a trial date,” said Rosenberg, a lawyer at Fox Rothschild. “It’s almost routine that you’re going to appear in court and you’re going to be told, ‘Come back another day because we don’t have a judge to hear your case.'”

Those delays have a domino effect on people going to court, Rosenberg said. Some witnesses may be difficult to reschedule. Attorney costs pile up whenever a case is postponed. And clients “have an emotional attachment to their case — they want to see justice served, they want their day in court.” The delays usually affect civil and family cases: business disputes, divorces, or custody battles over children, for example.

Christie and Essex County lawmakers fought for years over all kinds of nominations — not just for judges, but also over Christie’s pick for education commissioner and other posts. The free-for-all and the logjam that ensued at some points had nothing to do with judges.

Under the New Jersey constitution, the state Senate must confirm all of Christie’s picks for the bench, and individual senators also have the power to block appointments in their home counties — for any reason, and without disclosing why — under an unwritten custom called “senatorial courtesy.”

Christie’s aides have blamed the “courtesy” rule for grinding the process to a halt. Democrats say they needed to evaluate some picks carefully to ensure the governor’s nominees were qualified for the bench.

Tensions ran almost through the end, with Christie scrapping and then salvaging the Essex deal after some last-minute turbulence. The governor ended up dropping one of his picks.

“We’re just happy that the parties have been able to work out their differences and get to down to the business of appointing judges, which is important to the lawyers, the courts, and most importantly the public,” Rosenberg said.

As of June 2010, 12 percent of cases in state courts were backlogged, compared with 17 percent today. That means there are an extra 9,000 backlogged cases on the dockets now compared with four years ago, a 33 percent increase, according to the most recently published court statistics.

In Bergen County, some civil trials will be frozen next month due to vacancies, according to the top court administrator there.

Twenty years later, Newark woman gives hope to Rwandan genocide survisors

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — Eugenie Mukeshimana didn’t need reminders of the genocide that tore through her native Rwanda during the 1990s, but they came anyway.

There was the time she went to work while still living in Rwanda and found that a funny co-worker she often had coffee with had disappeared; the rumor mill at her job would later report that the co-worker had been arrested and accused of killing dozens of Rwandans like her during a three-month-long genocide there.

Other life events such as attending a funeral of a Tutsi she didn’t know or taking a picture at a wedding with other survivors could bring back the haunting memories she had of months spent in hiding with her infant daughter.

Mukeshimana, 42, knew in those moments that she needed to leave the “crime scene.”

“It feels weird calling a country a crime scene, but that’s what it is,” she said. “Every corner is connected to the experience.”

It’s been about 13 years since Mukeshimana left Rwanda, and she is past trying to ‘escape.’ Now, the Newark resident has a new mission: helping other Rwandans scared by the genocide’s horrors build a new life in the United States.

GETTING OUT

Mukeshimana was about eight months pregnant and living with her husband when Rwandan President and Hutu leader Juvnal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down near Kigali International Airport on April 6, 1994.

By that time Hutus and Tutsi, descriptors used to define the remnants of the colonial aristocratic and peasant classes respectively, had been feuding for decades.

Though Hutus controlled the government, The Rwandan Patriotic Front, a group of mostly rebel Tutsis, were looking to seize power. Meanwhile, the Rwandan government was facing international pressure to form a power-sharing agreement with the Tutsis, angering some extremist Hutus.

After Habyarimana’s plane crash, Hutu extremist leaders recruited other Hutus to execute Tutsis and moderate Hutu leaders.

As the killing sprees across Rwanda intensified, Mukeshimana and her husband decided it would be safer to split up and hide.

Mukeshimana was eventually taken in by a family who hid her under their children’s bed, she was found after three weeks and eventually taken captive to cook for a member of the Hutu militia. She was rescued by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

When the genocide ended, Mukeshimana discovered that her husband, father, cousins and many friends had been killed.

“By the time the genocide was over I had an infant and I was homeless,” she said. “Everything was gone.”

Mukeshimana started to rebuild her life in Rwanda. She studied English from the radio, music and discarded newspapers, eventually learning enough to work as an accountant at a human rights organization, which oversaw a hospital.

But the effects of the genocide seemed to seep into every part of her life.

Mukeshimana decided to leave Rwanda in 1998, and obtained the necessary permissions in 2001.

An American friend arranged for her and her daughter to stay for free with a couple in Albany, N.Y., where she attended college. Friends of that family pitched in for her tuition, helping her to graduate with a degree in social work.

“It was a village,” Mukeshimana said. “People came together. That’s what Americans are good at. They help when they know how to help.”
“If the genocide never happened what would life be like?

Mukeshimana and her daughter are permanent U.S. residents and plan to apply for American citizenship, she said.

HELPING OTHERS

After working as a social worker at homeless shelters for a few years Mukeshimana decided to help other genocide survivors.

In 2010, she started the Genocide Survivors Support Network in South Orange to help genocide survivors with the issues immigrants often struggle with in the United States, such as obtaining a work permit or finding a place to live.

Since then, her network has helped dozens of mostly Rwandan genocide survivors get an education, start careers and receive emotional support.
consolee2-pic.jpgConsolee Nishimwe was inspired to write a book about her experience during the Rwandan genocide after joining the Genocide Survivors Support Network.Photo courtesy of Consolee Nishimwe

Mostly, survivors say, they just like talking to Mukeshimana, because she has had experiences similar to theirs.

Mukeshimana said genocide survivors often feel isolated and withdraw from relationships with other people because they don’t think others will understand their experiences.

Other times survivors suffer from nightmares, vivid flashbacks or extreme paranoia that they are in a dangerous situation. Some Rwandans who lived through the genocide have survivor’s guilt and wonder why they should seek happiness if so many they know have been killed, Mukeshimana said.

“They suffer in silence,” she said. “It’s hard for them to explain it someone.”

Mukeshimana’s network also works with a group of lawyers who provide services pro bono to help survivors obtain asylum status and a work permit.

“I wish I was a millionaire so I could give her half,” said Alain Kayiranga, a genocide survivor who recently connected with Mukeshimana. “She’s an angel.”

Kayiranga, 24, is a Rwandan native who moved from Georgia to New Jersey about a year ago to be closer to Mukeshimana’s network of survivors.

Mukeshimana found a family in West Orange who has given Kayiranga a room to stay, for free. She also connected him with a lawyer who is working to win him asylum in the United States. He says he meets with Mukeshimana about once a week to talk about things he has trouble telling others.

Consolee Nishimwe knows the benefits of connecting with other survivors. The now 34-year-old said she lived through the trauma of being raped and infected with HIV. She also lost her father, younger brothers and grandparents during the Rwandan genocide.

When she arrived to New York about 13 years ago, Nishimwe said she often avoided sharing anything too personal about her experience, even as she suffered from nightmares, loneliness and vivid flashbacks.

But with the help of a therapist and meeting other survivors through Mukeshimana’s network, Nishimwe said she has learned to be more open. A couple of years ago she published a book detailing her experience during the genocide.

Mukeshimana’s work helping others continues to grow. In September, she has a weekend retreat planned for Rwandan genocide survivors after the owner of an inn Cooperstown, N.Y. donated the space.

And she hopes to secure enough resources to build a recovery center for others who are severely impacted by the effects of genocide.

“I got things to help me,” she said. “I’m paying forward what was given to me.”

To learn more about the Genocide Survivors Support Network visit the organization’s website.

Newark man attempted smuggling a knife into a NY prison, during a visit

No Comments » Written on August 15th, 2014 by
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The Star ledger

OSSINING, N.Y. — A 25-year-old Newark man visiting an inmate attempted to bring a knife into a Westchester County prison, authorities said.

Jaahan Y. Mitchell was arrested at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and charged with promoting prison contraband, New York State Police said Wednesday.

Mitchell is due in court Tuesday, State Police said.

Mitchell is the second Newark man to be arrested in connection with an incident at the maximum security prison in two months. In June, Jaston Coleman, 43, was accused of trying to sell marijuana by mail to inmates at the prison.

Mayor Baraka taps new leaders for the central planning and alcohol boards

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka has tapped new leaders to take over posts on the Newark’s Central Planning, Alcohol Beverage Control and the Brick City Development Corporation boards.

On the Central Planning Board, which has jurisdiction over certain developmental projects, Baraka named three people to the nine-member board. The board also features two additional alternate members.

Jacqueline Ceola and Otis Rolley both filled two vacancies on the board. While Paul Oliver was reappointed to the board.

Ceola and Oliver were approved by the city council. For Rolley’s appointment, no city council approval was needed.

The rest of the board representatives remain in their positions until new leaders are chosen, according to the clerk’s office.

Newark’s municipal council also approved Baraka’s two nominations for the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. Donald Bradley takes over for Bettye Dickerson, while Linda Jumah takes over for Orlando Menendez.

On the Brick City Development Corporation board of directors Baraka taped Calvin Moore to replace Christopher Harvell. Celeste Bateman takes over for Dr. dt ogilvie, while Dolores Henry Metz replaces Adam Zipkin.

West Ward councilman Joseph Allen McCallum, Jr replaces former Central Ward councilman Darrin Sharif.

The corporation is tasked with the responsibility of foster development and small business growth in the city. Each appointment was approved by the city council

No more Police layoffs in Newark

No Comments » Written on August 15th, 2014 by
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The Star Ledger

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had barely sworn his oath of office when he was confronted with a financial crisis, a $31 million hole in this year’s budget of roughly $800 million. So he is asking the state for help, knowing that he’ll need to cede control over city finances as one of the strings.

That, no doubt, is painful for Baraka. He has long protested state control over the city’s school system, to no avail. He recently had to accept federal oversight of the police department, thanks to a pattern of civil rights violations. And now this.

But the new mayor is proving to be pragmatic. His most important goal is to protect public safety, and that means no more police layoffs. The force is down to about 1,000 now after the city tightened its belt with a series of layoffs and a fateful decision to leave vacancies unfilled. At its peak long ago, the force had nearly 1,700 officers. The sharpest drops came under Mayor Cory Booker’s administration, when the city was pounded by the Great Recession and dramatic cuts in state aid.

Not surprisingly, the murder rate has gone up as the police force has shrunk over the past few years. These savings, in effect, were paid for with blood. Those are the stakes in this budget fight.

No doubt, many people in New Jersey have Newark fatigue and would say no to this plea for help. The state pays the bulk of the city’s school expenses already, and provided $101 million in aid to the city budget this year. Remember, too, that the state is wrestling with its own ferocious budget crisis.

So why help Newark?

One reason is the city has already tightened its belt by several notches. During his years as mayor, Booker shrunk the city’s work force by about 25 percent, while raising taxes even more. Is there another city or town in New Jersey that can match that record?

Another is that New Jersey’s heavy dependence on property taxes leaves a city like Newark in an impossible jam. Similar to Camden and Paterson, the city simply doesn’t have enough property to tax. In Newark, Baraka notes that about three-quarters of the property is tax-exempt, including government buildings, religious institutions and nonprofits. The game is rigged against poor cities.

Still, given the state budget crisis, it’s not realistic to expect Trenton to write a check this big. And that brings us to a second solution: allowing the city to impose its own new taxes.

Again, New Jersey is unusual in this regard, and gives the state final say. Newark was allowed to impose a tax on rental cars at the airport, but it would need new permission to impose new taxes on shipping containers at the port, for example. If the state can’t afford to help, it can at least get out of the way.

As for the state supervision, that is welcome, even if it does irritate Newark. The city still wastes money. It would be a relief to see the state order reductions in the ridiculous salaries and benefits of city council members, along with their big staffs.

The imperative is to prevent police layoffs. And that means answering Newark request for help, one way or the other.

Convicted felons arrested in Newark, after being found with an assault rifle

No Comments » Written on August 14th, 2014 by
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NJ Advanced Media

NEWARK — A pair of convicted felons were arrested today after police found them in possession of an assault rifle and other weapons during a raid on a city home, authorities said.

Jonathan Garcia, 30, of Newark, and James J. Hamilton, 23, of Kearny, were each charged with possession of an assault weapon, possession of a high capacity magazine and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Newark Police Director Eugene Venable said in a statement.

Their arrests came after officers with the Essex County Narcotics Task Force executed a warrant at a Taylor Street home.

Inside, they found a Bushmaster Carbon AR-15 rifle, a high-capacity magazine for the gun, a semi-automatic .40 caliber Hi-point JCP pistol and 28 live .223 caliber rounds, according to authorities.

Garcia has spent time behind bars for aggravated assault, weapons possession and making terroristic threats, according to judicial records, while Hamilton’s record includes convictions for drug distribution, conspiracy and hindering prosecution.

Essex County corrections records indicate that Garcia and Hamilton have also been charged with receiving stolen property. Both are being held on $100,000 bail.

Newark requests $31M in state aide

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The Star Ledger

NEWARK — Newark officials have submitted an application for $31 million in state aid, triggering state oversight of Newark’s finances while the state considers the request for help.

The application, submitted Friday to the Division of Local Government Services paints a grim picture of the city’s finances but offers broad measures the city plans to take to address its budget crisis.

City and state officials face an uphill battle to solve Newark’s budgetary problems. In April, Newark officials disclosed the city would need more than $90 million to balance its 2014 budget.

Part of that budget gap is a $30.1 million deficit from 2013, which is required to be rolled into the 2014 budget year. The city faced an additional $63.4 million gap in 2014 bringing the total funds needed to balance the 2014 budget to about $93.5 million.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said Tuesday during a Star-Ledger editorial board meeting that he plans to work with the state to get the city on sound financial footing.

“People look at oversight as control. It’s not really control, it’s more monitoring,” he said. “We are hoping for the opportunity to work together and not work under the state.”

If the city did not not submit an application for transitional aid, money the state gives municipalities in fiscal emergencies, the city would have to lay off more than 400 employees or 14 percent of its workforce, according to its aid application.

“The city would have to cut the salaries of personnel in the Departments of administration, child and family well-being, Economic and Housing Development, engineering, Finance and Law to zero,” the application read.

Newark said in its application that the city faced a deficit for a number of reasons including rising health care costs, declining payroll taxes and reduced one-time revenue sources.

The city also failed last year to hold an accelerated tax sale, in which the city sells the liens of delinquent taxes.

“It reflects an imminent failure to carry out the best management practices–a behavior that the city will correct in the coming year,” the city wrote.

In its application, the city pledged to implement a hiring freeze, reassess its contracts and curb employee use of cars and cell phones. Baraka has also pledged not to reduce the city’s police or fire forces.

But he said Tuesday the state will likely have some say in the city’s hiring.

“The state is going to review some of the hiring,” Baraka said. “If it makes sense they will allow us to hire, if it doesn’t make sense to them then we’ll have to prove to them that it does make sense.”

Newark’s municipal council introduced a budget on July 1 of almost $800 million. The proposed spending plan would increase taxes for the average homeowner to $5,333 from $5,082.

The city council last week approved Baraka’s application to ask for state aid.

Soon after, State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) asked Senate President Steve Sweeney to convene a special meeting of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee to discuss Newark’s finances.

Sweeney said he is considering the request.

Other cities have submitted applications or transitional aid including Atlantic City, Harrison and Asbury Park.

Baraka has said his goal is to generate more revenue for the city and wean the city off state aid in the future.

“We got to find that revenue,” he said Tuesday.