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    The Murphy administration announced six new pollution lawsuits on Wednesday, declaring that the state is "back in business" for environmental enforcement.


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    Its 35 airport stores, including the one at Newark Liberty International Airport will remain open


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    This is what remains of the Matthew Jago School playground, designed specifically for accessibility by special needs students.

    A person torched a playground designed specifically for special needs students Wednesday at a Woodbridge school.

    The fire was reported at an accessible playground at Matthew Jago School around 5:45 p.m., officials said.

    Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the blaze at the play area, which was unoccupied at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported.

    The fire is under investigation.

    The Woodbridge Police said they are still searching for the person responsible and asked anyone with information to contact Det. Jorge Quesada at 732-425-7102 or the main police number 732-634-7700.

    PlaygroundFire.jpgThe charred and melted remains of the playground at Matthew Jago School in Woodbridge. (Woodbridge Police Department Facebook)

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The arrests and seizures of marijuana, cocaine and heroin occurred July 27, the State Police said.

    Eight people were arrested this week on suspicion that they ran a cocaine and heroin trafficking ring, mostly in Middlesex and Monmouth counties, the New Jersey State Police said.

    Last Friday, detectives involved in "Operation Punch Out" arrested the eight people and seized more than 700 grams of cocaine, 350 grams of heroin, more than 10 pounds of marijuana, $65,610 in cash and a 2014 Chevrolet Equinox, the State Police announced.

    The arrests were made and warrants were executed in Old Bridge, Long Branch City and Edison Township. Detectives began working on the case in December 2017. Police in Perth Amboy, Elizabeth, Wall Township and Old Bridge worked on the investigation, along with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office and the DEA in Newark.

    "The accused were well-organized, operating a sophisticated trafficking network that profited by peddling deadly and highly addictive narcotics like heroin and cocaine," said Col. Patrick Callahan, head of the State Police.

    Tyson Abel, 42, of Edison and Jose Concepcion Jr., 39, of Long Branch, face the most serious charges. They are accused of heading the drug ring.

    Abel was charged with:

    • Cocaine distribution
    • Heroin distribution
    • Possession of both
    • Conspiracy to distribute both

    Concepcion Jr. was charged with:

    • Cocaine distribution
    • Money laundering
    • Conspiracy to distribute cocaine
    • Marijuana distribution.

    Also charged were: 

    Anthony Velasquez, 24, of Long Branch:

    • Cocaine distribution
    • Heroin distribution
    • Possession of cocaine and heroin
    • Conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin

    Alejandro Burgos, 38, of Asbury Park:

    • Money laundering
    • Distribution of marijuana
    • Conspiracy to distribute marijuana

    Jose Concepcion III, 22, of Old Bridge:

    • Money laundering
    • Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

    Saleem Kelly, 21, of Old Bridge:

    • Money laundering
    • Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

    Khalid Thomas, 36, of Old Bridge:

    • Money laundering
    • Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

    Davon Cody, 28, of Brick:

    • Distribution of cocaine
    • Distribution of heroin
    • Possession of cocaine/heroin

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The victim had just gotten out of a taxi when he was struck on West Eighth Street in Plainfield

    A man charged in April with leaving the scene of a fatal pedestrian crash in Plainfield has been indicted on that count, plus second-degree vehicular homicide, the Union County Prosecutor's Office announced Friday.

    The prosecutor's office said their investigation of the April 29 crash that killed Sergio D. Cuxun-Tista shows the alleged driver, Lavar B. Jones, was speeding and drunk.

    lavar jones.jpgLavar Jones, police photo 

    Cuxun-Tista, 39, had just gotten out of a taxi when he was struck on the 1100 block of West Eighth Street at about 2:30 a.m.

    Authorities found Jones, 37, a short time later at his nearby home, several hundred feet further southwest on West Eighth Street, just over the border into South Plainfield. Outside his home was his Honda Accord with heavy front-end damage and a busted windshield, the prosecutor's office said.

    More than six hours after the crash, Jones' blood-alcohol level was nearly double the legal limit of 0.08 percent, the prosecutor's office said.

    And police and prosecutor's traffic reconstructionists determined that Jones was traveling at approximately 65 miles per hour on the street, which has a speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

    Municipal court records show Jones was also charged with related traffic offenses following the crash, including driving with a suspended or revoked drivers license or registration.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    Officials say it could be among the strictest food allergy laws in the U.S.

    For people with severe, potentially life-threatening food allergies, it's a question they must face everywhere they eat.

    Whether at a restaurant or a friend's house, they must always take painstaking care, constantly asking if a potentially fatal ingredient might be lurking on their plate.

    One New Jersey town, however, is seeking to help alleviate those concerns with a proposed ordinance that some officials believe would be among the "strictest and most impactful" food allergy laws in both New Jersey and the country.

    The ordinance, introduced recently by Edison Township Councilman Sam Joshi, would likely cause a significant overhaul in the township's eatery industry, requiring more than 630 establishments in the town and nearly 400 catering companies outside the town to rework their menus and label all allergens for every dish and beverage they serve.

    Currently, there are no statewide laws on the books in New Jersey requiring restaurants and catering companies to label allergens in the food and beverages they serve.

    Five states -- Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia -- currently have some of the strictest food allergy laws in the country, with similar measures that are now being proposed in Edison, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.

    Under the proposed ordinance, "allergy friendly" menus would have to note which items contain the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's eight most common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans -- along with MSG and sulfites.

    Bars will also have to label allergens that are in each dish and beverage.

    Joshi said that data has shown that allergic reactions most often occur from miscommunications with food served at restaurants, banquet halls, schools and other establishments.

    "Food allergies have increased so dramatically in the last decade that a lot of owners or servers don't have a clear policy on food allergies, but they need to," Joshi said.

    Ask Alexa

    For catering companies located outside the township but who come to Edison for events will also be required to label their foods and beverages, Joshi said.

    Joshi said that it is unacceptable for a server to plead ignorance to what could become a deadly mistake.

    While food allergies are nothing new, they are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies in children in the U.S. have risen by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

    From 2010 to 2016, more than 4.5 million children 18 and under throughout the U.S. had to go to the emergency room for food allergies, mostly from peanuts, tree nuts and seeds, according to a report this year by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

    Joshi said he hopes that the ordinance will become a standard for other towns to adopt throughout the state to protect those susceptible to certain allergens.

    The ordinance will go before the township's seven-member council on Aug. 22. If passed, the ordinance would become effective on Oct. 1 for handout menus. Larger display menus, like those placard on a wall, will have to be changed by Feb. 1.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The North Jersey Coastline train hit the man at the Perth Amboy Train Station around 7:30 a.m., according to NJ Transit spokeswoman Lisa Torbic.

    A man was struck and killed by a New Jersey Transit train in Middlesex County Saturday morning.

    The North Jersey Coastline train hit the man at the Perth Amboy Train Station around 7:30 a.m., according to NJ Transit spokeswoman Lisa Torbic.

    Ask Alexa

    At the time of the incident there were three crew members on the train and no passengers. Train traffic has been suspended between both directions between Woodbridge and Perth Amboy. Buses are currently being called in to accommodate passengers, Torbic said. 

    New Jersey State Police is currently investigating the situation. 

    No further details were made available Saturday morning, including the identity of the person struck.

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

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    Tejay Johnson, 26, and Andre Boggs, 22, were sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday.

    Two former Rutgers footballers who broke into homes three years ago and robbed people for drugs and cash, sometimes at gunpoint, are heading to prison for at least a decade. 

    Tejay Johnson, 26, of Egg Harbor Township, gave an unbroken, nearly seven-minute apology to his victims and family, saying he made a "complete fool" of himself and damaged his family name.

    The former Scarlet Knight told Judge Dennis Nieves Friday morning that after football was taken from him, he turned to codeine and marijuana.

    Johnson, who cut a deal earlier this year while facing decades in prison, was given three 12-year prison terms for each of the three armed robberies.

    As the defendant was being taken away in handcuffs, this NJ Advance Media reporter was assaulted from behind by a woman who was believed to be associated with the defendant. Court officials quickly intervened and the woman, whose name was not immediately known, was carried out of the courtroom by Middlesex County sheriff's officers. Authorities said charges are pending.

    Friday afternoon, a second footballer, Andre Boggs, 22, of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was also sentenced to 12 years in prison, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said in a press release. 

    Both previously pleaded guilty to three counts of armed robbery, three counts of armed burglary and three counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery for their roles in the home invasions in New Brunswick and Piscataway.

    Their sentences will run concurrent and each will have to serve 85 percent of the term before being eligible for parole. 

    The robberies in 2015 targeted Rutgers students who had drugs and cash, according to authorities, and led to 12 others facing charges as the investigation unfolded. 

    The case, which included a total of seven Rutgers football players, contributed to the firing of former coach Kyle Flood, as well as the forced resignation of athletic director Julie Hermann.  

    Ask Alexa

    One of the other former students involved, Kaylanna Ricks, 22, of Perth Amboy, was given three years probation Friday for driving the getaway car in one of the home invasions. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by extortion on April 30 as part of a plea deal. 

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

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.  


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    Some crimes seem to increase given the weather.


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    Some of the thousands of animals awaiting adoption throughout New Jersey.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com.

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


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    One N.J. county has preserved nearly as much land about the size of Washington, D.C.


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    This is the last of the final round trip reports in our search for N.J.'s best hot dog joint.


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    There was also a $10K Mega Millions winning ticket for the weekend drawing


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    The fire caused more than $100,000 in damage to playground equipment and park facilities

    Three teenagers have been charged with setting the fire that destroyed parts of a playground for children with special needs last week.

    The fire, at the handicap-accessible playground at Matthew Jago School in Woodbridge, was reported Aug. 1 around 5:45 p.m. The playground was unoccupied when the fire occurred, and no injuries were reported. The fire was under control by 6:30 p.m.

    jago-fire.jpgThe Aug. 1 fire at the Jago school. (Port Reading Fire Company #1) 

    Woodbridge Police and Port Reading Fire Company posted pictures showing the damage: a slide melting into plastic goo, other equipment blackened by soot. 

    Police said two of the suspects are 14 and the other is 15. They were arrested Aug. 3 after investigators spoke to residents about who they saw on the playground that day.

    "I am gratified that the Woodbridge Police Department was able to make arrests within hours of the fire," Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said in a statement. "These arrests send a strong message to anyone who thinks that setting a fire and destroying thousands of dollars of playground equipment is simply vandalism."

    He thanked the residents who cooperated with police in their investigation. 

    The playground was built in August 2008 with a $250,000 grant from county freeholders. The Matthew Jago School is also home to Camp PACE, an extended school year program for autistic and challenged young people.

    jago-fire2.jpgAn overview of the damage at the Jago school. (Photo courtesy of Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac) 

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The alleged assault occurred during the sentencing of a former Rutgers football player in a robbery case

    A 23-year-old Philadelphia woman has been charged with assaulting an NJ Advance Media reporter during a court hearing in New Brunswick last week, authorities announced Monday.

    Trudy Smith faces a municipal charge of simple assault for allegedly attacking the reporter during the sentencing of Tejay Johnson, a former Rutgers football player who received a 12-year prison term for home invasion robberies in New Brunswick and Piscataway.

    NJ Advance Media provides content for NJ.com and its affiliated print publications, including The Star-Ledger newspaper.

    In a statement, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Smith, who was sitting behind the reporter, struck reporter Taylor Tiamoyo Harris and pulled her hair. Sheriff's officers removed Smith from the courtroom and issued her a summons, the prosecutor's office said.

    Harris said she heard the woman talking only after a sheriff's officer ushered her closer to the front of the courtroom to take a photo. The judge had previously approved of photography in the courtroom, and also motioned that it was alright for Harris to move forward, she said.

    Harris said when she returned to her seat, Smith approached her from behind, pulled her hair and hit her.

    The prosecutor's office did not specify what connection, if any, Smith had to the Johnson case. She could not immediately be reached for comment Monday evening, and it was unclear whether Smith had an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

    The prosecutor's office said Smith is scheduled to appear in municipal court in New Brunswick on Aug. 20. 

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriartyFind NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The woman struck a recycling company employee known as 'Wild Bill'

    A woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to causing the death of a recycling company employee she struck with her car in South River in May.

    Phyllis Kocheran, 52, who's from South River, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated for striking and killing William Oross with her Jeep on May 3. 

    oross.jpgOross, obituary photo 

    In a statement, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Kocheran was "highly intoxicated" when she hit Oross on Pulawski Avenue at about 11:15 a.m. 

    Oross, 49, of North Brunswick, was on the job for a recycling company when he was killed.

    Kocheran's plea deal with the prosecutor's office calls for a judge to sentence her to six years in prison, with 85 percent of it behind bars before she's eligible for parole. The sentencing is scheduled for October.

    Oross worked at Solterra's Old Bridge office as a truck driver, his obituary said.

    He was known as "Wild Bill," loved cars and fishing, and lived by the credo, "Loved by few, hated by many, respected by all," Oross' obituary said. He is survived by his mother, a brother, several other relatives and his girlfriend, Diane.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    There's about $157 billion worth of tax-exempt land that houses schools, churches, cemeteries, nonprofits, government offices or federally protected fields, state data show.


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    Some districts are warning of devastating budget cuts. Is the state to blame?

    In Haddon Township, students won't get new science equipment. In Toms River, officials are tapping reserves to stave off budget cuts. In Jersey City, the school board is eliminating 25 jobs. 

    Across New Jersey, more than 150 districts have spent the past month scrambling to offset reductions in state funding announced in July, after they had already passed their budgets for the coming school year. The worst part, they say? Their state aid is set to get slashed again and again under a new state law. 

    "This is a disaster," Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas said at a special meeting last week to discuss the more than $3 million in lost state aid. "War has been declared on this district."

    The combined $32 million in aid reductions are part of a complex school funding deal that increases New Jersey's education spending by more than $300 million for the upcoming school year and changes how some aid is distributed. 

    That plan pumps millions more into both urban and suburban districts long underfunded by the state. But it comes with a catch: Some of the dollars headed to those underfunded districts is money taken away from others.  

    Find out if your district is losing aid

    State officials say those districts should lose money now because they were winners for far too long, collecting more than their fair share of state funding over the past decade. Local school leaders, however, argue the state is effectively robbing Pemberton to pay Paulsboro and setting up districts for devastating cuts in the years to come. 

    The fallout underscores a practical and political reality of the latest school funding deal: Even if some districts were getting extra funding for all those years, the state was never going to be able to reduce it without affecting kids and angering school officials. 

    "You spend what the state gives you," said Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University. "No one ever says, 'Well, we don't really need that money.'" 

    Less money, more problems 

    Can the school districts that are losing aid still get by without those state dollars?

    State officials say they should be fine. Local school chiefs disagree. And the answer isn't so simple, said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center. 

    New Jersey's school funding formula tells the state exactly how much each district should spend, how much of a district's funding should come from the state and how much the district should generate in local property tax revenue. 

    There are 172 districts losing state aid, and all of them have been receiving more than the formula says they need, with some collecting millions and millions in aid for roughly a decade. 

    Of those districts, 153 have been spending at or more than the state says they should in order to provide a quality education, according an Education Law Center analysis. 

    Those districts are better positioned to survive the state's seven-year phase-out of extra aid, but that doesn't make budget cuts any less painful, and any reductions could quickly drop them below their target spending level, Sciarra said. 

    The districts in a more perilous position are the 19 that are seeing their state aid reduced even though they weren't spending what the state says is needed, he said. 

    That group of districts hasn't generated enough local tax revenue to cover their responsibility for funding their schools, and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney has characterized them as using the state as a piggybank. 

    "They can undertax locally because they get our money," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said during budget negotiations. "Our money is leaving."

    Sciarra argues those districts have been miscast by politicians. 

    Some of the districts haven't been able to raise enough tax revenue because of the state's 2 percent cap on property tax hikes, Sciarra said. When chunks of their state aid disappear, they'll be left with little ability to make it up, he said. 

    "This is the point we have been trying to make all along," said Sciarra, who opposed the state aid cuts.  

    An uncertain future 

    School officials in Toms River are already warning of "dramatic budget cuts" after this school year. 

    The district received about $18 million in extra state aid last school year toward its $228 million budget, but still spent about $25 million less than the state says it needs to, according to an Education Law Center analysis. 

    Now, the state is phasing out that $18 million, beginning with a nearly $1 million reduction this year, followed by incrementally larger reductions through 2025. 

    District officials said property tax hikes won't be enough to avoid budget cuts. 

    "Make no mistake," Superintendent David Healy wrote in a letter to parents. "Our district will be nothing short of gutted and fully decimated if something does not change with regards to the allocation of school aid." 

    Neighboring Brick Township Public Schools is also spending below its goal and facing annual state aid cuts moving forward. Officials say the state funding formula doesn't accurately capture ratables lost in Hurricane Sandy and expects Shore towns to generate an unrealistic amount of property tax revenue.

    The district will get by this year by using $1.3 million from its reserves and leaving six teaching jobs and two administrative positions vacant, Superintendent Gerard Dalton said.  

    After that, he said, he's not sure what will happen. 

    "We are worried about the future," he said. 

    In Cumberland County, Commercial Township spent about $500,000 less than the state recommends last year. Now, it's losing about $1 million in state aid right away with more money disappearing down the road. 

    The district just eliminated seven positions, including five layoffs, interim Superintendent Jean Smith said.  

    "Devastating is the word I would use," Smith said. 

    Murphy's proposed budget didn't reduce funding to any district, but he agreed to the changes as part of a compromise with Sweeney, who had pushed for a redistribution of school aid. 

    Dan Bryan, the governor's spokesman, pointed to the fact that the state has attempted to soften the blow on some districts.

    For instance, the state will allow some urban districts to raise taxes beyond the 2 percent cap to offset state aid reductions. And Murphy agreed to allow Jersey City to create a special 1 percent payroll tax paid by employers to generate extra revenue for its public schools. 

    "Gov. Murphy signed landmark school funding legislation that sets the state on the path to a fairer and more equitable educational system," Bryan said. 

    The state will also offer emergency aid for districts that are able to demonstrate fiscal distress, Department of Education spokesman Mike Yaple said. 

    Even though the state aid reductions weren't Murphy's idea, he can expect to take the blame for them, Harrison said, even in districts that are spending more than the state expectation. 

    "The reality is that if you try to level the funding, the schools that are receiving a disproportionate amount of money and see their aid reduced are going to have to belt tighten," Harrison said. "And that is not going to be politically popular." 

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

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

     

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    Catholic priests and seminarians need to be able to come forward "without the fear of retribution of any kind," said Bishop James Checchio, head of the Diocese of Metuchen.

    One of New Jersey's Catholic dioceses is bringing together a group of senior advisers to consider changing how priests can report sexual misconduct by fellow priests, church officials said Tuesday.

    Bishop James Checchio, head of the Diocese of Metuchen, said the recent resignation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has raised questions about whether his diocese needs to make big changes.  

    McCarrick is accused of sexual abuse and misconduct with young seminarians and priests, including some who said they feared retaliation if they reported him to church authorities because he was a high-ranking Catholic leader.

    One of McCarrick's alleged victims, a former priest, said last month he endured McCarrick's sexual advances in part because the Catholic Church lacked the type of human resources departments and anonymous reporting systems that exist in the corporate world for those reporting abuse by co-workers.

    "Does the Catholic Church have that? How is a priest supposed to report abuse or wrong activity by his bishop?" Robert Ciolek, a former priest who said he was abused by McCarrick, said last month to the New York Times.

    Checchio said the Diocese of Metuchen is ready to reconsider its systems for reporting abuse by priests.

    "I have begun to bring together a senior team of advisors to examine reporting processes. Clearly, the safety of an independent reporting structure that allows for anyone to bring an allegation forward without the fear of retribution of any kind is needed," Checchio said in a letter to the diocese sent Tuesday.

    The Diocese of Metuchen -- which includes 90 parishes in Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties -- has more than 250 priests and seminarians.

    Checchio said he continues to be "saddened and ashamed" of the events that led to the resignation of McCarrick, who founded the Diocese of Metuchen and went on to become the Archbishop of Newark and head of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

    "The case of Archbishop McCarrick demonstrates that the culture of the church is changing and that no one is exempt from its censure - regardless of a person's rank or status, or the number of years that have passed since an incident occurred," Checchio wrote.

    McCarrick, 88, resigned from the College of Cardinals last month after an allegation he sexually abused an altar boy nearly 50 years ago in New York City was found to be credible. Pope Francis ordered the priest, who is living in Washington, D.C., to conduct a "life of prayer and penance" as he awaits a church trial.

    McCarrick has said he does not remember the incident from 50 years ago and believes he did nothing wrong. He has said he will cooperate with any investigation.

    Another man has since come forward to say McCarrick sexually abused him for years, beginning when the man was an 11-year-old in New Jersey. 

    After the allegations against McCarrick became public, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen revealed that he had previously been accused of sexual misconduct with three adults during his time in New Jersey.

    Two of those cases resulted in settlements paid to former priests who accused McCarrick of sexual misconduct. 

    Ciolek, a former priest turned lawyer, was paid $80,000 after he said McCarrick would invite him and other young seminarians and priests to a Shore house in Sea Girt, where they would be expected to share a bed with the church leader.

    "In the corporate world, there are ways to report misconduct," Ciolek, 57, told the New York Times last month. "You have an H.R. contact, you have a legal department, or you have anonymous reporting, you have systems."

    Another priest received a $100,000 settlement from the church in 2007 after he alleged McCarrick would get in bed with him and wrap his arms and legs around him. The priest also alleged he saw McCarrick having sex with another young priest during a fishing trip.

    In the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin responded to the allegations against McCarrick by inviting any priests who had been abused to come forward.

    The seminaries where priests train in the archdiocese are affiliated with Seton Hall University, Tobin said. So, the university's sexual harassment reporting policies and procedures apply to any seminarian accusing a priest of abuse.

    "Shortly after the original announcement in June concerning the allegations from New York, I invited all priests of the archdiocese to a prayer service and an opportunity to share their thoughts about the recent revelations involving Archbishop McCarrick. During that meeting, I again offered to meet privately with any priest who experienced abuse while a seminarian," Tobin said in a statement.

    Tobin also brought the issue up with the U.S. Conference of Bishops, his spokesman said.

    Last week, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he has also convened a series of meeting with his group's leaders to discuss what changes the Catholic Church can make in response to the McCarrick allegations.

    "These failures raise serious questions. Why weren't these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to church officials? Why wasn't this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?" DiNardo said.

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.

     

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    The two were arrested when they tried to steal a similar jar at another 7-Eleven Watch video

    A homeless man and woman seen on video stealing a charity donation jar from a convenience store in Old Bridge last week were arrested Tuesday before they attempted to pull off the same crime at a different 7-Eleven in town, authorities said. 

    Michael Locurto, 47 and Angela Cichetti, 49, were charged with two counts each of theft of movable property and possession of stolen property a day after police posted surveillance footage of the crime on the department's Facebook page.

    Locurto and Cichetti were arrested around 7 a.m. at the 7-Eleven on Route 516 and Gaub Road after someone recognized them from the social media post and called police, according to Capt. Joseph Mandola.   

    The canisters contained about $141 intended to go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association Summer Camp and Feeding America, a hunger relief organization. Police also found about $180 in loose change in their car that might be from other thefts, Mandola said. 

    7-eleven.jpgMichael Locurto and Angela Cichetti (Old Bridge police)

    The pair were recorded when they entered a 7-Eleven on Route 9 north and Phillips Drive on Aug. 1. As Cichetti distracted an employee, Locurto put the jar into a bag before they fled in a dark-colored SUV, police said.

    On Monday morning, police posted two videos on the department's Facebook page and asked the public for help identifying the culprits.  

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

     


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