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    Prosecutors in Ocean County have filed action with the state's Appellate Division to keep the main jailed pending trial

    An Essex County man who authorities say was arrested last month with more than 8 kilos of cocaine and a loaded AK-47 could be released from jail pending an appellate court ruling. 

    Rasheed Sanders, 37, of East Orange, was arrested inside an apartment on Lawrence Street in Lakewood on Feb. 17 during the execution of a search warrant by Ocean County narcotics investigators.

    Police found 8.5 kilos of cocaine and a loaded AK-47 rifle inside the apartment's kitchen.

    Sanders R.pngRasheed Sanders 

    A further search of the residence yielded another magazine of bullets for the rifle, six cellphones and drug paraphernalia, according to Ocean County Assistant Prosecutor Jamie Schion. 

    Sanders is charged with multiple drug dealing felonies.

    He appeared in court on Tuesday for a detention hearing, and Ocean County Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels decided to release Sanders on level-three monitoring, which includes weekly check-ins with authorities.

    But before Sanders could be released, prosecutors asked he be held while they filed an appeal. The judge granted the stay and the hearing continued Thursday. 

    In court Thursday, defense attorney Michael Montanari argued that keeping his client in court any longer was belaboring the issue. 

    "The only one who is going to suffer here is my client," Montanari said. "The prosecution is just trying to get their ducks in a line."  

    "An AK 47 is a killing machine," Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor John Tassini said in arguing why he believed their appeal would be granted. "There is no reason to have one other than to cause harm."

    Tassini also told the judge the state believes Sanders is "part of a multi-state drug network," and would have the ability to flee. He believes the state's Appellate Division will likely have a response in a day or two and asked that Sanders be held until then. 

    Daniels ordered prosecutors to get a stay from the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division by 4 p.m. Friday. 

    "The prosecutor's office is feverishly working to put together this appeal to stop that release at all cost based on him having the assault weapon fully loaded within his reach," said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. "And with regards to the amount of product, over 8 kilos, and our concern that he is part of a major network that will assist him in disappearing."

    Reporter Alex Napoliello contributed to this report.

    Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify comments made by Judge Daniels on a deadline for prosecutors to file a stay from the appellate division. 

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

     

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    Oscar James Sr., who owned a consulting company, was sentenced in Newark federal court on Thursday.

    political consultant who worked for two former Newark mayors was sentenced to a year of home supervision Thursday after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. 

    Oscar James Sr., 60, admitted he underreported his income from his consulting business, The James Group, between 2008-09, cheating the government of about $113,000 in taxes, court records show. 

    Appearing before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark, James said he took full responsibility for his actions.

    "My family, my profession and everything that's important to me has been impacted by my bad choice," James said, choking up. "I wish I could take them all back, but I can't." 

    McNulty said he would not order James, who was accompanied to court by his sister and his brother-in-law, to pay a fine because he lacked the ability to do so. James currently has no source of income, his attorney, Adalgiza Nunez, told the court.  

    James will not face prison time primarily because he met with federal prosecutors several times after he was charged and provided information that was helpful, although it has not led to other indictments, McNulty said. He and the attorneys declined to reveal the type of information James gave prosecutors, citing the sensitive nature of the investigation.

    The judge said he also believed James was remorseful and was unlikely to commit another financial crime. 

    Nunez and James' sister said after the hearing that James would not comment on his sentence.

    James, of West Orange, is the father of former South Ward Councilman Oscar James Jr., who lost his seat to Ras Baraka (now Newark's mayor) in 2010. James Sr. worked as an aide to former Mayor Sharpe James and later as an advisor to former Mayor Cory Booker, now a U.S. Senator for New Jersey. 

    Booker's camp did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the sentencing.

    In October, James pleaded guilty to underreporting his income between Jan. 2008 and Dec. 2009 by $320,000. He had actually earned $595,265 over the two years -- making slightly over $300,000 in 2008 and roughly $288,000 the following year, documents show.

    Nunez wrote a letter to Judge McNulty last week, requesting to delay the sentencing so her client could cash in on a $10,000 two-month job with the Committee for School Equality, Inc. 

    She said James' political consulting contracts were cancelled after he pleaded guilty last year and this was his first offer of employment since then. James was working part-time with UPS through the holidays, making $10 an hour, the letter said. 

    "He is of retirement age, this is most likely the last opportunity he will have for employment in his field, his alternative employment does not cover his basic expenses, and he is facing foreclosure and divorce," Nunez wrote. 

    McNulty denied the request. 

    James previously received no-bid contracts from the now-defunct Newark Watershed Corporation, according to the state. 

    A scathing 2014 investigative report by the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller found the watershed corporation paid James $162,000 between 2007 and 2010 for "consulting matters." The report outlined how the watershed corporation recklessly spent millions in public money with little to no oversight. 

    James' son, Oscar James Jr., was then serving on the watershed's board of trustees. The consulting contract was awarded without approval from the full board, the report found. 

    Federal authorities have since charged and sentenced multiple people in connection with a million dollar kickback scheme at the agency that eventually led to its dismantling.

    The former watershed director, Linda Watkins Brashear, of West Orange, is serving more than eight years in federal prison for soliciting bribes in exchange for no-work or over-inflated contracts. Other managers, contractors and businessmen have been ensnared in the federal probe.

    While James may no longer be getting a paycheck for his consulting work, he remains involved in Newark politics. 

    Records filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission show James made a $2,600 in-kind contribution in January as a fundraising consultant for Terrance Bankston.

    Bankston plans to run for South Ward councilman in May's election, challenging incumbent John Sharpe James, the son of former Mayor James. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

    Marisa Iati may be reached at miati@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Iati or on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    Police say the accident happened around 2:35 p.m.

    Newark police say a pedestrian was hit and killed by a vehicle in the city Saturday afternoon.

    Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 4.16.30 PM.png 

    The person was walking at the intersection of Broad and Division streets at about 2:35 p.m. when struck, according to Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose.

    The victim was pronounced at the scene by EMS, Ambrose said.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is handling the investigation, but officials in the agency did not provide any additional details.

    No further information about the victim, the vehicle or the accident was released. 

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

    Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    Police have not yet released the identify of the victim.

    Authorities say a body was found in a lake in Weequahic Park Saturday afternoon.

    Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating, according to Thomas Fennelly, the agency's chief assistant prosecutor.

    The cause and manner of death will be determined by an autopsy by the Regional Medical Examiner's Office, Fennelly said. 

    No further information was made available. 

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

    Find NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    Check to see when your power will be restored with our outage tracker and on your utility company's website.


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    Howard Unruh killed 13 people in 1949, including relatives of a student who survived the Parkland school shooting.


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    St. Vincent Academy nears 150th Anniversary

    The two women were discussing what Saint Vincent Academy in Newark meant to them, and both were at a loss for words.

    " I can't really explain it," said Samantha Joseph, as tears came to her eyes.

    "I came in very insecure, very timid. But I learned we are all special. God doesn't make junk.

    "I found my voice here ... ," she continued, then stopped as the tears breached her eyelids and spilled onto her cheek.

    "Now you got me going," said Jo Ann Caporaso, who earlier said Saint Vincent was "her life."

    "Now I'm getting choked up," she said.

    They reached out and touched hands, a gesture of shared experience, though five decades apart, and a sisterhood that is unconstrained by age, race or background.

    Samantha Joseph is a senior at Saint Vincent and the student forum president. She is an African-American teenager.

    Jo Ann Caporaso is an Italian-American from the Newark's North Ward, who went "kicking and screaming" into the all-girls Catholic school in 1961 and never left. She coached the girls basketball team as an undergraduate at Seton Hall and was hired as a teacher out of college.

    "I had a job offer at a public school in Nutley," Caporaso said, "but I chose to work here. That was a school. This is a learning community. We have a philosophy. We have a mission."

    Education. Spiritual development. Service to the community.

    "The experience of giving service feeds the commitment to service," said Sr. June Favata, who heads the school. "We teach them to love themselves and love one another, that they are sisters in that journey of self-discovery."  

    The result seems to be that once girls walk through the doors of SVA, it gets in their blood. They become enveloped and nurtured in an environment of safety and empowerment.

    "We don't allow them to see themselves as victims," Favata said, a nun in the Sisters of Charity, which founded the school.. "We ask them to find the strengths they have, and the talents given to them by God to share and make the world a better place."

    MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns 

    Saint Vincent Academy's all-male counterpart in Newark is St. Benedict's Prep, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

    It has a long list of prestigious alumni, and a national reputation as an educational institution that didn't buckle and fold under the weight of a changing city but adapted and thrived while still enforcing its standards.

    Fr. Ed Leahy, the headmaster, has been on "60 Minutes" and countless other programs and forums, despite his efforts to deflect attention and make St. Benedict's success about the kids.

    But less than a mile away on West Market Street, SVA can make the same claims. And it, too, will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in the next academic year. It's just that nobody seems to know outside of the SVA sisterhood.

    "What can you say?" Favata said with a pragmatic shrug. "In many respects, it's still a man's world."

    True enough. For the better part of its existence, SVA had a college prep program and a business school, to teach girls secretarial and bookkeeping skills - women's work in the men's corporate world.

    Favata, who has been there 48 years, changed that in the 1970s.

    "We made sure the business school students were college eligible," she said. "In the early '80s, the business school was phased out."

    The world had changed, and again, SVA changed with it.

    The school was opened in 1869, on a hill on West Market Street overlooking the downtown, across the street from the very monastic looking Priory, which is now a jazz club.

    It began as a coed elementary school and a boarding school for young women.

    "It was a 'finishing school' for people of means," Favata said.

    Over the years, it offered "industrial arts" and "classical education" for young women, Favata said.

    In 1967, the elementary school closed.

    The city was changing and SVA survived, and embraced, the change. Today, there are 248 students who pay $5,400 in tuition. The cost of educating each girl is more than double that, but the cost is covered by fundraising.

    "This school has always reflected the face of the city," Caporaso said.

    Whether the girls were German, Irish, Italian, African-American or Hispanic, the school preached that the individual student was "the architect of their learning," Favata said.

    "When you set the bar high, people rise to it," she said.

    Here is a small example of SVA learning. The freshman class read "I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust," by Livia Bitton-Jackson, who now lives in Israel.

    In researching her life, the students learned she had family in America. A few Instagram clicks later, they found her granddaughter, who led them to her daughter in West Orange. In less than a week, 60 girls gathered in an assembly room and made a phone connection with the 87-year-old author.

    "You would have thought it was Beyonce on the phone," said Toni Piccolo, their teacher.

    With awe and politeness beyond their years, the girls asked questions, all proceeded by saying, "It is such an honor to talk to you."

    Bitton-Jackson's message echoes Favata's words about the girls not being allowed to see themselves as victims.

    "Never complain about small things," Bitton-Jackson told them. "Learn tolerance. We suffered only because we were Jews. We didn't do anything wrong. Don't judge by religion or color."

    On March 1, SVA held a women's leadership forum, putting female corporation presidents, media personalities, bankers and attorneys in front of their girls. While none was an SVA graduate, the school could have easily filled the panels with alumni.

    Tai Beauchamp, a contributor to "Today," "The View" and "Wendy Williams," is a graduate. So is aerospace engineer Maria Garzon. Essex County Chief of Detectives Quovella Spruill graduated in 1988. The list goes on in every field: education, health care, technology, law, government, service.

    Samantha Joseph is a senior. Part of her tears, she said, "is that it's (high school) coming to an end. It went by fast, but I am a completely different person."

    Caporaso said SVA had the same effect on her.

    "When I came here, I thought I was the center of the universe," she said. "But it opened up the world to me. I grew spiritually. I gained empathy. We learn here that the world is much bigger, and we can have a role in making it better."

    The bar is high, and the girls reach for it. 

    "What we do best is bring hope," Favata said. "We continue to inspire hope."

    Mark Di Ionno may be reached at mdiionno@starledger.com. Follow The Star-Ledger on Twitter @StarLedger and find us on Facebook.


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    Highlights from the state tournament.


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    What you need to know from the state tournament


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    NJ.com's coverage of the action at Boardwalk Hall on Sunday, continually updated all day.


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    These towns had the highest average property tax bills in New Jersey in 2017.


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    Shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey have pets awaiting adoption.

    If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance.

    Realistically, not everyone can adopt. People who live in apartments or developments that have no-pets policies fall into that category, as do people with allergies or disabilities that will not allow them to care for pets of their own. Here are some suggestions for ways people who want to help can participate in caring for homeless animals.

    * Help out at a local shelter. It's not glamorous work by any means, but it's vital and will be very much appreciated. You can do anything from help walk dogs to bottle feed kittens, help clean kennels or cat's cages or even help with bathing and grooming. Contact your local shelter to find out their policies regarding volunteers.

    * If you're handy, you can lend a hand in many ways. Shelters usually need repairs of many kinds, so fixer-uppers can help out like that. If you sew, quilt or crochet, you can make blankets for your local shelter.

    * Help out at an adoption event. Many shelters and rescue groups participate in local events by hosting a table with pets available for adoption. They also hold these program at malls, pet supply stores and banks, and can always use a helping hand.

    * For galleries like this one and for online adoptions sites, often a shelter or rescue group doesn't have the time or equipment to shoot good photos of their adoptable pets, Something as simple as making yourself available to shoot and provide digital files of pet photos can be a big help.

    * Donate. It doesn't have to be money; shelters need cleaning supplies, pet food, toys for the animals and often even things we don't think twice about getting rid of like old towels and newspapers. Every little bit helps.

    If you don't know where your local animal shelter or rescue group is, a quick online search will reveal a number of results. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to get involved but it provides immeasurable assistance.


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    Medical examiner employees said one company showed up late to death scenes and dropped bodies. Why did it take two years to stop using them to transport the dead? Watch video

    It should have taken about 30 minutes, depending on traffic that day.

    The body in Passaic was fresh and an investigator with New Jersey's busiest medical examiner's office wanted it taken straight to the lab in Newark to figure out how the person died.

    The task fell to a company run by a funeral director with a troubled past, Joseph Fantasia.

    But it would be a full eight hours until state officials saw the body again. It was stacked with other corpses in an unrefrigerated vehicle, briefly stashed in a county morgue and carted between several death scenes across four counties before it was delivered, according to state records.

    One state official described the road trip as "the most egregious treatment of human remains" he'd ever seen by the small group of contractors paid by taxpayers to transport the dead.

    The account was one of more than 70 contract violations tallied against Fantasia's company, which was repeatedly accused of mishandling bodies before it and state officials agreed to end their contract last June, newly uncovered records show.

    An NJ Advance Media investigation published in December revealed that New Jersey's patchwork medical examiner system has been plagued by four decades of neglect and dysfunction, resulting in everything from bungled criminal cases to long delays returning bodies to loved ones.

    ME system in 'desperate need' of reform

    The latest trove of records, obtained using the state Open Public Records Act, shines light on a little-regulated corner of that broken system: the business of transporting bodies from death scenes to laboratories, a crucial link in the chain of custody that can make or break a case.

    For years, red tape and a lack of oversight allowed Fantasia's company to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money as medical examiner staff complained the company carted away bodies in dented and rusty vehicles, used contract employees who failed background checks and violated state rules, according to the records.

    In addition, Fantasia, the owner and manager of Community Funeral Home in Passaic, has been accused of misusing money from funeral customers, failing to pay bills and threatening to "knock out" a state official, according to the records, as well as interviews with funeral directors and medical examiner staff.

    "Joe Fantasia has been a black mark on the industry for a long time," said state Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, who also works as a funeral director, adding he's a "bad actor and an embarrassment."

    FANTASIA.jpgJoseph Fantasia photographed outside Hackettstown home on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)  

    In emails and state records, Fantasia has defended himself as an honest businessman taking on a job few would want.

    Last year, Fantasia surrendered his funeral director's license as part of a consent order with the state Board of Mortuary Sciences over accusations of "acts of dishonesty" and professional misconduct. As part of the agreement, Fantasia admitted no wrongdoing and was allowed to stay in the business of hauling the dead.

    Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, which oversees the state medical examiner's office, said officials were "not aware of any instance where evidence in a criminal investigation was compromised" as a result of the behavior alleged in the medical examiner staff records.

    Aseltine said the office began "a robust dialogue" with the Treasury Department to end the contract in 2015, but it was unable to do so on its own.

    More than 200 pages of records show employees at the state medical examiner's office spent two years building a case to revoke the company's contract before Treasury officials took action, eventually allowing Fantasia to withdraw from the agreement last June.

    Asked why it took so long, Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino, who was recently hired to serve in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration, said she "cannot speak to decisions made by the previous administration."

    Though Fantasia's company no longer works for the state, it still performs transports through a separate contract with the Morris County Medical Examiner's Office, which also serves Sussex and Warren counties. Morris County officials say they've had no complaints.

    Reached by phone and then by email in December, Fantasia said he had asked to end the state contract early because of late payments and other problems with the state medical examiner office.

    "You have no idea what (it) is like to work there," Fantasia said. "I quit on my own accord."

    Contacted again in January and given a summary of the complaints and violations compiled by the state, Fantasia referred questions to his attorney, who did not return multiple messages seeking comment.

    Then, on Feb. 7, NJ Advance Media sent a reporter and photographer to Fantasia's Hackettstown home to photograph him in public and confront him with the news organization's findings.

    Upon seeing the journalists in a car, Fantasia got into a black Cadillac Escalade, drove toward them and began screaming at them. The pair tried to leave the area, but Fantasia and another man in a separate SUV chased them out of the neighborhood and down Route 46.

    Fantasia and the second man eventually boxed in the journalists' car on the highway, stopped traffic, got out and began approaching them on foot. Two off-duty Mount Olive police officers who happened to be on the highway witnessed the chase and intervened.

    No charges were filed, though a police report described the ordeal as a "road rage" incident. Authorities in Mount Olive said an investigation is ongoing.

    'THE NEXT DEAD BODY'

    Fantasia has had more than one angry encounter, records show.

    In September 2015, a death investigator with the state's northern regional office was headed to the scene of a single-engine plane crash in which the pilot had died. He asked a dispatcher to call Fantasia to make sure he was sending a team, according to the documents.

    Fantasia had been feuding with the investigator, whom he accused of "taking food out of my mouth" by sending jobs to other contractors, the records show.

    When the dispatcher got him on the phone, Fantasia allegedly blew up.

    With at least three state employees listening in on the call, Fantasia "threatened to assault the investigator stating that his body would be the next dead body at the crash site that would have to be picked up," according to an incident report filed with the Newark Police Department.

    No criminal charges were filed, although the state Treasury later issued a formal complaint claiming the threat violated the state contract.

    next_dead.jpgAn excerpt of the police report filed by medical examiner staff against Joseph Fantasia.  

    "They are very sneaky in the medical examiner office, by putting me on speakerphone when I was irate at the fact that they continually take business from me on a daily basis," Fantasia wrote in response to the complaint. "Maybe I should file police reports, with the way my men and me are threatened and verbally abused daily by these investigators."

    He never disputed making the threat.

    In New Jersey, the grim task of transporting bodies often falls to contractors because the state does not have the manpower or resources to do it on its own. Fantasia's company was one of three employed by the state medical examiner's office to do the work. A spokesman for the office said neither of the other two companies had been the subject of a formal complaint.

    Fantasia's company has held state contracts going back to at least 2004, though it's unclear how much the company was paid in total. Since 2013, taxpayers have shelled out $1.8 million for body removal, nearly $642,000 of which went to Community Funeral Home, records show.

    DROPPED BODIES

    The spreadsheet compiled by the state medical examiner staff is a catalog of gruesome stories.

    In a six-month span in 2015 alone, they documented more than 70 violations alleging Fantasia's company struggled to meet basic requirements of its contract. The issues were detailed in three formal complaints filed through the Treasury's contract compliance unit.

    There are few regulations for transporting bodies for medical examiner's offices, but there are a few minimum requirements to try and keep contractors in order.

    For example, the contract required drivers arrive within the hour, but those working for Fantasia's company "continually" showed up after 90 minutes or more, blaming traffic or car trouble, according to one complaint. The vehicles were dirty and on a number of occasions broke down, the complaints said.

    At least two employees were supposed to respond to scenes under the contract, but that requirement was repeatedly violated, one complaint said. In one case, a driver arrived with a man he identified as "his father" to help him move a body, according to the records. The man had no ID.

    The state's contract also required all employees who transported bodies to pass a background investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice, but Fantasia struggled to find workers who passed muster, records show.

    "It's hard first of all to find someone to do this job, and when I do they get denied," Fantasia wrote in response to one complaint, dated Feb. 23, 2016. "I ask for explanation and so do they and again (it) falls on deaf ears."

    Then there were the dropped bodies.

    In February 2016, medical examiner staff reported that a driver who arrived alone dropped a body on the ground while removing it from his vehicle outside the Newark lab, records show.

    Security guards watching a surveillance camera saw the fall and alerted investigators, who ran out and found the driver with the body already back on the stretcher, according to one complaint. A staff member later wrote in an e-mail that if the accident hadn't been caught on camera, it would have "translated to unexplained post mortem injuries" that could undermine their investigation.

    failed_to_heed.jpgAn excerpt from internal documents from the medical examiner's office.  

    In August 2016, another official wrote, a driver failed to heed advice not to carry the body of a 300-pound man "down three flights of stairs head first" on a broken stretcher. It fell three times before he made it to the vehicle -- and again at the lab, the official wrote.

    In response to the formal complaints, Fantasia did not dispute many of the allegations. He said his employees had been "reprimanded" for the delay in delivering the body in the Passaic case. He said he had given employees vehicles to take home so they could respond quicker to scenes.

    While there were more than 70 violations tallied against his company, he noted, he moved "over 1,800 bodies" during that same period.

    Fantasia denied complaints from medical examiner staff that he was "confrontational" and "threatening," saying he coached youth sports and was "not a threatening presence."

    "I have awards from politicians for my work in the community with children," he wrote. "They assume that I am nasty, I just speak what is right and they do not like that."

    vehicles.jpgPoorly scanned images of one of Community Funeral Home's vehicles.  

    He also offered counter-accusations.

    Fantasia said an investigator called him "fat" and a staff member called one of his employees "white trash." He accused medical examiner staff of "taking selfies and putting them on twitter" and other inappropriate behavior.

    In his last email to NJ Advance Media, Fantasia again said the issues stemmed from problems at the state office, which is chronically underfunded and short-staffed.

    "We currently had our contract extended in Morris County," he said, "so it's not us."

    Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for Morris County, said they entered into the two-year contract with Community Funeral Home in May 2016. The contract allowed for a one-year probationary period, which was approved, he said.

    He said county officials were unaware of ongoing disputes between Fantasia and the state, but were notified when Fantasia surrendered his funeral license and "took appropriate action to ensure" his company "was in full compliance with the law."

    During the current contract period, Fantasia's company has billed $25,230 and the county has "not had any substantive issues" with Community Funeral Home, though they had found the condition of the company's vehicles "to be less-than-acceptable," Ragonese said.

    Fantasia has promised to replace them, he said. The contract will go back up for bid in May.

    Stephen Stirling may be reached at sstirling@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @sstirling. Find him on Facebook.

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at ssullivan@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The 'Sopranos' actor, who grew up in Jersey City and appeared in several Martin Scorsese films, died in September. He was one of at least several actors and other talents who were omitted from the awards show's annual memorial reel.


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    Who are our picks for sectional titles?


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    NJ Advance Media takes a look at all 19 of Monday's and Tuesday's finals.


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    How has the first week of the state tournament affected the Top 20?


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    This weekend, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra continued its swing through the "Harry Potter" film scores

    This weekend, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra continued its swing through the "Harry Potter" film scores. Last March they begin this series at Radio City Music Hall with "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." This weekend at NJPAC in Newark the band provided the music to the third film in the heptology: "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." 

    On Saturday, Prudential Hall was filled with Potter fans of all ages, many of them dressed as their favorite character. The event was produced in conjunction with CineConcerts, a company that specializes in these live orchestra film collaborations.

    Leading the orchestra was guest conductor Jeffery Schindler, who brought gusto to the podium. The performance was crisp, with the orchestra bringing out fine details in John Williams' final "Potter" score: the dark oboe themes for Sirius Black and the evocative flute theme for Harry's departed mother. Harpist Lynette Wardle showed why that instrument is so effective for enriching dramatic moments, and NJSO concertmaster Eric Wyrick elicited real emotion out of the celtic-folksy violin solo that underscores Harry and the gang's arrival at Hogwarts.

    The only quibble with the experience was that for this film many of the sound effects seemed deleted in the process that allows the dialogue to remain absent the original film music (so the live music doesn't compete). It's a small thing, but given that "Prisoner of Azkaban" was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, there are moments where the sound design is as important as the music. 

    The NJSO performance made clear that the Oscar-nominated "Prisoner of Azkaban" score is Williams' best work with the "Potter" franchise. Some film composers can create wonderful music for mediocre films--but Williams' genius really comes out when the dramatic material he's given is top notch.  

    It's not surprising then that with Cuaron's vision of "Potter," the music soars--literally in the gorgeous melodies that makes Harry's flight with Buckbeak so memorable. There are elements of jazz early on, plenty of classic Williams throughout, but the later darker scenes possess a spiky, modern quality that seems influenced by Bartok. It's a fabulous stew, but what was most special about the score (and the performances) was the presence of the Montclair State University Vocal Accord.

    Williams used choral effects to great effect in his scores for "Empire of the Sun" and "Home Alone," and he did so again with "Prisoner of Azkaban." At NJPAC when the 48-strong Montclair singers raised their voices, the performance became even more special. In the hands of John Williams, the magic of the human voice is even greater than anything one can learn at Hogwarts.

    James C. Taylor can be reached writejamesctaylor@gmail.com. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook


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    The Newark protest was one of six rallies in New Jersey to mark what was supposed to be the end of the DACA program protecting immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Watch video

    'Dreamers' rally to defend DACANearly 200 protesters chanting "No papers, no fear!" marched through the streets of Newark to the offices of federal immigration officials Monday to call for an extension of the DACA program for unauthorized immigrants.

    The protesters, who included both immigrants living in the country illegally and their supporters, shouted "Shame, shame" outside the windows of the federal building on Broad Street that houses the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.

    "Today, we stand here united to denounce this administration's hunger for mass deportation," Esder Chong, an unauthorized immigrant attending Rutgers University, told the crowd as the march began.

    The marchers drew mostly cheers and honking horns of support as they walked about a mile from the campus of Rutgers-Newark to the ICE offices in the federal building. The protesters, who had a Newark police escort, briefly stopped traffic as they marched back and forth across Broad Street.

    Their shouts in front of the federal building drew some Department of Homeland Security police officers outside the building, but the protest remained peaceful. Some people inside the federal building came to the office windows to watch.

    The Newark demonstration was one of six scheduled around New Jersey Monday to mark what was scheduled to be the end of a program protecting immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

    President Donald Trump declared last year that March 5 would be the last day of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program unless Congress passed a new immigration reform plan.

    06DACA.JPGProtesters marched from Rutgers-Newark to the federal building on Broad Street Monday in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. President Donald Trump planned to kill the DACA program on March 5 unless Congress passed a new immigration reform plan. (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) 

    Trump's plan to quash the program has been tied up in court, allowing the DACA program to continue accepting renewal applications from the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients. But protesters around the country are still using the March 5 deadline to call for protections for the young unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers.

    "This is my home. This is our home and we will keep fighting until everyone in our community is safe," said Chong, a DACA recipient and Rutgers sophomore who helped lead the Newark rally. "We are taking back the fear that stains this March 5 deadline set by the administration."

    Chong said she came to the U.S. from her native South Korea at age 6 and grew up as an unauthorized immigrant in Highland Park with her parents. She is a sophomore at Rutgers-Newark and wants to be a public policy attorney. But, she said she is "worried and frustrated" as the fate of the DACA program remains undecided.

    Several other DACA students told similar stories at the rally. Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor was among the officials speaking in support of the Dreamers.

    "We are putting a stake in the ground for what we're supposed to stand for: E pluribus unum -- our of many, one. Out of many, community," Cantor said, quoting the traditional Latin motto of the United States.

    The Newark rally is one of six scheduled protests across the state Monday. The other protests were planned for:

    • 12 p.m. at Rutgers-Camden, Campus Center, facing the Walt Whitman statue, in Camden.
    • 2 p.m. at the office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, 4573 S. Broad St. in Hamilton Township.
    • 3 p.m at the office of U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, 425 N. Ave E in Westfield.
    • 4 p.m. at the office of U.S. Rep. Frank Lobiondo, 5914 Main St. in Mays Landing.
    • 5 p.m at Rutgers-New Brunswick, Brower Commons, 145 College Ave., in New Brunswick.

    The protests were organized by more than 30 local groups, including RU Dreamers, New Labor, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, NAACP- New Brunswick Area Branch, Women's March on New Jersey and New Jersey Citizen Action.

    President Barack Obama's administration began DACA as a way for some children brought to the country illegally to get protections to work and go to college without fear of deportation. Congress has been unable to agree on a plan to extend the program after Trump declared his plans to end it.

    In New Jersey, approximately 22,000 unauthorized immigrants had registered under the DACA program as of last year. An estimated 51,000 immigrants living in the country illegally were eligible for the program in New Jersey.

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

     

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    Police say the accident happened around 2:35 p.m.

    Newark police say a woman was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer in the city Saturday afternoon.

    Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 4.16.30 PM.png 

    The pedestrian was walking at the intersection of Broad and Division streets at about 2:35 p.m. when struck, according to Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose.

    The victim, whose named has not been released, was pronounced at the scene by EMS, Ambrose said.

    No charges have been filed, and the driver of the tractor-trailer is cooperating with police, according to Ambrose.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is handling the investigation.

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

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