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    Amboy Bank also gave non-executive employees a $1,000 bonus

    A Central Jersey bank with 24 branches is boosting the minimum pay for its workers to $15 an hour.

    Old Bridge-based Amboy Bank will also pay all non-executive employees a a minimum year-end bonus of $1,000, it said in a statement, becoming at least fourth New Jersey bank to give its workers extra money.

    Other New Jersey-based banks that have announced employee bonuses in recent months include Somerset Savings, Unity and OceanFirst, according to a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Bankers Association. Somerset Savings Bank last month announced a one-time bonus of $750 for all employees who aren't senior management.

    130 county workers get raises with new $15 minimum wage

    National companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and and J.P Morgan have also awarded bonuses to employees. 

    "Banking is changing," Amboy Bank president and CEO Stanley J. Koreyva Jr. said in announcing the raises and bonuses. "Twenty years ago 90 percent of client activity was transactional in nature. Now we need to focus on educating clients on electronic banking, real estate taxes and fraud plus make sure we are proactively meeting their needs. To be successful we need to ensure we maintain the best people and we look forward to attracting new employees that will offer nothing but the best for our clients."

    Nearly half of Amboy Bank employees have worked for the company for more than 10 years. All of its branches are located in Middlesex and Monmouth counties. 

    The New Jersey Bankers Association said Amboy Bank was "sharing the benefits of the recent tax reform."

    "They are joining the growing group of banks across New Jersey and the country that are rewarding employees with increased wages, special bonuses and enhanced benefits programs as well as increased funding for charitable giving," president and CEO  John E. McWeeney, Jr. said in a statement. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    Where is your team in the power points report?


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    Take a look at the girls basketball power points as of the cutoff date.


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    Officers saw cardboard covering the license plate of a truck leaving the company

    Four men have been arrested on charges they stole about $80,000 worth of cargo from Union Beverage on North Union Avenue on Wednesday evening.

    Arturo Sanchez, 45, of Somerset; Gerard Perkins, 42, of Rahway; Elijah Jacobs, 38, and  Wilfredo Bobadilla, 45, both of New Brunswick; have all been charged with second-degree theft, Hillside police said.

    At around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, officers police pulled over a white tractor-trailer near the company's driveway when they saw cardboard covering the truck's license plate. Sanchez was the driver and Bobadilla was the passenger, police said

    A preliminary investigation found the cargo was stolen form the company and Jacobs, a company supervisor, and Perkins, and forklift operator, were involved in the theft and promptly arrested, police said.

    The investigation of the incident was ongoing Thursday and more arrests are possible, police said.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook 


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    Paths to sectional championships


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    Check out NJ.com's interactive, printable brackets for this year's tournament.


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    The officer has since been suspended without pay

    A New Brunswick police officer and four others have been charged in a bar brawl that authorities say occurred in an Irish pub in the city last month. 

    Anthony Jones, 23, was off-duty during the incident at the Golden Rail Tavern on Jan. 21 and since has been suspended without pay as a result of the criminal charges, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey and New Brunswick Police Director Anthony Caputo said in a release. 

    Jones faces charges aggravated assault and riot, along with James Sanders III, 22, of Piscataway, Ryan Marsi, 23, of New Brunswick, Steve Karasoulis, 24, of Edison, and Bryan Williams, 22, of North Brunswick, according to the release. 

    Jones joined the city police force in April 2014 and is on the payroll for $65,591, according to state pension records. 

    In a statement, New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said, "The alleged behavior, while off-duty, is held to this same standard and fails to conform to the conduct we expect from our officers and in no way represents the core values of the men and women who serve our community each day with the New Brunswick Police Department."

    Authorities are still investigating the incident and further details were not made public.

    Anyone with information can call authorities at 732-745-5184 or 732-745-4274. 

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at CMcCarthy@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    nj.com/tips


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    Aleksander Isserovich, 39, of Brooklyn, is expected to be sentenced to seven years in prison

    A truck driver accepted a plea deal Thursday in a September crash that killed one and injured four, authorities said. 

    Aleksander Isserovich, 39, of Brooklyn, New York, was under the influence when he rear-ended a Hyundai Sonata, killing the driver on the southbound side of Route 440 in Perth Amboy on Sept. 6, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said in a release.

    The tractor-trailer then jackknifed and hit two other cars, and the SUV was pushed into another car. 

    Jason Appio, 45, of Ocean Township, was later pronounced dead at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy. Isserovich and three others were taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

    Isserovich is expected to be sentenced to seven years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to one count of death by auto, three counts of assault by auto and driving while under the influence of controlled substances, according to the release.

    His sentencing is set for May 18, 2018, before Superior Court Judge Michael Toto.

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at CMcCarthy@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Brando "has a sweet temperament and likes everyone."

    mx0211pet.jpgBrando 

    EDISON -- Brando is an American bulldog mix between 2 and 4 years old at the Edison Animal Shelter.

    Shelter workers say "he has a sweet temperament and likes everyone," but doesn't get along with cats. Brando walks well on a leash, has been neutered and is up-to-date on shots.

    For more information on Brando, call 732-248-7278 or visit the Edison Animal Shelter at 125 Municipal Blvd. The shelter, currently caring for 52 pets, is open Fridays through Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email middlesex@starledger.com.

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


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    Tarana Burke started using "Me Too" to raise awareness about sexual assault and harassment more than a decade ago.

    Before there was a hashtag, there was Tarana Burke.

    In 2007, the activist founded a nonprofit organization to support victims of sexual harassment and assault along with an awareness campaign centered around two words: Me too. 

    A decade later, she'll give a speech at Rutgers University after the powerful #MeToo movement inspired thousands of women to come forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment, exposing misconduct by powerful men in the media and other industries.  

    Burke will visit Rutgers on Monday as part of the university's Black History Month commemoration and ongoing initiatives to combat sexual violence, according to the university. She'll speak at 7:30 p.m. in the College Avenue Gym, and the event is open to the public.  

    Rutgers, which previously brought former Vice President Joe Biden to campus to speak about sexual violence, will pay Burke a $16,500 speaking fee, according to the university. 

    "We want students to know that they have a part in changing the culture, and their voice is important," said Felicia McGinity, the university's vice chancellor for student affairs. "So we want to empower them with information. We want to encourage them to be agents of social change." 

    Though Burke started her Me Too campaign a decade ago, the words went viral last fall after women began speaking out against producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men. Unaware of Burke's efforts, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women who had been sexually assaulted to reply to a tweet with "me too," and a hashtag was born. 

    Milano has since credited Burke as the #MeToo movement's founder, and Burke recently landed a book deal to tell her story. 

    Rutgers is excited to present a speaker whose message is especially timely for students, McGinty said. 

    "I am hoping that the takeaway is we can be part of a revolution that creates change so people don't have to say 'me too,'" she said. 

    Last fall, Rutgers hosted Biden as he spoke about the "It's On Us" campaign to end sexual violence, which he started with President Barack Obama in 2014. Rutgers was selected that year by the Obama administration to pilot a campus climate survey for a White House task force on sexual violence. 

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook


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    Fallon's new solo album "Sleepwalkers" is the most exuberant and sonically expansive music he's written in years

    It seems like a rock n' roll eternity since Brian Fallon last appeared comfortable in his own skin.

    His solo debut, 2016's "Painkillers," was an exercise in defining not only a second act for the New Jersey singer, but a sound that would stand apart from The Gaslight Anthem, the locally beloved alt-rock outfit he fronted for nearly a decade.

    The results were mixed; the album proved a somber, folk-tinged bridge from the last Gaslight Anthem LP, 2014's "Get Hurt" -- a heart-wrenching and harshly reviewed project Fallon admits was left unfinished in places -- with songs that felt more like B-sides from the old band than any sort of sonic reinvention. In fact, the best tunes from "Painkillers" proved to be new recordings of songs he'd written with a Bob Dylan-inspired side project called Molly and The Zombies, also in 2014.

    In his defense, it's been an unsavory few years for the Red Bank-bred frontman: "Get Hurt" was a jagged reaction to his still-fresh-and-bleeding divorce and he's admitted frankly in interviews that once Gaslight announced its hiatus in 2015, he didn't really know what he was going to do.

    But 2018's forecast appears much brighter. The Gaslight Anthem sent fans into frenzy last month with the announcement that it will reunite this summer for the 10-year anniversary of the band's best record, "The '59 Sound."

    In the meantime, diehards can breathe in Fallon's new solo album, "Sleepwalkers," -- an exuberant and sonically expansive project comprising the most exciting music he's written in a long, long time.

    While the album's moniker would suggest something of a misty, dream state, the songs are instead forceful, present and well-formed with a welcome shift to jaunty R&B and even Motown influences. Nods to Springsteen and Dylan still arise in Fallon's songwriting, but it feels as though Elvis Costello may have been the new muse this time, as the push and pull of '70s rock, power-pop, folk, and soul is deftly woven throughout.

    From the first measures of opener "If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven," a ricocheting, roots-rock anthem than may be the best song Fallon's penned since the "Handwritten" hits, it's clear the tide has shifted: snapping fingers, a cool-handed guitar line and soft "ooh, oohs" lead into the singer's calling-card grit and drawl.

    brianfalloncover.jpg 

    It gets better still with the album's lead single "Forget Me Not," which hinges on an '80s pop guitar riff and a rejuvenated Fallon, screaming "Stacy! I'd like to take you to a movie / In a world without a death wish." I can't remember the last time I could honestly call a song written by Fallon "fun" but that's what this, and much of "Sleepwalkers" seems to be: a typically stormy songwriter finally catches a break in the clouds.

    Synthy keys give extra umph to "Little Nightmares," and "My Name Is The Night (Color Me Black)" is a tight, meaty jam that -- like much of this album, I suspect -- will play well on stage, with Fallon's latest backing band iteration, called The Howling Wind. Fallon plays Starland Ballroom in Sayreville April 29.

      

    On record, the arrangements could stand a bit less polish. I'd love to hear the demos to many of these tracks; the bones to these songs are strong enough to withstand a sharper edge and give Fallon's distinct, sand-spitting vocal more power over the instruments. My other main criticism with "Sleepwalkers" is the recycling of melodies from past works -- more than once you'll find yourself trying to place a "new" riff in an old song. That's been a challenge for Fallon, 38,  and the Gaslight guys since "The '59 Sound" morphed the band from budding New Brunswick bar-sceners to global rock underdogs; Fallon's never been a particularly chameleonic songwriter.

    But if you've stuck with Fallon's earnest, radio-lovin' Jersey-rocker pastiche all this time, you'll forgive the repeats for the fresh instrumental takes, from the backroom horns and sax on the title track to the modern, quivering guitar work on "Come Wander With Me." It's a pleasing mix, and "Sleepwalkers" is as loose and joyous as we've heard Fallon in at least five years. Though there's still themes of lost love and death mixed in, you can almost hear the forever Jersey boy smiling as he sings.

    Bobby Olivier may be reached at bolivier@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook 


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    The NJSIAA Sectional Team Tournament finals are Friday night. NJ.com previews every sectional title match statewide.


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    DUNELLEN -- The Vail Family is shown during a peach harvest on their farm in Dunellen in 1898. MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey According to the Dunellen Historical Society, the Vail farm encompassed much of the area that is now Columbia Park. If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community,...

    DUNELLEN -- The Vail Family is shown during a peach harvest on their farm in Dunellen in 1898.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    According to the Dunellen Historical Society, the Vail farm encompassed much of the area that is now Columbia Park.

    If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to middlesex@starledger.com. And, check out more glimpses of history in our online galleries on nj.com.

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


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    The state Appeals court on Thursday ordered the officers to pay $7.5K in legal fees

    Four former Middlesex County sheriff's investigators who paid the former sheriff to get their jobs -- then sued to get their paychecks after the scheme was discovered -- must pay the counties legal fees for their "frivolous" lawsuit.

    The state Appeals court on Thursday ordered the officers -- Richard Mucia, Thomas Varga, Christopher Jarema and Giancarlo Russo -- to pay $7,584.52 to the county's defense attorneys, McDermott, Mastro and Murphy, for the complaint filed in the weeks after the group was suspended without pay in 2014. 

    Seven on the county agency's staff were suspended in January of that year in connection with the former sheriff's bribery scandal in which the employee, or someone on the employee's behalf, would pay $25,000 to Joseph Spicuzzo for a job.

     

    The group had sued in an attempt to have their pay reinstated during the investigation, claiming that an internal affairs investigation did not warrant a suspension without pay.

    The county argued, since the accusations involved bribery, an "allegation of dishonesty," the agency was justified.

    A lower court sided with the county in July 2014, calling it "frivoulous" and stating "[p]laintiffs and counsel must have known, or at least should have known, that their [c]omplaint had no reasonable basis in law." The judge ordered the officers to cover the county's legal fees.

    The officers, who were later fired, appealed and the three-judge panel heard arguments on Nov. 1, 2017.

    Attorneys for the officers argued that his clients were the victims of Spicuzzo and others who benefited from the scheme. 

    The appeals court sided with the Superior Court, saying the plaintiff provided no new arguments, and affirmed the lower court's decision.

    Spicuzzo would later plead guilty to bribery in the scheme and was stripped of his pension and sentenced to nine years in prison.

    He was released under an intensive supervision program in 2015 after just over two years in prison, likely due to his deteriorating health, according to his attorney at the time.

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at CMcCarthy@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Rick King, 34, shot store clerk Amit Patel, 28, of Edison, in the head at point-blank range.

    A Newark man is headed to prison for the rest of his life for killing the witness to a robbery he committed to keep the man from testifying against him.

    RickKingScreen Shot 2018-02-09 at 4.19.25 PM.jpgRick King 

    Rick King, 34, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing of store clerk Amit Patel, 28, of Edison. Superior Court Judge Mark Ali also sentenced King on Friday to a consecutive 40-year sentence for the robbery.

    A jury in December found King guilty of murder, witness tampering, armed robbery, aggravated assault on a police officer and weapons offenses. 

    Authorities say that on Feb. 15, 2015 King went to Roseway Liquors on Lyons Avenue and shot Patel in the head at point-blank range as he worked at the counter. He died at the scene.

    Patel was the lone witness to a robbery King committed on Halloween 2013 at the same liquor store, owned by Patel's father, and, authorities said, King killed him to keep him from implicating King in the robbery case.

    The judge noted that King had 11 prior arrests and five felony convictions, including possession of an illegal weapon and drug possession. 

    Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    NJ Transit confirmed there was an incident which briefly suspended service between Metuchen and Rahway.

    A body was found on the train tracks Saturday morning in Middlesex County, officials confirmed. 

    The body was found just west of the Metropark Station shortly after 5:00 a.m. on the tracks of the Northeast Corridor line, Amtrack spokesperson Jason Abrams said via email Saturday.

    Amtrak is currently investigating what happened, according to Abrams said. No further details were made public.

    NJ Transit confirmed there was a trespasser incident, which briefly suspended its service in the area from approximately 6 to 7 a.m., but the agency was not involved with the investigation.

    NJ Transit tweeted at about 6 a.m. that their Northeast Corridor trains were halted between Metuchen and Rahway due to the incident. 

    Service has since been restored and trains are running on schedule.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook 

     

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    NJ.com's complete coverage of the 2018 team wrestling finals


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    Homeless pets throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    This information on dog safety was compiled by members of the Dog Bite Prevention Coalition -- the U.S. Postal Service, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Humane Society, Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance.

    If a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog into a separate room and close the door before opening the front door. Parents should also remind their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet as the dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.

    People often assume that a dog with a wagging tail is a friendly dog, but this is far from the truth. Dogs wag their tails for numerous reasons, including when they're feeling aggressive. A tail that is held high and moves stiffly is a sign that the dog is feeling dominant, aggressive, or angry.

    Dogs, even ones you know have good days and bad days. You should never pet a dog without asking the owner first and especially if it is through a window or fence. For a dog, this makes them feel like you are intruding on their space and could result in the dog biting you.

    ALL DOGS are capable of biting. There's no one breed or type of dog that's more likely to bite than others. Biting has more to do with circumstances, behavior, and training.

    Dogs have a language that allows them to communicate their emotional state and their intentions to others around them. Although dogs do use sounds and signals, much of the information that they send is through their body language, specifically their facial expressions and body postures. You can tell how a dog is feeling (sad, tired, happy, angry, scared) by looking at the position of a dogs' ears, mouth, eyes, and tail.

    Dogs are social animals who crave human companionship. That's why they thrive and behave better when living indoors with their pack -- their human family members. Dogs that are tied up or chained outside are frustrated and can become aggressive because they are unhappy. They can also become very afraid because when they are tied or chained up, they can't escape from things that scare them.

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


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    With the curling competition kicking up at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, we decide once and for all the legitimacy of the strange-looking sport. Watch video

    Sports have athletes, games have players, and curling ... well, curling has an identity crisis.

    For years, it's been the duck-billed platypus of athletic competition, a goofy mix of strategy and strength that straddles "game" and "sport."

    I mean, it's played with a broom for chrissakes. You know what else is played with a broom? Quidditch, Mr. Potter. Quidditch.

    Having first appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1932 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, it wasn't even added to the official program until 56 years later at the 1998 Games in Nagano.

    But ever since the 2010 Games in Vancouver, its Nielsen ratings have steadily grown, as has USA Curling.

    This year, America has sent 10 curlers to Pyeongchang, South Korea, including a charming brother and sister duo who're competing together in the mixed doubles competition: Becca and Matt Hamilton.

    But still the question gnawed at us: Is it really a sport?

    To find out, we established some criteria common to sports, but not to games: Perspiration, celebrity, sponsors, clearly discernible winners and, of course, the basic requirement that it not be playable while holding a beer. In order for anything to be a true sport, it needs to pass muster in all five categories.

    A quick trip to the South Plainfield Curling Club and a few bags of Cheetos later, we had our answers.

    But don't just believe us: Take a look for yourself above, and then "hurry hard" to decide.

    Claude Brodesser-Akner may be reached at cbrodesser@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClaudeBrodesser. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

     

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    Highlighting the best performances of the playoffs so far and breaking down the week to come.


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