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    Local Talk, which was founded in 2000, has distributed its free, weekly paper every Thursday on multiple floors of Newark City Hall, but was blocked last week from doing so.

    A local publication said it was blocked from distributing its weekly paper inside Newark City Hall last week -- in what leaders called a violation of their rights. 

    Local Talk, which was founded in 2000, has distributed its free, weekly paper every Thursday on multiple floors of City Hall, content editor Kristopher Seals said.

    But last Thursday -- the same day the paper's front page featured a story about Mayor Ras Baraka's close friend being sentenced for wire fraud, and interviews with candidates in the upcoming city council races -- a Local Talk reporter was stopped from distributing the paper, Seals said. 

    More than 250 papers were also discarded by an unknown group of individuals, he said. 

    "It's an absolute suppression of freedom of press," Seals said. "We've never had a situation where we've been not welcomed at City Hall."

    Frank Baraff, a spokesman for the city, said the incident "shouldn't have happened." 

    "It's been tradition and practice that Local Talk can be distributed and there's no change in that," he said. 

    One of Local Talk's longtime reporters, Walter Elliot, was allegedly stopped by a woman wearing a City of Newark uniform and at least two others, Seals said. Elliot had already dropped off the papers on the first floor but was told by the group that he was not allowed to distribute inside City Hall and the papers already left on the first floor had been moved, Seals said. Any issues should be redirected to the Chief of Staff, Elliot was allegedly told. 

    Baraff said those actions were "not authorized" by Baraka or his brother, Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka Jr.

    Local Talk was able to distribute papers this Thursday, despite initial problems getting past security, said editor-in-chief Dhiren Shah. 

    Shah said it could have been a misunderstanding but his reporters "have a right" to distribute the paper. He said the city called him to let him know it should not be a problem.

    In his weekly editor's note on April 26, Shah wrote, "Many of you have wondered why the newspaper was not at Newark City Hall last week. Due to legal issues, we're not saying anything right now. However, we have been informed that there should be no problem moving forward."

    Whether the group that stopped Elliot was acting on its own or by instruction, Walter Luers, of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, said it was still unlawful.

    The city "has been allowing (distribution) for years and so the fact that they took the papers and threw them out, I think they violated his First Amendment right," Luers said. 

    "We are in a time right now where the press is facing enormous pressure from different levels in the administration nationally as well locally that is impeding in many ways on freedom of the press," said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

    "It's a fight that has just gotten a lot worse over the past two years."

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

     

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    The homicide took place in the area of Hartley Street and Bloomfield Avenue

    A 20-year-old woman stabbed outside a home in Montclair on Friday morning died less than an hour later, authorities said. 

    Akirah Townes, of Orange, was stabbed on Hartley Street around 6 a.m., the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. Townes was brought to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where she pronounced dead at 6:42 a.m. 

    No arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing. 

    Hartley Street is just off Bloomfield Avenue a short distance from the Bay Street train station. 

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


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    NORTH CALDWELL -- This photo taken in the 1930s shows some children playing with blocks while another draws on an easel at the Gould Avenue School in North Caldwell. MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to...

    NORTH CALDWELL -- This photo taken in the 1930s shows some children playing with blocks while another draws on an easel at the Gould Avenue School in North Caldwell.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

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

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


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    What were some of the bigger story lines to come out of high school softball fields recently.


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    Take a look at the top talent in the Class of 2020.


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    Sentencing of a Jersey City man convicted of strangling the mother of his child remains on hold as his defense attorneys wait for the public defender's office to provide a transcript of the trial for use in filing a motion for a new trial.

    JERSEY CITY -- The sentencing of a Jersey City man convicted of strangling the mother of his child remains on hold as his attorneys wait for the public defender's office to provide a transcript of the trial for use in filing a motion for a new trial.

    On Sept. 29, 2017, Nathan Williams III, 36, was convicted of the aggravated manslaughter of his former girlfriend, Marilyn Albizu, 33, on June 17, 2014 in the Old Bergen Road home they shared.

    After his conviction, the defense moved for a new trial, saying security video shown to the jury had not been properly verified as to the time it was recorded.  

    The defense also noted that guns recovered in the home were listed on the evidence list given the jury, but the gun charges against Williams had been severed from the murder trial.

    Finally, the defense says the prosecutor improperly made a statement at the beginning of the trial that suggested Williams was already incarcerated. At the time, Williams was already serving a prison sentence, but his record could not be brought up unless he testified.

    Because Williams could not afford to have a transcript of the trial made, the public defender's office agreed to have one made for him. At a hearing before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Vincent Militello today, defense attorney Max Novel said he has not yet received the transcript and he did not know when it would be ready.

    "I think we need to get a better handle on time," Militello said. The judge said he wants specific information on production of the transcript at a new hearing set for 30 days from now.

    The day of the homicide began with Albizu telling Lenisha Murray, who also has a child with Williams, that Williams was with a third woman. Murray testified she went to the Old Bergen Road home that morning and found Williams in bed with Alicia Santana. 

    According to authorities and testimony, Williams struck Albizu and then left the apartment. That evening, Murray called Albizu's phone and a man answered, saying "Ain't no need to call this number anymore. That b---- is dead."

    The phone was on speaker and Tenyel Manning, who was with Murray, dialed 911 after hearing the man's response. Murray told police it was Williams' voice, but changed her story on the witness stand.

    Officers responded to the apartment again at about 6:30 p.m. and found Albizu dead. Williams' vehicle was spotted in Newark around 11 p.m. that night.

    Following a high-speed pursuit, Williams crashed, took off on foot and jumped 50 to 60 feet from an overpass on Route 280 in Newark. He broke both legs and a hip in the fall. A gun fell from his pocket as he plummeted, officials said.

    That night police searched the Old Bergen Road home and found two shotguns and a rifle. Williams is already serving an 8-year sentence on Essex County charges from that night, including eluding police and gun offenses.

    Aggravated manslaughter carries a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison. 


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    Who is the top junior in N.J.? Have your say!


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    See the players and teams that stood out this week across N.J.


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    A man, who may have had a past relationship with victim, was arrested on April 27, 2018, in connection with the stabbing death of a 20-year-old woman in Montclair.

    A man was arrested Friday and charged in the fatal stabbing of a 20-year-old woman in Montclair.

    MontclairArrest.jpgAhighah Broomes, 21, of Orange (courtesy Essex County Prosecutor's Office)

    Ahighah Broomes, 21, of Orange, has been charged with the murder of Akirah Townes, also of Orange, who was stabbed outside a home on Hartley Street around 6 a.m. on Friday, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. Townes was brought to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where she pronounced dead at 6:42 a.m.

    Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said it appears that Broomes and Townes were in a relationship at some point in the past. As detectives were searching for Broomes, he turned himself in at the Orange Police Headquarters.

    Broomes has been charged with murder, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, Fennelly said.

    He is being held in the Essex County Correctional Facility pending an appearance in the Essex County Central Judicial Processing Court.

    Fennelly said Townes, a student at Kean University, was attempting to leave on a trip to Virginia Beach when she was stabbed. Hartley Street is just off Bloomfield Avenue a short distance from the Bay Street train station.

    Friends posted several tributes on Townes' Facebook page Friday, and described her as funny, constantly smiling and a big Giants fan.

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


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    Trees designated 'champions' are scattered throughout the Garden State in yards and fields, even cemeteries.


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    White-collar workers in Newark earn less than $15 an hour, a minimum threshold that has been championed by Newark's mayor.

    Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has been among the loudest advocates in the "fight for $15," a campaign to push the minimum wage up to $15 an hour for workers across the state.

    But at least 67 city employees are earning less than that, a local union said this week as they protested in City Council chambers for a living wage increase after contract negotiations reached an impasse. 

    "Fair wages, fair contract," more than two dozen union members yelled at Tuesday's City Council meeting, holding signs that read, "I work for the city but can't afford to live in it!" 

    Newark Council 21 represents more than 900 white-collar workers that include accountants, executive assistants, telecommunication workers, clerks and other professionals, such as doctors and dentists. The union has been negotiating for more than three years on a new contract after one expired in 2014.

    City officials declined to comment on contract negotiations but said Baraka was committed to ensuring all workers earn at least $15 an hour -- and could "correct" that even as negotiations are ongoing. 

    "The mayor does agree that these contracts should be settled," Rahaman Muhammad, the city's deputy mayor of employment, said at the meeting. "The mayor has put an edict down ... He has said the minimum salary in the city should be $15."

    Baraka announced in March of 2016 he would ensure a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all part-time and full-time city employees by 2018.

    It's not clear how many of the city's 3,300 employees still make under $15 an hour, but Council 21 says at least 67 of its members fall under that threshold, earning between $22,000 and $30,000 annually. 

    Muhammad asked the union to give city officials a list of members who make under $15 an hour so the city could address the problem.

    Sean Small, the acting president of Council 21, said that list had been provided to the city already. The city also has access to its own personnel records. 

    Council 21Members of Council 21 protested at City Hall on Tuesday demanding a fair contract and fair wages. (Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

    "This administration publicizes that it supports other local unions' gains and their demand for living wages and benefits, while we have members making less than $15 an hour," said Dee Gorczyca, a representative of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. 

    "In over 15 meetings since we began this process and we still do not have a contract, we have to ask, does this administration really want to settle this contract, or are they perpetuing the national agenda to weaken unions and eliminate collective bargaining?"

    The Newark City Council last month approved a resolution supporting Council 21's efforts for a fair contract

    "We have employees who work for the city, live in the city and can't afford the city," Small said. "There are a ton of people here working 10 years and they are still on step one," which is the equivalent of the first level on a salary schedule, he added.

    Workers have not moved up in the salary schedule for 20 years but did receive a 2 percent wage increase in 2014. 

    "Council 21 is not asking for more than what is fair and reasonable. Our members provide vital services to the city, and they deserve to be compensated with a livable wage, health benefits and career advancement," Gorczyca said. 

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


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    The top 60 juniors pitchers from across the state


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    The stolen van was used to deliver food to more than 300 low-income families every day of the week. Watch video

    A food pantry affiliated with a Montclair church is unable to serve its full client base Saturday due to a man caught on surveillance footage stealing the church's van. 

    Members of Saint Luke's Episcopal Church on Friday evening discovered the van and roughly $250 in checks and cash were missing, Anne Mernin, the food pantry's director, said Saturday.

    Footage from a surveillance camera shows a man dressed in a sweatshirt and sweatpants walking around the parking lot before entering what appears to be a storage space next to the church. He then comes outside, backs out the van and drives into the street. 

    A screenshot of the man seen on video stealing a church van at Toni's Kitchen, which is a part of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Montclair. (Video courtesy of Toni's Kitchen)

    Mernin said the missing van normally keeps the food pantry, called Toni's Kitchen, operating smoothly.

    "It allows us to take in large food donations from local groceries and shops and turn that surplus food into healthy meals for our soup kitchen and outreach programs," she said. "It is busy seven days a week and is the hardest working member of our TK family."

    Mernin said more than 300 families benefit from the food pantry's daily use of the van, which was donated in 2014. 

    The church will use a rental van and pay a driver until the stolen van is recovered, Mernin said, but those services are expensive and the church can't afford to use them as frequently as they used the stolen van. 

    "We have about 20 volunteers that drive for us, using the van regularly, so now that we have a rental we're going to have to pay one of our go-to volunteer drivers, who's going to be doing the work of almost 20 people," Mernin said.

    Toni's Kitchen provides meals, tutoring, health screenings, mentoring and summer camps to low-income families. 

    The church asks anyone who may know the man or the whereabouts of the van to call Montclair police at 973-744-1234. 

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

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Friends and family remembered the 20-year-old woman as a loving person and dedicated student.

    The woman who was stabbed to death in front of a home in Montclair was remembered by her friends and family as a kind and loving person. 

    Akirah Townes, 20, a Kean University student from Orange, was on Hartley Street around 6 a.m. Friday while attempting to leave for a trip to Virginia Beach when she was attacked, authorities said. Prosecutors charged a man she was once in a relationship with in the stabbing.

    "She knew exactly what she wanted in life, wasn't afraid to go after it," said one of her older brothers, Kayron Townes. 

    Akirah Townes was one of 11 children and attended Orange public schools.

    Kayron Townes described his sister as a very dedicated and hardworking student. She was studying special education at Kean and earned a spot on the college's Dean's List in the fall semester. 

    "If she wasn't at school or at work she was with family," Townes said. "She would call up one of her brothers and we'd come over and crack jokes."

    "If she cared about you she would give you the world," Townes said.

    "I remember the last phone call we had she told me how happy she was to see me happy," he said. 

    Jajuauan Almanza, a childhood friend of Townes, described her as a warmhearted and down to earth person. 

    "She always had a smile on her face," Almanza said. 

    The death led to an outpouring of grief from friends on social media, where posts said they planned to host a vigil for Townes. 

     

    Prosecutors charged Ahighah Broomes with the killing. Broomes turned himself in to Orange police as detectives were searching for him Friday, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. He faces murder and weapons charges in the death.

    Kayron Townes said his sister and Broomes were in a relationship, but she broke it off. 

    Prosecutors have not commented on a possible motive for the slaying.

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


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    Clergy, churches trying to take non-political 'safety first' stance

    Spring, finally.

    Renewal. Hope. Warmth.

    When the spring snowstorms turned to rain and sunshine, there was a plan to convert a sloping parcel of earth below St. Peter's Church in Mountain Lakes into a garden.

    When planting day brought more cold wind mixed with snow, the volunteers went to work anyway.

    As the rain turned the slope to mud, and the large wet flakes melted on their shoulders, the small group of men and women used a heavy steel digging bar to make post holes in the soggy ground, then dug out small trenches for flowers.

    The work went fast and when they were done, they created a garden of white angels, with daffodils at their feet.

    Written on the 17 angels they put into the ground are the names of the 17 students and teachers killed during the Parkland, Fla., shooting in February.

    For Ellen Emr, who organized the effort, the church "Angel Garden" is another way to extend the conversation about gun violence that began with school walkouts and nationwide March for Our Lives events. On May 6, at 3 p.m., there will be a multi-denominational service and gathering on the grounds to dedicate the garden.

    "We were delayed week after week because of the weather," said Emr. "But that was beneficial in a way. After all the marches, and the kids being focused on exams, college admissions and graduations, we thought there might be a lull in the energy.

    "This is our little way to keep it going," she said.

    MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns 

    Emr said she got the idea from reading about the T-shirt memorial at St. James Episcopal Church in Upper Montclair, which was featured in this column prior to the March for Our Lives. At St. James, T-shirts bearing the names of the children and teachers killed at Parkland and Newtown, Conn., were placed in the ground, resembling a cemetery.

    "We decided on the Angel Garden because angels are inspiring," Emr said. "They bring a sense of peace."

    Many of the St. Peter's parishioners traveled to Washington for the March for Our Lives demonstration with Mark Beckwith, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.

    Beckwith took on gun violence as an ecclesiastical issue way back in 2007 after the Mount Vernon schoolyard murders in Newark. A clergy coalition was formed with other faith leaders to look for solutions to gun violence in Newark. That effort spread nationwide after Newtown and, in April of 2014, Episcopal bishops from across the country came together for a conference called Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence.

    "As a purveyor of language, as people who write sermons, we know we have to change the wording of the discussion," Beckwith said. "This is not a conversation of gun control, it's a conversation of gun safety."

    Like many, Beckwith and the church stance on gun violence is not really about the Second Amendment. It's a public health issue, with dramatic human and financial costs. It would be interesting to see, for example, what the public pays for the medical costs of uninsured gunshot victims in the cities where gun violence is pervasive. How much do the life-saving or reconstructive surgeries, physical therapy or lifetime care of the permanently disabled, cost the taxpayers?

    "If the focus is on gun rights, other issues get lost," Beckwith said. "The gun rights side gets fearful and the conversation shuts down."

    Or gets shouted down. Each time I write a column about gun safety, the online-comment return-fire is as predictable as it is tired. You know ... More people are killed in car accidents than guns so why not ban cars? .... If guns are outlawed only outlaws with have guns ... Guns don't kill people, people kill people.

    And all the stuff about the media's left-wing liberal agenda.

    Beckwith is on the board of Better Angels, and organization hoping to depolarize America and get common-ground, common-sense ideas from people with different political viewpoints.

    "When we bring red and blue people together, we have to have guidelines for conversation, otherwise everybody falls back on their own ideology," Beckwith said.

    Emr said the priest at St. Peter's, Robert Morris, has delivered sermons on gun violence that walk that line.

    "He takes the politics out of it," she said.

    If that is happening in houses of worship across the country, then there is hope. Safety isn't political. It's a human need.

    Behind the Angel Garden is a blue and white banner that reads, "Blessed are the Children."

    That is language out of the eight Beatitudes, from Christ's Sermon on the Mount.

    I looked up "Blessed are the children" to learn the "for they will ..." part of the quote. To my surprise, "Blessed are the children" is not among the Beatitudes.

    However, these two, among others, apply to the gun conversation.

    Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

    For the congregants of St. Peter's, their Angel Garden is a small symbol, they have chosen to extend their duty as peacemakers, to do their small part in ending the mourning.

    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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    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption from rescues and shelters.

    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 ghatala@starledger.com or call 973-836-4922.

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


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    Ali Muhammad Brown is the first person to be convicted of terrorism under New Jersey state law.


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    A new meet record, the fastest American 4x400 team (again) and a run in the honor of an injured teammate. That and more from the 124th Penn Relays.


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    A look at this week's can't-miss games from across the state


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