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    Consider adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue.

    Petfinder, the for-profit internet company that operates the largest online pet adoption website serving all of North America, put this list together of common adoption myths in the hope that more people will adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescues.

    "I don't know what I'm getting."

    There is likely more information available on adoptable animals than pets for purchase in pet stores. Many of the pets from rescue groups are in foster care, living with their fosterer 24/7; information on their personality and habits is typically vast. Even shelters have a very good idea about how the dogs and cats in their care behave with people and other animals.

    "I can't find what I want at a shelter."

    Not only are their breed-specific rescue groups, but some rescues and shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds. There are even means on to be notified when certain breeds are posted for adoption.

    "I can get a pet for free from a friend or acquaintance; why pay an adoption fee?"

    The 'free pet' from a source other than a shelter or rescue group isn't necessarily free. Adoption fees usually cover a number of services and treatments including spay/neuter and veterinary checkups. Covering these costs on your own would call for spending the following estimated amounts:

    * Spay/neuter: $150-$300

    * Distemper vaccination: $20-$30, twice

    * Rabies vaccination: $15-$25

    * Heartworm test: $15-$35

    * Flea/tick treatment: $50-$200

    * Microchip: $25-$50

    "Pets are in shelters because they don't make good pets."

    Here are the main reasons animals end up in shelters or with rescue groups:

    * Owners have to move, pets not allowed

    * Allergies

    * Owner having personal problems

    * Too many, no room for littermates

    * Owner can no longer afford a pet

    * Owner's health does not allow for pet care

    While no one can say that every pet adopted from a shelter or rescue will work out perfectly, it's important to remember that misinformation about these homeless animals often keeps them from finding loving homes.

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

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    Fairness to litigants - not ripping people off with fees and court surcharges and license suspensions - should be the aim of municipal courts. Watch video

    If you've ever spent a few hours in a municipal court emptying your wallet for a trivial violation - maybe a $60 fine for not having a yard sale permit, or $120 for not renewing Fido's license, or $180 for failing to keep your lawn cut, topped off by a $120 fee that nobody can describe or justify - you know it's time to butcher this cash cow.

    If that sounded like hyperbole, be assured that our highest court and our Legislature say otherwise: The municipal court system, which is the last place anyone ever seems to find any justice, is overdue for a makeover.

    It will come in the form of sweeping legislation that will be introduced later this month, most of it fashioned after a meticulous report from a state Supreme Court panel formed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner that depicts local courts as the civic ATM, which cops and judges use to plug municipal budgets and plunder the poor.

    The committee was asked to reform a broken and corrupt system, and among its 50-plus suggestions were six tasks for the Legislature. One of the bill's authors believes he can check each box, with emphasis on eliminating the profit motive that often perverts the administration of justice.

    "If we want to begin to restore people's justifiably shaken faith in their elected officials," said Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, "it's time we act to prevent government from victimizing the people we're all here to serve."

    Cities and towns have always used the courts to generate revenue. New Jersey's 524 municipal courts handle roughly six million cases a year - most of them traffic ordinance violations, small claims cases, and domestic cases - and take in more than $400 million. They keep more than one half, and share the rest with the county and the state.

    That means there is an unquenchable profit motive, and it often borders on cruelty. The system disproportionately punishes the poor with an endless cycle of surcharges, which the local judge is often happy to impose, because he is beholden to the town officials who appointed him. For example, as the report pointed out, the $130 fine for failing to inspect a car can mushroom to $1,500 before long.

    So O'Scanlon's bill will mandate that towns use an "independent" process to assess qualifications for the appointment of municipal judges, rather than leaving it up to town officials. The current system leads to hires such as former Monmouth County judge Richard B. Thompson, who converted 5,000 motor vehicle fines to contempt of court fines without any legal basis.

    That ticket-fixing scheme pleased his overseers: Towns split the revenue from motor vehicle fines with the county, but fines from ordinance violations (such as contempt of court) go exclusively to the municipality, so revenue spiked by $500,000 in the nine towns that occupied Thompson's fiefdom.

    This judge is tired of towns using courts like ATMs | Editorial

    So part of O'Scanlon's bill is to take the money away from municipalities and "collectivize" all fines at the county level, then redistribute them to the towns. "That not only removes the profit incentive from cops and judges, it promotes court consolidation," he said, citing another panel priority.

    He also seeks to extend judicial terms to five years, find alternatives to license suspensions, and cap fines.

    A potential snag is that such a bill could make his colleagues cranky: The Asbury Park Press counted nine members of the Legislature who earn wages through the municipal court system, and some are ranking members of the judiciary committees. More pushback will come from the League of Municipalities, which believes local officials should retain the right to make judicial appointments.

    But the need for reform is irrefutable. As Rabner put it last month, the municipal court is the face of the Judiciary, and it "must adhere to the Judiciary's high standards of integrity." That cannot happen as long as cops and judges consider fundraising a greater priority than the administration of justice.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.

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    The 30 strikers to watch entering the 2018 season.

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    A Middlesex County dentist was arrested Monday on criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child charges

    A Middlesex County dentist was arrested Monday on charges accusing him of improperly touching three of his female employees, including one who was a minor teen at the time, authorities said. 

    Richard Goldberg, of Marlboro's Morganville neighborhood, was charged with three counts of criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of the child, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey announced. 

    Goldberg2.jpgDr. Richard Goldberg, police photo 

    An investigation by the Monroe Police Department - where he practices - found the 47-year-old dentist improperly touched three female employees, including one who was 17 at the time, at his office on Spotswood Englishtown Road, the prosecutor's office said.

    The sexual misconduct allegedly occurred at his office from July 2016 through this month, officials said. 

    NJ Advance Media was unable to reach Goldberg at his office Monday evening.

    According to his practice's website, Goldberg, who offers a full range of dentistry, from pediatrics to implant work and oral surgery, attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

    He did his residency at at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, and was an associate dentist in Brick, South Amboy and Howell before opening his own practice.

    He's scheduled to have his first court appearance in Superior Court in New Brunswick on Sept. 13. 

    The investigation is ongoing, and authorities ask anyone with information to contact Monroe Detective Brian Dziomba at 732-721-0222 ext. 147 or prosecutor's Detective Edmund Morris at 732-745-4194. 

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find on Facebook.

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    The alleged assault took place in a courtroom during the sentencing of a former Rutgers football player in an armed robbery case.

    A Philadelphia woman accused of attacking an NJ Advance Media reporter from behind during a sentencing in a New Brunswick courtroom earlier this month will hire a private attorney to fight the assault charge against her, she told a municipal court judge Monday.

    After expressing her intent to plead not guilty, Trudy Smith told Judge James P. Hoebich her mother had identified a lawyer she would be retaining in lieu of representation by the state Public Defender's Office.

    She did not immediately identify her new defense counsel to the court.

    Asked by Hoebich whether she understood her rights, Smith replied only: "Yes."

    Smith, 23, was arrested by Middlesex County sheriff's officers after she allegedly attacked reporter Taylor Tiamoyo Harris at the county courthouse on Aug. 3 during the sentencing of Tejay Johnson, a former Rutgers football player who pleaded guilty to a string of armed robberies.

    Harris was on assignment for NJ Advance Media, which provides content to both and its affiliated newspapers, which include The Star-Ledger.

    Harris, who had obtained permission from the court to photograph the sentencing, said she was sitting facing forward in the courtroom when Smith, seated behind her, stood up and pulled Harris' hair before striking her in the face.

    The reporter said she had heard Smith yelling just prior to the attack, asking why Harris -- who 30 to 40 minutes before had stood to take photographs -- was in the courtroom.

    Sheriff's officers pulled Smith away and ultimately issued her a summons to appear on a charge of simple assault, a municipal-level offense that carries a potential sentence of up to six months in jail.

    Hoebich asked Smith to notify the court once she had secured her new legal representation. It was not immediately clear when she would next appear in court.

    Smith's connection to the Johnson case remains unclear.

    Leaving the municipal building Monday afternoon, neither Smith nor her mother would comment on the charges or give the name of an attorney who could comment. "Thank you, though," her mother told a reporter.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriartyFind on Facebook.

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    The 31-year-old was hit as he crossed Route 1 in Woodbridge earlier this month

    Woodbridge police are asking for the public's help as they continue to search for a hit-and-run driver who struck and killed a 31-year-old township man along Route 1 earlier this month.

    Investigators have determined the vehicle that hit John Kukuch Jr. on Aug. 13 was a black or dark-colored, new model, smaller SUV. 

    The SUV is believed to have front, passenger-side damage to the headlight and possible damage to the passenger-side mirror, according to police. They don't know the precise make or model of the vehicle.

    14-year-old hit-and-run victim suffered skull fractures, family says

    Kukuch was struck at 1:23 a.m. in the right lane on the southbound side of the highway near CloverLeaf Memorial Park, just past the exit for Route 35. The driver fled without stopping. 

    Authorities ask anyone with information to call Woodbridge police officer Stephen Botti at 732-634-7700, extension 6516 or prosecutor's office Det. Donald Heck at 732-745-8842.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.



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    The ex-N.J. resident was arrested with his girlfriend on Saturday after they met with an undercover law enforcement officer

    When former Woodbridge resident Narsan Lingala approached the hitman he wanted to hire, he showed up to the meeting with more than just his ex-wife's name in mind -- he had photos of her and her home.

    That's according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, which on Saturday arrested Lingala and his girlfriend Sandya Reddy on attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

    The office alleges the hitman they met with was an undercover officer, and the suspects were there to discuss the planned killing of Lingala's ex-wife, a North Brunswick resident.

    Documents reviewed by NJ Advance Media on Monday in connection with the case indicate detectives recorded phone calls with the couple, who now live in Noblesville, Indiana, outside Indianapolis.

    After her arrest in Woodbridge on Saturday, investigators said, Reddy, 51, gave a videotaped statement to police in which she admitted her knowledge of the murder plot.

    In a statement announcing the arrests, the prosecutor's office and township police said the charges stemmed from a three-month investigation conducted with the help of the FBI.

    The prosecutor's office has not publicly commented as to an alleged motive, though documents indicate Lingala, 54, has a past history of domestic violence allegations, having previously been served with a temporary restraining order.

    Superior Court records show he was charged criminally in 2012 with contempt of court for an alleged restraining order violation, but the matter ultimately was transferred to family court.

    Lingala has owned his own information technology consulting company, LMN Solutions Inc. since 2008. His LinkedIn page also listed multiple other short-term IT jobs, including a 2016 gig working on servers for the Tennessee Department of Treasury.

    He may have been facing financial issues, according to several court filings.

    A 2017 appellate court decision in New Jersey, in which the court ruled against him, shows Lingala had agreed to pay $358 a week in child support to his ex-wife. In his unsuccessful appeal, he argued the agreement should have been nullified because his income was overestimated and because he'd been in handcuffs - in court - during part of the negotiations.

    Lingala's detention in that instance was for allegedly violating a restraining order in Massachusetts.

    Ask Alexa

    Lingala also has been named in lawsuits in Superior Court over the last few years related to a business deal that fell through when he allegedly lost his financing during the purchase of a construction company in 2015.

    Both Lingala and Reddy were scheduled to make their initial court appearances on Monday afternoon. Court records show the prosecutor's office has filed motions to keep each jailed pending the end of their respective case.

    Lingala's court-appointed attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Monday evening.

    It was not immediately clear from court records whether Reddy had an attorney who could comment on the charges.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett

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    As Gov. Murphy mulls a statewide fees for single-use bags, these communities have decided to take matters into their own hands.

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    Looking for a safety school? Want to know your chances of getting into Princeton? Find out how hard it is to get into these New Jersey colleges.

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    Check out the games to keep an eye on at the tail end of the summer.

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    The couple was not hurt during the Saturday morning incident.

    Former Gov. Jim McGreevey's parents were the victims of a home invasion in their Carteret home early Saturday morning, sources told The Jersey Journal.

    Two men entered the couple's residence and held them at gunpoint, demanding money and valuables, the sources said. The ex-governor's parents were rattled but not physically harmed, they said.

    Neither man has been found but authorities have identified at least one of them, according to the sources. A car connected to the suspects was later found in Jersey City, the sources said.

    A request for comment from McGreevey, who lives in Jersey City, was not returned. The former governor runs a prisoner re-entry program based in Jersey City that has expanded to include eight other locations.

    A Carteret police spokesman referred all questions to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey, who said in a statement that his office is investigating the Aug. 18 incident along with other law enforcement authorities.

    Carteret borders Woodbridge, where McGreevey was mayor from 1992 to 2002.

    An earlier version of this story should have said McGreevey's tenure as Woodbridge mayor began in 1992.

    Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

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    The suit was filed after the ex-principal saw a letter penned by the board member.

    A former principal at Lincoln School in Edison will receive more than $300,000 in a settlement following a lawsuit he filed against the school, claiming they didn't renew his contract because he was openly gay. 

    Timothy Hart, who was hired by the district in 2004, filed a discrimination suit against the school in 2017 after finding out one of the school board members, Theresa Ward, penned a letter to the administration calling Hart a "brazen hussy."

    The letter also said, Hart "should be removed before he does something really weird," court documents showed. 

    Hart alleges that Ward convinced the majority of the board to vote against renewing his contract despite school Superintendent Richard O'Malley's recommendation to rehire Hart, Hart's attorney, R. Armen McOmber of McOmber & McOmber, P.C., told NJ Advance Media last year.

    Neither Edison School Board President Jerry Shi or nor Vice President Beth Moroney were immediately available for comment. 

    Hart will receive a $307,500 settlement, which was approved by the Edison Board of Education late last month. The board said the settlement was made with no admission of guilt by the district.

    "I am pleased with this settlement and feel that it is a reasonable conclusion to this matter," said Hart, who is now a principal in the Livingston School District. "I am proud of what was accomplished during my time leading Lincoln Elementary School."

    McOmber said he is satisfied with the settlement and believes it is a fair conclusion for Hart.

    "We are proud to have represented Mr. Hart, who is an outstanding educator and can now move forward with this behind him."     

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. 


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    The Longhorned tick was discovered on the floor of a home with a dog, marking the sixth county where the swarming parasite has been discovered in New Jersey. Watch video

    An invasive exotic tick species spreading in New Jersey has turned up in Monmouth County, marking the sixth county to see the tiny parasite, officials said Tuesday.

    The Longhorned tick, also known as the East Asian tick, was discovered on the floor of a home with a dog, but it was not clear if it was ever attached to the pooch, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Another dog also recently visited the house.

    "It is important for the public to continue to submit tick samples as this will allow us to identify new areas where this tick may be located," Dr. Manoel Tamassia, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian, said in a statement. "Only with this knowledge, will we be able to make decisions at local and national levels."

    This invasive tick is cloning itself. Researchers are racing to contain it.

    The tick has previously been found in parks, including Davidson Mill County Pond Park in Middlesex County and Watchung Reservation, Houdaille Quarry Park, and Briant Park in Union County, according to officials.

    Longhorned ticks have also been confirmed in New York, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Arkansas. How the tick, which is native to China, Russia and the Korean Peninsula, arrived in the United States remains a mystery, but officials believe it could have arrived on a dog.

    Last August, a farmer went to a Hunterdon County health office covered in thousands of the ticks after she was sheering an Icelandic sheep, named Hannah. Experts identified the Longhorned tick, which was not previously reported in the United States.

    "Various local, state, and federal animal health agencies, as well as Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, continue to work together to identify the range of the Longhorned tick in New Jersey," state officials said in a news release. "Longhorned ticks that have been collected in New Jersey thus far have tested negative for various human and animal pathogens."

    Ask Alexa

    Similar to deer ticks, the nymphs of the Longhorned tick are extremely small and resemble tiny spiders, the agriculture department said. They can easily go unnoticed on animals and people, and have been known to spread disease in other countries. The tiny ticks infest a range of species, including humans, cats, dogs and livestock.

    State agriculture officials setup a phone line for anyone who finds a tick on themselves, pets or livestock and has questions: 1-833-NEWTICK (1-833-639-8425. Tick reports can also be submitted at the NJDA website.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.

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    New Jersey's five dioceses have had to tap into their insurance policies and reserves to pay alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests.

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    The 30-year-old Mercer County man stole from a business in Dunellen while conducting an investigation

    A tax agent for the state Department of Treasury stole money from a Middlesex County business during an investigation, authorities said. 

    Timothy Bailey, 30, of Hamilton, Mercer County, is charged with a fourth-degree count of theft, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Tuesday.

    Former N.J. treasury warehouse supervisor convicted of stealing surplus equipment

    Bailey, a probationary employee, stole "an amount in excess of $200" from an undisclosed business in Dunellen on Aug. 16, officials said. 

    Bailey, a special agent trainee for the state treasury department's taxation division, was suspended with pay following his arrest. Bailey's annual salary is $48,100, according to state pension records. 

    He was sworn in in December. 

    Anyone with information about the ongoing investigation into Bailey is asked to call Det. Kevin Schroeck of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at 732-745-3927 or Special Agent in Charge Charles Giblin of the New Jersey Department of Treasury at 609-588-5017.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.



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    The campaign mailers sent last year targeting two minority candidates, stamped "Deport," led to worldwide coverage but we still don't know who sent the fliers.

    The fliers landed in mailboxes around the township less than a week before Election Day, carrying racist attacks and pledging to "Make Edison Great Again!"

    "The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town!" the fliers said. On one side were pictures of candidates for the local, non-partisan school board, Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel, stamped with the word "Deport."

    The bald bigotry of anonymous campaign mailers targeting two minority candidates in the state's fifth-largest town -- known for its ethnic diversity and its tumultuous municipal politics-- lit a firestorm in the local campaign and drew media coverage from around the globe.

    The international attention quickly subsided when Shi and Patel won seats on the local school board despite the racist smears. But since last year, the lingering question of who sent the fliers has fueled whispered speculation among the township's political class as formal investigations quietly bounced between local, state and federal law enforcement.

    Many saw the fliers as a xenophobic attack on minority groups by those seeking to uphold the status quo. Others quietly harbored suspicion it was a calculated move to rally Indian and East Asian voters and boost candidates backed by the town's powerful local Democratic party.  

    Now, the town council is being asked to pen a resolution calling on Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's office to investigate the mailers, according to an email from a former mayoral candidate, Keith Hahn, sent to all township employees and obtained by NJ Advance Media.

    But NJ Advance Media has learned the Attorney General's Office has already been quietly investigating for months, identifying at least one person of interest but no clear suspects.

    Two sources with knowledge of the matter who spoke under condition of anonymity told the news outlet that investigators at the Division of Criminal Justice's bias crimes unit were trying track the origin of the stamps used on the fliers, enlisting the help of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

    Joe Blaetler -- a private investigator who said he was hired by a law firm, which he declined to name, to look into the source of the mailers -- told the news outlet state investigators interviewed him and confirmed they had connected the stamps to a suspect. They did not identify the person, he said.

    It is still unclear, however, what crime, if any, was committed in sending out the fliers. Depending on a range of factors - including who paid for them, for what purpose and how many were sent, the total of which was unknown - the offense could range from criminal charges to civil campaign violations, the sources said. 

    Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the attorney general, said he could "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of an investigation by his office. A spokesman for the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission also declined to comment on whether his agency was investigating. 

    More than nine months after the controversy roiled the Middlesex County town, private debates over the mailers are expected to bubble over into public view on Wednesday evening at the town council meeting. 

    Hahn, the former chairman of the town Democratic party who ran unsuccessfully for mayor as a Republican after a primary loss, has been taking to social media to push for the resolution as a "sign of solidarity." Hahn has called on Edison's Democratic mayor, Thomas Lankey, as well as the local party leaders -- Democratic Chairman Shariq Ahmad and Republican Chairwoman Sylvia Engle -- to publicly support the calls for an investigation.  

    Lankey declined to comment on the email from Hahn. When the fliers originally made news, the mayor denounced them and called on his administration to do everything to expose who was behind the mailers. 

    Hahn, an Edison police officer, said he was interviewed by state investigators two months ago and sat down with local authorities in the initial stages of the case.

    The two candidates on the mailers - Shi, who is Chinese-American, and Patel, who is Indian-American - said they had no knowledge of who sent them.

    "If I knew who sent the fliers we would not be here," said Shi, who confirmed he was contacted by state investigators but would not say whether he spoke with local authorities previously.

    "Let's let their investigation go," he said.

    Two law enforcement sources say Shi refused to meet with Edison authorities or the Postal Inspector, who was also involved in the early stages of the investigation.

    Patel confirmed she had been interviewed by authorities but declined to comment further, saying she didn't want to interfere with the investigation.

    "I hope that they do find whoever it is that was part of this," she said.

    Two sources said in the days leading up to the election, she confided in friends that the fliers were particularly troubling because the photo of her came from her personal Facebook page and had privacy settings that would only make it available to those in her friend network. 

    Patel met with Edison police, who initially handled the case, in the days after the fliers were sent and later agreed to be interviewed by state investigators who visited her home earlier this year, according to the two sources. 

    Ahmad -- who took over as Edison Democratic Chairman last year after a filing flap involving Hahn, now a registered Republican -- said he's had no contact with the Attorney General's Office but has kept tabs on the case through his local connections.

    He declined to comment on whether or not he'd spoken with local investigators, saying the case was ongoing. 

    Engel said she had no knowledge of who sent the fliers and denounced the mailer's message, saying, even though her party supported the opposing ticket, Patel and Shi had an "absolute right to run."

    The local Republican leader said she has not been contacted by state or township authorities. 

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at

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    Which top returning goal scorer will light up the state again in 2018?

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    The Hub City has committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 through the creation of a community energy aggregation program.

    It happened quickly and without much fanfare, but New Brunswick's leaders put the city on a path to total green energy use in less than three decades.

    The New Brunswick City Council passed an ordinance last week that commits the Hub City to a 100 percent renewable energy supply by 2035.

    That's 15 years ahead of Gov. Phil Murphy's goal for all of New Jersey to be powered by renewable energy by 2050. New Brunswick is believed to be the first municipality in the state to commit to a total green energy goal.

    Gov. Murphy praised New Brunswick's move in a tweet following the vote.

    "A lot of towns have passed pledges, but this will actually put rhetoric to action," said Junior Romero, the New Jersey regional organizer for Food and Water Watch. Romero's group collected the necessary petition signatures to get the ordinance in front of the New Brunswick city council.

    The ordinance cites the need to cut carbon emissions in order to fight climate change as the driving need for renewable energy.

    The ordinance guides New Brunswick to a green future through the creation of the New Brunswick Community Energy Aggregation program. 

    The ordinance requires that this new program purchase at least 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. That share increases to 50 percent by 2024, and gets to 100 percent at 2035.

    In New Jersey, electric customers are allowed to contract with third-parties for their energy supply. Through community energy aggregation, a municipality negotiates for a bulk rate, discounted electric supply for all electric customers within the municipality.

    The goal is to help New Jerseyans get more affordable electricity.

    "I think the statute works pretty well," said Stefanie Brand, the director of the state rate counsel division. Brand's office represents the interest of New Jersey utility customers, and any community energy aggregation contract must receive its approval.

    Community energy aggregation programs like this one are enabled by a state law called The Government Energy Aggregation Act.

    According to the BPU's Director of the Division of State Energy Services Thomas Walker, dozens of Garden State municipalities have created community energy aggregation programs. 

    Romero noted that in Gloucester Township, rates went down 7 percent after the town started its program.

    But before New Brunswick passed this new ordinance, none of those programs were created with the goal of transitioning to complete renewable energy.

    Food and Water Watch has plans to push similar ordinances in other communities around the state, according to Romero. The next push could come just a few miles away in Woodbridge.

    "Woodbridge has supported fossil fuel industry in the past, like the power plant that's currently there," Romero said. "So we're eyeing them next."

    New Brunswick may have a tricky time meeting the goals of the new ordinance. Brand pointed out that renewable energy remains more expensive than energy from fossil fuels like natural gas, and community aggregation programs cannot force customers to pay a more expensive rate.

    Michael Sol Warren may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MSolDub. Find on Facebook.

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    One of the Rutgers players charged Thursday had a previous run-in with the law this year.

    During a 12-day break from Rutgers spring camp, now-former redshirt freshman cornerback Edwin Lopez was arrested for operating a vehicle while in possession of a small amount of marijuana and the unlawful possession of a gun, according to a complaint obtained by NJ Advance Media.

    Lopez was pulled over by a Cherry Hill police officer on March 14, according to documents obtained through an Open Public Records Act request.

    Lopez was charged with knowingly possessing a handgun without obtaining a permit to carry, a second-degree offense, according to the complaint. The weapon was a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson that had its serial number defaced, according to the complaint.

    Lopez was also charged with a fourth-degree offense for allegedly having the handgun concealed in the trunk of his car.

    After getting dropped from Camden County Superior Court to Cherry Hill Municipal Court, the marijuana possession charge was dismissed on May 30, and two gun charges were downgraded to disturbing the peace and a $500 fine with $33 in court costs.

    This previously unreported arrest came to light during a routine records check by NJ Advance Media. K.J. Gray, who was also charged Wednesday and was previously dismissed from the football program in July, also had an unrelated arrest on a drug charge come to light after being discovered by NJ Advance Media. However, two Rutgers officials said the school had no knowledge of that incident prior to Gray's dismissal.

    Lopez, a 19-year old Camden native, was one of eight Rutgers football players charged Wednesday in a credit-card fraud scheme, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Rutgers University Police Department Chief Kenneth Cop said.

    Lopez was charged with conspiracy to commit theft by deception, money laundering and fraudulent use of credit cards. Each of the allegations are third-degree offenses. He is scheduled to appear in  Middlesex County Superior Court on September 13.

    8 Rutgers football players charged in credit card fraud scheme

    Lopez is no longer with the Rutgers football program. Multiple attempts to interview him since July have been unsuccessful. He transferred to Garden City Community College in Kansas earlier this month after getting suspended from the football program this summer.

    Lopez's attorney, Troy Archie, declined requests to be interviewed, but wrote in an email: "Obviously from the records there were other people charged and Edwin's 'alleged' involvement resulted in a downgrade to municipal court. It's my position that in the event of a trial on any level, superior court or municipal court, he would have been totally exonerated.''

    Archie confirmed that the gun belonged to a passenger in Lopez's car and said, "I believe if the true owner had stepped forward at the scene, Edwin never gets arrested or charged.''

    According to a Rutgers official with knowledge of the situation, Lopez was suspended for the final 12 practices of spring camp while his legal case ran its course.

    A 5-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back who didn't play as a true freshman last fall,  Lopez was listed on the Scarlet-White Game roster on April 14 but didn't participate in the intrasquad scrimmage.

    After his charges were reduced to a fine, Lopez was cleared to participate in the team's summer program, the Rutgers official said.

    But Lopez was suspended from participating in Rutgers training camp once university officials had an understanding of the scope of the credit-card fraud investigation, a school official said.

    NJ Advance Media reporters Zack Rosenblatt and James Kratch contributed to this report.

    Keith Sargeant may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @KSargeantNJ. Find Rutgers Football on Facebook.

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    At least five people, including two children, were rushed to an area hospital, according to police.

    At least five people - including two children - were hurt in a fatal chain-reaction crash involving eight vehicles on Route 1 in Edison during the Wednesday evening rush hour, officials said.

    One motorist suffered "potentially life-threatening injuries" in the the wreck, which occurred around 5:20 p.m. on the southbound highway near Prince Street, police spokesman Lt. Robert Dudash said in a statement.

    Andrea Boulton, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, confirmed the crash was fatal, but did not immediately release more details.

    The prosecutor's office was responding to investigate, the spokeswoman said.

    The crash involved a tractor-trailer and minivan along with six other cars. Edison firefighters cut apart five badly damaged cars to free trapped drivers, township officials said in the statement. 

    "Many of the people removed from those vehicles sustained cuts, scrapes and complained of legs, back and shoulder pain," said Edison Fire Department Capt. Andy Toth.

    Prosecutor's office investigators, the Middlesex County hazardous materials unit, state Department of Transportation and local emergency responders remained at the scene Wednesday night.

    The highway was blocked from Main to Prince Street, according to an alert from police. 

    More information was not immediately released.


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