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    Highlighting big games around the state, from playoff races to crucial county tournament matchups.


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    The William H. Brown Academy in the South Ward will be demolished and turned into a state-of-the-art fire and police training complex.

    After eight years of sending its police recruits across the state to train, Newark announced on Monday it will soon have a space to train its own. 

    The city unveiled plans for a new $49 million police and fire training complex in the South Ward that officials intend to open as a certified police academy in two years. The 125,000 square-foot complex on Bergen Street will replace a shuttered -- and fire-ravaged -- public school that has long been a blight in the neighborhood. 

    It's a major boon for the city -- both as it continues efforts to bolster its police force and revitalize neighborhoods outside of the downtown.

    "This is a home run on many different levels," Mayor Ras Baraka said at a press conference at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church that sits across the future training facility. 

    "It was an eyesore and it caught on fire and now it's even in worse condition than it was previously," said Baraka, who grew up in the area. He said the state-of-the-art complex will not only train police and fire officers under the same roof, but allow the city to get re-certified and once again open a police academy for new recruits.

    Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said the city's police academy lost its certification in 2010 and since 2014, the department has spent about $1 million to train more than 400 recruits elsewhere in the state. 

    While the city has an in-service training facility on Lincoln Avenue, it is not certified to train new recruits. The fire training facility on Orange Street will eventually be moved to the new complex.  

    "This is long overdue," Ambrose said. "It's never been done under one roof, the training of police and fire."

    The Newark Police Division is also under a federal consent decree after a federal probe in 2016 uncovered civil rights abuses by officers. The facility will help police officers train as new policies, required under the decree, are written and passed. 

    The three-story William H. Brown Academy closed in 2009 and sits on a roughly two-acre property at 695 Bergen Street. Last year, a fire tore through the building, destroying its roof. 

    The property, owned by Newark Public Schools, was one of 12 closed schools conveyed to the Newark Housing Authority to sell. William H. Brown was the only one that did not sell. 

    Victor Cirilo, executive director of the housing authority, said the city will close on the property in the next two months and pay the school district $1.2 million -- the highest bid on the property before the fire tore through the building. 

    "We're not deviating from our commitment to Newark Public Schools," Cirilo said.

    Cirilo said the housing authority will serve as the redeveloper on the training facility and float $49 million in bonds on behalf of the city. He said the priority will be demolishing the building, expected to cost an additional $2 million. 

    "From my tenure here, it's been complaints on a weekly basis, the garbage is building up, people are breaking in," Cirilo said. "Newark continues to revitalize and the mayor wants to make sure that this revitalization extends into all the neighborhoods."

    The 125,000 three-story training complex will boost police presence in the neighborhood and train 1,700 fire and police personnel every year, officials said. 

    There will a parking lot, rooftop track, weight room, computer labs and a community engagement room.  

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


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    More than 100 students participated in the New Public Schools STEM FAIR.

    ex0429schoolnewark.jpgRidge Street Elementary School students Dantal Alvarez, Siobhan Roussette, Gloria Parey and Jhosua Rubio with their STEM teacher, Anna Polack, and the Portable Disability Walker that c won first place in the Newark Public Schools' STEM Fair. 

    NEWARK -- Ridge Street Elementary School students Dantal Alvarez, Siobhan Roussette, Gloria Parey and Jhosua Rubio won first place in the Newark Public Schools' STEM FAIR. The students captured the title for their project, a Portable Disability Walker. More than 100 Newark students in grades 6 to 8 displayed and presented their STEM projects at the fair, held April 13 in the Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers University.

    To submit school news send an email to essex@starledger.com.


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    High school seniors score big in the New Jersey 10 Day Film Challenge. Watch video

    ex0429schoolwestorange.jpgWest Orange High School seniors Lourdes Korczukowski, Isabel Oden, Thomas Hughes, Rajeev Persad, Dane Clarke II and Joaquin Goodbar accept their awards at the New Jersey 10 Day Film Challenge screening. 

    WEST ORANGE -- Students in Wendy Mapes' acting principles class at West Orange High School won Best Overall Film and Best Performance honors for their film, "Deadlines," in the New Jersey 10 Day Film Challenge, a student film competition hosted by About Arts Equality, a nonprofit organization.

    Participants were given list of requirements for their film, such as the back story, the name of a character and a line of dialogue they had to use in the film. They then had 10 school days to write, shoot, edit and score an original 3- to 4-minute film.

    The "Deadlines" team included seniors Thomas Hughes, Dane Clarke II, Lourdes Korczukowski, Rajeev Persad, Isabel Oden and Joaquin Goodbar.

    "This win was really something we worked hard for," said Hughes, the film's writer and director. "Last year as juniors we entered the same competition with our film "Dalton vs. Malcolm: The Battle for Glory," winning Audience Choice Award. We did not make the top 10, so we set a goal to make it in 2018. The two awards we received, Best Performances and Best Film, are really something to be proud of."

    The New Jersey students' films were screened April 13 at Regal Cinema in Burlington.

    Too submit school news send an email to essex@starledger.com.

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    Anshul Nayar is honored by the West Essex YMCA.

    ex0429schoolwestessex.jpgMetro YMCA president and CEO Richard K. Gorab, West Essex YMCA executive director Helen Flores, Anshul Nayar, Suchita Nayar and Metro YMCA senior VP/COO Ed Philipp.

    MILLBURN -- Millburn High School senior Anshul Nayar has been named the West Essex YMCA's 2017 Youth of the Year.

    Nayar, who is a member of the Y's Togetherhood committee, created an ESL program at the West Essex YMCA, and helps plan and run the annual diversity and inclusion luncheon. He also has been a teen mentor and helped raise funds for the organization.

    According to Helen Flores, executive director of the West Essex YMCA, Nayar is one of the top 10 volunteers she has seen in her 32 years at the YMCA.

    "I have loved the experience of helping other adults who are extremely dedicated and enthusiastic about learning," said Nayar, who was honored April 12 at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges' annual dinner.

    To submit school news send an email to essex@starledger.com.


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    Shakeem Bernard, 27, was killed on Evergreen Avenue

    Authorities have charged three Newark men in connection with the shooting death of a city man in the South Ward in November.

    Ali Berger, 27, and Daquan Berger, 24, are charged with murder and conspiracy in the fatal shooting of Shakeem Bernard, 27, on Nov. 17, 2017, on Evergreen Avenue, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and Newark police said Monday.

    Wajeirah Wilson, 24, also of Newark has been charged with conspiracy and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. The Bergers are also charged with firearms charges.

    After the shooting, the suspects sped from the scene, and Newark police responded to the scene after getting a ShotSpotter gunfire detection activation.

    Police chased after the car and arrested the three after it crashed and burned a few blocks north. The suspects were not immediately charged nor publicly identified until now.

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


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    "This state is custom-built to not only lead -- but to dominate -- the innovation economy," Gov. Phil Murphy said in a speech to business leaders Monday.

    Gov. Phil Murphy came to Newark on Monday and reeled off a few phrases that could easily be new slogans for New Jersey's most populous city. 

    He called it "a city clearly on the rise" and "a model for urban revitalization." 

    That, Murphy explained, is largely because Newark has been bolstered by what he calls "the innovation economy" -- in which technology companies, especially startups, move in to an area and help reinvigorate it.

    "Economic progress cannot be made without social progress," Murphy said in a speech to business leaders at a forum co-hosted by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Audible, the Newark-based audiobook company, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in the city. 

    "This is a city that has not ignored its roots or its people, and it is creating an entirely new energy off the recognition that those who stayed and fought for a better Newark were on to something," the Democratic governor added.

    Newark's Amazon proposal

    Plus, Murphy said, the state's other oft-blighted cities -- like Camden, Paterson, Trenton -- could follow a similar path. 

    "The real beauty is it does not have to only be a Newark story," the governor said. "Cities once were the economic engines of our state, and they will be again."

    Murphy said Newark's rejuvenation is why "no one is laughing" at the city's prospects at possibly landing Amazon's HQ2. The city is one of the Top 20 finalists for the online retail giant's new headquarters.

    The governor said Newark's proximity to New York City, major highways, a major port, a major airport, and a string of colleges makes it "uniquely qualified" for what Amazon wants.

    "Newark is absolutely purpose-built for a company like Amazon," Murphy said. "In particular for this notion it's got to work for the new folks, but it's got to work for the folks who fought and stayed."

    Murphy has long touted the need for New Jersey to focus on technology and science to boost its economy. 

    On Monday, he argued the state state should use its tax incentive programs to attract more startup businesses to the state, not just keep larger businesses from leaving.

    "This state is custom-built to not only lead -- but to dominate -- the innovation economy," Murphy said. 

    "We are here to be a partner in your growth and success," he added.

    Audible CEO Don Katz noted how his company moved to Newark in 2007 with only 100 employees and no perks from the state. Now, he said, its payroll is up to 1,400 workers. 

    Katz also said the company decided to "look past traditional resumes" and hire Newark residents.

    "People whose lack of privilege and background didn't make them an obvious on paper, and we figured out how to train them to join jobs, and our customer care division just brims with all this positive energy," he added. 

    What Murphy didn't mention Monday was his first state budget proposal, which includes $1.5 billion in tax hikes to help pay for more funding for education, transportation, public-worker pensions, and more.

    The event's co-host, the NJBIA, has been critical of Murphy's plan to institute a new tax on millionaires.

    On Monday, NJBIA president Michele Siekerka said her group shares many "priorities" with Murphy but added: "The pathway to funding those priorities has to be slow and steady -- small bites that New Jersey business and the economy can sustain in order for us to continue to grow."

    "No shocks to the system," Siekerka said. "We can't shock the businesses, and we can't shock our economy."

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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    Where is the property tax pain most pronounced in your county and all the others? Here's the list.


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    Who's the best of the best?


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    Community colleges are seeing sharp enrollment declines, an issue they need to address before Gov. Phil Murphy's plan to make them "free" is seriously debated.

    Gov. Phil Murphy's plan to include in his state budget a $50 million "down payment" toward making community colleges free for all graduating New Jersey high schoolers is controversial, even among lawmakers who might support the idea in theory.

    State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) last week wondered aloud whether the state might be better off simply shipping more aid to the two-year colleges than starting a new tuition-help program that is ultimately expected to cost $200 million annually.

    Push-back against Murphy's plan also includes the presidents of some of the two-year colleges, but their leverage is limited: Community college enrollment is falling.

    The latest evidence comes from Cumberland County College in Vineland, which disclosed plans last week to lay off up to 43 people, as it pursues a possible merger with Rowan College at Gloucester County in Deptford Township. 

    The drop in students at Cumberland has been sharp. Enrollment is just 4,063, down from 5,476 in 2012. In just the past year alone, tuition and fee income slid by $1.5 million, an astounding sum. Rowan College at Gloucester County is holding steady with its enrollment; it's actually up about 0.6 percent. But, partly in order to head off a zero-growth forecast, RCGC's 2018-2019 budget lifts tuition by 2.94 percent.

    "It upsets me tremendously to stand here and say we don't think this college will grow because I believe in my heart it should and will, but financially we have to be guarded," said RCGC's well-respected president, Frederick Keating, at a March trustee meeting.

    RCGC is doing better than most of its peers, which may be a credit to Keating's guidance. But an elephant is in the room that he and other community college administrators can't afford to ignore: 

    Why are students fleeing county colleges in New Jersey, when this state is well known for having to export students because of insufficient in-state capacity? 

    In March, Essex County College, which has also had administrative and accreditation challenges, decided to lay off 34 employees. Its enrollment has dropped by 25 percent since 2012. At the Cape May campus of Atlantic Cape Community College, student numbers are down 12 percent in the past fiscal year.

    For two-year colleges, this is a national problem, not just a New Jersey one. In time, a smaller crop of high school graduates will negatively affect four-year colleges, too. For now, most public universities retain their competitive admission status.

    Not long ago, community colleges were supposed to be the savior of post high-school education amidst crushing four-year tuition debt and the collapse of sketchy trade schools. Even "branding," as the former Gloucester County College did with Rowan, and easier transfer of community college credits to four-year institutions, haven't sustained their growth. 

    Where does this end up if downward enrollment trends aren't reversed? County colleges will not only have to lay off more personnel, they'll need to recover with fewer students and less income the bundles they've spent recently on expanded facilities. 

    So, a few county college mergers in New Jersey could be a good thing. But if these schools overall have too few fannies to put in the seats, it'll be tough for them to cast shade on "Murphy discount" students who could fill up the lecture halls. We're not sure where Sweeney is coming from, but if the state sends more aid directly to community colleges, they can't be allowed to spend it on construction cranes instead of retaining students at a good-value tuition.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    City leaders in Newark discuss solutions to deal with chronic absenteesism in the school district.

    Clarence Sims had fallen into a disturbing pattern that he had to change.

    He was often arriving late to Lead Charter School, an alternative high school.

    "It comes to a point where it's like regular and you don't know or care what you're missing," Sims said.

    Sims was late for school 18 days from January through March, a troubling statistic that indicated the 16-year-old student was on his way to an even bigger problem.

    In Newark, nearly 48 percent of high school students are chronically absent.

    City leaders, including those in the school district, took aim at the issue last week at Rutgers University-Newark during a symposium, "Showing Up Matters -- Shifting the Culture of Chronic Absenteeism."

    MORE: Recent Barry Carter columns 

    It's an initiative of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who called on his youth policy board to pull together community leaders, district educators and students to address a problem that plagues the school system.

    "We have a chronic absenteeism issue in Newark that is unfortunately similar to a lot of other cities across the state and nation," said Brad Haggerty," the school district's chief academic officer.

    Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing one of every 10 days of school, or 10 percent of all classes, according to Haggerty.

    Across the district, from kindergarten to 12th grade, chronic absenteeism is about 30 percent. But a troubling trend occurs for students when they reach ninth grade. Eighth-grade chronic absenteeism is between 22 and 25 percent, but when they hit ninth grade, the figure is anywhere from 30 to nearly 40 percent.

    Lauren Wells, a member of the youth policy board and the city's former chief of education officer, said to make a dent in the problem is to change the culture of how educators and the community-at-large interact with students.

    "We know from experience when a place feels good to us, we engage with it," Wells said.  "An efficient school is one where you come in the building and you are happy to be there."

    Jemiah Senaya Wolf, a student at Lead Charter School, said the same thing as part of a panel of students speaking about what a school should be like and why their peers lose interest.

    The students said that at some schools they attended, they believed teachers didn't care and that the students were being pushed through the system.

    "Now, I feel like I've got Grandma's love," said Senaya Wolf about how school changed after enrolling at Lead Charter School.

    "It (school) should make you feel at home ... where you know this school has my back," said Isaiah Cook, who spoke highly of YouthBuild Newark, a community development agency where he's enrolled in a program that works with 16- to 24-year-olds who are disconnected from education and training.

    But disinterest in school doesn't answer all the questions about why some students are chronically late or absent. It could be because a student is following the wrong crowd or having to care for a sibling while a parent works.

    Some drop out because they become teen parents. Others may have to navigate high-crime neighborhoods, while others can't afford the bus fare because they are not eligible to receive NJ Transit bus tickets. Students, who receive bus tickets live more than 2.5 miles from the school. Even with that benefit, students still find themselves arriving late when the bus is not on time.

    Haggerty said the district noticed last year that June is the worst month for attendance. While the district had an average daily attendance of 92 to 93 percent throughout the year, that figure dropped to 80 percent when students didn't show up between the end of final exams and the last day of school.

    With June approaching, he said, the district plans to introduce programs that will engage students. At middle schools, the district will continue an exploratory science program that worked last year. With high school students, the district is working on a citywide audio book project and possible poetry slam forums that start this month and carry into June.

    MORE CARTER: One-on-one, this Newark debater is No. 1 in U.S. | Carter  

    Interim Newark Superintendent Robert Gregory said school districts, including Newark, must remember there are students who are struggling and chronically absent even though the percentage of average daily attendance is high.

    "You can have 90 percent or better average daily attendance, but in that, 25 percent of students can be chronically absent," Gregory said.

    He said schools have to be more hospitable and teachers need to understand that education is more than delivering content. Students need caring adults who believe in them and recognize they should be rewarded for progress, not just perfection in attendance.

    "Kids that are in school, their life outcomes are better than those who are not," Baraka said. "Our job is to get them in a school building frequently."

    Nyjuwan O'Neal, 19, of Newark gave up an afterschool warehouse job in Jersey City that had him finishing his shift at 3 a.m. He'd missed school altogether for a few days a week at the beginning of the school year.

    "I'm trying to focus on school now," O'Neal said.

    Juan Acevedo, the principal at Lead Charter School said he's working with O'Neal to help him get a part-time job.

    Tonjaye Ruffin-Ellis said she was late frequently to a Newark charter school last year because she couldn't handle the pace of instruction. When she didn't understand the work, particularly English and math, Ruffin-Ellis said she would come late to class or not at all.

    "If I'm going to fail anyway, why even try?' she said.

    Ruffin-Ellis, 18, transferred to Lead and is doing much better. She is scheduled to graduate next month.

    Encouraged by school officials at Lead, Sims realized he needed to be present, even though he initially didn't see the reason for the fuss since he was getting good grades. Everything clicked for Sims when he looked inward.

    "What does Clarence want?" he said. "What will better Clarence?"

    Showing up to school.

    Barry Carter: (973) 836-4925 or bcarter@starledger.com or 

    nj.com/carter or follow him on Twitter @BarryCarterSL


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    Ali Muhammad Brown now faces aggravated murder charges in Washington state in three Seattle-area slayings.

    Three years, 10 months and six days.

    That's how much time had passed between the night Livingston native Brendan Tevlin was gunned down at an intersection in West Orange and Tuesday morning, when the 19-year-old's admitted killer faced Superior Court Judge Ronald D. Wigler in Newark to finally receive the court's judgment.

    In a sixth-floor courtroom filled with Tevlin's friends and family, Wigler, the presiding judge of the court's criminal division in Essex County, handed Ali Muhammad Brown the only sentence state law would allow: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    When he pleaded guilty to all charges on March 6, amid jury selection for his then-looming trial and without any formal agreement with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, Brown, 34, became the first person ever convicted of terrorism under state law.

    In a post-arrest statement to investigators weeks after Tevlin's killing, Brown said he had lain in wait at the intersection of Walker Road and Northfield Avenue in search of the perfect target -- a lone man without women or children accompanying him -- as he sought what he called "vengeance" for innocent lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran due to U.S. foreign policy.

    Brown admitted shooting Tevlin multiple times when the college student, recently returned on break from the University of Richmond, stopped at the traffic light.

    Pushing Tevlin's body into the passenger seat, Brown drove the teen's Jeep Liberty to a nearby apartment complex and fled. He was later arrested by West Orange police at a makeshift campsite in the township.

    Among the items officers found in his possession were the murder weapon -- a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun purchased by Brown's ex-wife, who later reported it stolen -- and a diary in which Brown pledged to "follow the way of the Islamic State."

    During his guilty plea, Brown -- who has a terrorism-related federal bank fraud conviction and was on a watchlist at the time of the slaying -- freely told the court Tevlin's wasn't the only life he'd taken.

    "I shot those people in Seattle, Washington, too, if you want to put it on the record," he said, apparently referring to Leroy Henderson, 30, Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, in whose slayings he's been charged by the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

    Authorities have said Brown's spree of violence began with Henderson's fatal shooting on April 27, 2014, in the Skyway area near Seattle. After luring Said and Anderson-Young to a nightclub on June 1, investigators said, Brown fatally shot both men in Said's car, before heading for the East Coast on a Greyhound bus.

    Tevlin's killing reverberated throughout Essex County. In West Orange, frightened residents of the suburban community took law enforcement officials to task for not releasing more information. In Livingston, approximately 3,500 people attended Tevlin's wake at St. Philomena's Church. At Seton Hall Preparatory School, the teen's alma mater, a lacrosse field now bears his name.

    In pleading guilty to the terrorism charge, Brown guaranteed he would receive a mandatory life sentence under state law because of Tevlin's death during the crime.

    Brown is already in state custody, serving a 36-year prison sentence for an armed robbery committed in West Orange during the same crime spree. He refused to attend his own trial in that case. 

    He's expected to be sentenced on May 11 for another armed robbery in Point Pleasant Beach, and still faces aggravated murder charges in the three killings in Washington state, where local authorities told The Seattle Times they intend to proceed with their prosecution.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    The state moved to detain a 43-year-old Essex County man when he appeared in court on Friday on charges he robbed two Jersey City banks earlier this month.

    JERSEY CITY -- The state moved to detain a 43-year-old Essex County man when he appeared in court on Friday on charges he robbed two Jersey City banks earlier this month.

    Mark T. Macon, of Summit Avenue in Irvington, is charged with entering the TD Bank at 125 18th Street on April 19, approaching a teller and saying "No one has to get hurt," the criminal complaint says.

    Macon is charged with entering the Chase Bank at 575 Washington Blvd. on April 23 and handing a teller a note demanding money before about $1,000 was turned over, the complaint says. The complaint says the robber made a gesture implying that he had a weapon in his jacket.

    Video surveillance showed the man that robbed the Chase Bank fit the description of the man who robbed the TD Bank. On Wednesday, a witness to the TD Bank robbery identified Macon as the robber using a photo array, the complaint says. 

    Macon made his first appearance on two counts of robbery in Criminal Justice Reform Court in Jersey City on Friday via video link from Hudson County jail in Kearny.

    At the hearing, the state moved to detain Macon through the course of his prosecution. A detention hearing is scheduled for tomorrow before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale.


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    An attorney was ordered to pay $10,000 after lying about her reason for missing a judge's deadline to file a motion in a New Jersey case.

    When attorney Lina Franco missed her deadline to file a motion in a federal case alleging violation of wage laws at a group of New Jersey eateries, she blamed her tardiness on a family emergency in Mexico.

    The judge likely would have bought the excuse if it hadn't been for some detective work by defense attorneys in the case. Actually, anyone with a computer could have blown the lid off Franco's story.

    Photos posted on her Instagram account showed she was vacationing in Miami during the alleged emergency, according to court documents.

    Franco Instagram post.jpgThis was one of the Instagram posts used to prove attorney Lina Franco was lying about her reason for missing a judge's deadline.
     

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer has granted a motion that Franco pay $10,000 in attorney fees after finding that she "deliberately misled the court and other attorneys in this case."

    Franco and co-counsel John Troy represented plaintiffs suing the owners of four New Jersey cafes, including Baumgart's Cafe of Livingston, over claims that employees were not properly compensated under federal and state wage laws

    Hammer gave the plaintiffs' attorneys a Nov. 23, 2016, deadline to file a motion in the case, but they missed that deadline and failed to seek an extension.

    On Dec. 9, Franco filed both the motion and a belated request for a filing extension in the matter.

    In seeking the extension, Franco wrote to the judge that she was "forced to leave the country due to a family emergency in Mexico City." She even provided an itinerary showing she had flown from New York to Mexico on Nov. 21 and returned Dec. 8.

    Defense attorneys were skeptical, however, and turned to social media, where they discovered she was not in Mexico City during the timespan in question. 

    Attorneys found a link to Franco's Instagram page from her business webpage and saw from her posts that she was in New York City eating Thanksgiving dinner with friends days after she supposedly flew to Mexico. On Dec. 1, while still in the midst of her "emergency," she posted a photo from an event at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

    Then, she headed for Florida, were she posted a poolside photo on Dec. 3 -- five days before her supposed return from Mexico City -- with the caption "Not a bad place to work. Not bad at all #Miami."

    Franco mexico.jpgLina Franco posted this photo of herself to Instagram on Oct. 28, 2016, during a visit to Mexico. This is one of the screenshots attorneys submitted to prove Franco had lied about her travels.
     

    Instagram also revealed that she was in Mexico City and then Cuba from late October until about Nov. 6, according to court documents.

    In response to these revelations, Franco told the court she had gone to Mexico City earlier in November because her mother was ill. Her mother's medical diagnosis had sent Franco "into a tailspin" and she was suffering from the "emotional distraction" of the situation, she claimed.

    She later admitted she was "not honest and forward" with the court or the other attorneys in the case, including her co-counsel.

    Hammer found Franco's "misrepresentations to the court clearly constitute bad faith and were unreasonable and vexatious, not simply a misunderstanding or well-intentioned zeal."

    Defense attorneys sought more than $44,000 in fees related to Franco's behavior, but Hammer found that figure excessive and settled on $10,000. Hammer rejected a bid to penalize Troy, concluding that the attorney had acted in good faith and was not aware of Franco's behavior.

    Franco has since withdrawn from the case.

    Efforts to contact her for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Her Instagram account is now set to private.

    Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us: nj.com/tips.

     

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    A judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three residents that claimed Newark officials misused public services and taxpayer dollars by sending a political mailer and escorting Funkmaster Flex to a private party.

    funkmaster-flex-police-escort-22d02ee1cc6356fb.pngScreenshot of video by Funkmaster Flex getting escorted by Newark police.(Courtesy: Facebook)
     

    Newark cannot provide police escorts for celebrities or anyone else for private purposes, a judge ruled Tuesday, before dismissing a lawsuit filed by residents against the city and Mayor Ras Baraka for hiring officers to escort radio personality Funkmaster Flex to the mayor's birthday party

    The case alleged that escorting Flex from New York City to Newark for a fundraiser birthday party was a misuse of public funds. It also claimed a March flier sent to all residents about public safety in the city featuring Baraka's picture was a violation of election law and an inappropriate use of city funds. 

    Essex County Superior Court Judge Dennis Carey dismissed the case, finding the mailer was not political. But Carey ordered a one-year restriction on the city's use of police escorts for private purposes. 

    "To hire someone privately and use public money, I think, is questionable," Carey said.

    The city said it would comply with the judge's restriction. "Newark won a major victory this morning against a lawsuit filed in Essex County Court brought by professional political provocateurs," it said in a statement.

    Earlier this month, a video posted by Flex to his Facebook account shows an unmarked police car with the siren and lights on escorting him through two red lights and into the Holland Tunnel. Flex can be heard narrating the video, saying, "The mayor knows how to treat you, baby."

    Flex was DJing Baraka's birthday party at the Prudential Center where tickets sold for $300 and $1,000, a flier shows. NJ Advance Media was the first to report on the incident.

    At the time, Newark Police Division did not comment on whether it was appropriate to use taxpayer dollars to escort celebrities, but said the officers' use of lights and a siren violated policy and was under investigation. 

    Police Lt. Ronald Glover previously told NJ Advance Media Baraka's campaign had reimbursed the department $200 for the officers' time, and for gas and tolls. 

    Flex could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Carey on Tuesday asked the city to provide an accounting of Flex's police escort. The city said it would do so, and argued that the incident was being raised as a political issue.

    Baraka is up for re-election May 8 and facing off against Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins. 

    "I'm happy about the injunction and they have to answer and give an accounting," attorney Marco LaRacca, who represented residents Donna Jackson, Lisa Parker and Tharien Arnold, said after court. But he said he disagreed with the judge's ruling that the mailer was not political. 

    "The taxpayers of the city know the truth," LaRacca said. 

    At issue was a March mailer that said "residents and police are working together as never before." The mailer featured Baraka's photo and said crime was at its lowest in 50 years, going on to outline ways residents could get involved to make their city safer. 

    In court, Gary Lipshutz, assistant corporation counsel for the city, argued that the mailer was "simply an informational pamphlet." 

    "It is innocuous, it is not a political mailer," he said. "This is an 11th hour campaign issue."

    Frank Baraff, a spokesman for the city, said in an earlier statement the mailer informs residents about how to get involved to make their city safer. He said the lawsuit was a last-minute attempt to "invent campaign issues" a week before elections

    Darren Del Sardo, another attorney for the residents, said no candidate would say they used taxpayer money for political purposes.

    "They guise it, in a report card," he said, estimating the printing and mailing costs at $40,000. "He's not going to say it's political, he's going to guise it." 

    Carey disagreed and said Baraka was not taking credit for anything on the mailer. If it's a guise, Carey said, it "fooled me." 

    [Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a statement from the city.]

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


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    Our weekly look at New Jersey's best alumni continues.


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    Michel, formerly of the Fugees, teased his new digital platform, Blacture, in a Super Bowl ad. He's launching the project, billed to encompass a wide range of services, including health care, a mobile phone program and news outlet, at the University of Pittsburgh on May 2. Watch video

    Pras Michel's "voice and vision for black culture" is one step closer to becoming a reality. 

    On Wednesday, the Grammy-winning hip-hop artist is launching Blacture, the new digital platform he teased in a Super Bowl commercial, at the University of Pittsburgh

    According to a press release issued by Blacture, the project will include a website offering news articles, a mobile phone program powered by blockchain technology and health care services, among other components. 

    Michel, 45, was a member of the Fugees alongside Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. He grew up in Irvington, and, like Hill, attended Columbia High School in Maplewood. In 1996, he won two Grammys with the group, for best R&B performance ("Killing Me Softly") and best rap album ("The Score"). He was also nominated for a Grammy, alongside Ol' Dirty Bastard and Mya, in 1998 for best rap performance by a duo or group for the song "Ghetto Supastar" off his debut solo album.

    In the Blacture Super Bowl ad (see video above), directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day"), Michel appears blindfolded on a stage with his mouth covered. Music begins to play in an empty theater as Michel removes the covers. He looks into the audience and a message plays onscreen: "Be celebrated. Not tolerated," followed by a prompt to visit blacture.com

    The project seemed to be aimed at empowering black artists, but Blacture promises to offer a wide-ranging set of initiatives "designed to jumpstart a new era of black renaissance." The launch of the platform will start this summer with "an editorial component," according to the release, in the effort to shine a light on little-covered stories and "unheard voices." 

    Another part of the project will involve mobile phones that use blockchain technology and a "monetary incentive program." The phone will be linked to the debit card so users can transfer money to friends and family in the United States and abroad.

    "It serves as part of Blacture's mission to uplift the Black community through economic empowerment," the release says. 

    Also on the horizon for Blacture, the announcement says, are health care services, job creation, financial services and urban development initiatives "within the next six months to a year." 

    Michel chose Pittsburgh for the launch with an eye towards retaining black talent in the city. The release says Michel will meet with students from the University of Pittsburgh and make a "surprise announcement" at the city's August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Pittsburgh will also anoint May 2, 2018 Blacture Day.

     

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

     


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    Emotional impact statements precede life without parole sentence for killer of Brendan Tevlin

    How is unconditional, infinite love captured in words? What language conjures the brightness of a promising life?

    How can the darkness of losing that love and life, abruptly and senselessly, ever be put into words.

    "Nobody could ever know the depth of the pain one goes through when they lose a child," began Allison Tevlin as she read her victim impact statement today in Essex County Superior Court during the sentencing of the man who murdered her oldest son.

    Conversely, how can the antipathy or disdain for a loved one's killer ever be expressed within the guidelines of accepted, or even unacceptable language?

    The words "monster," "animal" and even "scumbag" were used by members of the Tevlin family today to described Brendan Tevlin's killer. To be fair, they were in response to statements by the killer, both yesterday and when he pled guilty in March, proclaiming he did not fit any of those descriptions.

    The words the family used in portraying Brendan Tevlin were "intelligent, kind, generous, loving, loyal." They spoke of his academic and athletic achievements, his love of his Irish heritage, and his skill as a bagpiper.

    There were about 120 relatives and friends of the Tevlin family to support them in court today, as Brown was sentenced for the murder he admitted to committing as an act of terror against the United States.

    They filled every bench in the courtroom of Judge Ronald C. Wigler, which itself is a triumph of "love conquering hate," a theme of several family members who spoke.

    MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns 

    As she spoke of all Brown stole from her family, Brendan's aunt Kathleen Nulty quickly added all he did not take. The love of family and the loyalty of friendship, the banding of the community that came to the aid of the family.

    "There will always be love and laughter and joy because Brendan would have wanted it that way," Nulty said in her statement.  

    There have been many, many sleepless nights for the extended Tevlin clan since the young man was murdered nearly four years ago.

    At some point, during those 1,400-some nights, the people closest to him knew today would come.

    The day when they would have to put into words all that their son, grandson, brother, nephew and friend meant to them. And all that his death took from them.

    There is probably no harder writing assignment.

    "How can you ever say enough?" said John Nulty, whose wife, Kathleen, is the sister of Mike Tevlin, Brendan's father. "Whatever you say isn't going to feel like you're doing them (the victim) justice."

    John and Kathleen Nulty worked on their victim impact statement on Monday night, just hours before Kathleen delivered her comments in court. 

    "I'm the writer and she's the talker," John said. "We talked about it a lot but kept putting it off. Last night (Monday) we had a drink and got it done."

    Michaela Tevlin, Brendan's sister, did the same in between preparing for final exams and writing papers at the University of Richmond, the school her brother attended.

    "I've been preparing for this for the last few years," said Michaela, who also eulogized Brendan at this funeral. "It was hanging over my head. Last night, I tried to put it all down."

    In Michaela's statement, she spoke of a loss that grows, not lessens, as the years go by.

    "It is a pain that comes with every birthday, holiday and anniversary," she said.

    She talked about how she looked for her brother at her high school graduation, when she went skydiving "which is something he always wanted to do," and will  always look for him in the future, never quite accepting he is gone.

    "When I walk down the aisle ... when I have my first child ...," she said. "My happiest moments will never be complete because Brendan is not there."

    Tom Fennelly, the chief assistant prosecutor in charge of homicides and major crimes, has heard hundreds of victim impact statements over the years, and understands the mixed emotions that come with them.

    "They have to face the offender and try to rationalize what has happened to their families," Fennelly said, "and try to find the words to do justice to their loss." 

    They also must endure the rants and irrational explanations of the defendants, as the Tevlins were forced to do today. For a full five minutes, Ali Muhammad Brown rambled about being respected "as a human being." He gave a cursory apology but wound up his monologue by saying "he had no regrets because (the murder) made me who I am today."

    Prior to the hearing, Brendan's grandfather, Tom Tevlin Sr., described his own impact statement as "positive."

    "I have faith, I believe Brendan is with his God," he said. "He helped so many people in his young life. After Hurricane Sandy, he got a bunch of friends together and went down and helped people clean out."

    But as Tom Tevlin spoke, he went "off script" and responded to Brown's asking for forgiveness.

    "My God says forgive those who trespass against us," he said. "But my God knows I'm nowhere near that today and I don't know if I ever will be."

    He is 81, old enough now, he said, to learn to "take it one day at a time."

    "We'll get through this," he said. "We have two large, strong families."

    They showed up today for one another in full force.

    For the record, no one was there for Ali Brown, and no one wrote a letter on his behalf.

    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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    The New Jersey Attorney General's office cleared

    A former Essex County Sheriff's Officers Police Benevolent Association president had his theft charges dismissed by the U.S. Attorney General's office.

    Christopher Tyminski, 46, of Byram was accused of using his role as the PBA president to pay for more than $14,000 in repairs to his personal vehicle, according to former Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's Office originally brought the charges against Tyminski, but the case was transferred to the the division of criminal justice at the Attorney General's office.

    His charges were dismissed without prejudice shortly afterward in November 2017.

    A representative of the Attorney General's office, Peter Aseltine, said Tuesday that the investigation into the matter was continuing.  

    "His reputation was impeccable before, and it is impeccable now," said Tyminski's attorney, Charles Sciarra on Tuesday.

    "It is outrageous that he was charged before an investigation, but we thank the attorney general's office for investigating the matter, talking to my client and dismissing these charges."  

    Tyminski is now retired. 

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

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    About 10,000 residents who are seniors, disabled or undocumented would have priority, officials said.


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