Signed in as:
JAN. 20, 2020 - On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Governor Phil Murphy signed three pieces of legislation to reform New Jersey’s criminal justice system. The bills will streamline New Jersey’s parole system, reform requirements for civil asset forfeiture, and fund violence reduction initiatives.
“In New Jersey, we are proud to continue Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for justice,” said Governor Murphy. “We are deeply committed to ensuring fairness and justice in our criminal justice system, and today we are taking critical steps to ensure the scales of justice work equally for all New Jerseyans. I am proud to sign legislation streamlining our parole system and reforming requirements for civil asset forfeiture, two historic steps to give New Jerseyans the second chance they deserve and ensure accountability and transparency within our system.
“I am also proud to enact legislation that will fund gun violence prevention programs in our hardest hit-neighborhoods, helping stem the cycle of violence and rebuild communities. Today we honor MLK’s legacy not just by celebrating his achievements in the fight for equality and justice, but by continuing the difficult work he left us to do.”
S761, also known as the “Earn Your Way Out Act,” requires the Department of Corrections to develop a re-entry plan for each inmate and streamlines New Jersey’s parole system. The bill creates “administrative parole,” which will streamline the parole process by allowing certain inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses to be released on parole after a review by a hearing officer and certification for release by a member of the State Parole Board. This process will permit eligible inmates to forgo a full parole consideration hearing thereby moving them through the complicated parole process faster.
S761 also requires the Department of Corrections and the State Parole Board to coordinate reentry preparation efforts and other rehabilitative services for inmates in State correctional facilities. The Departments must engage inmates to develop and implement their individualized, comprehensive reentry plans.
The bill was sponsored by Senators Sandra Cunningham and M. Teresa Ruiz, and Assemblymembers Shavonda Sumter, Jamel Holley, Patricia Egan Jones, and Benjie Wimberly.
A4970 reforms requirements for civil asset forfeiture. Currently, an individual subject to civil asset forfeiture does not have to be found guilty in order for property and cash to be confiscated by authorities, as the current system only requires a preponderance of evidence to make a seizure. With limited exceptions, A4970 bans asset forfeiture if there are no criminal charges related to the seized asset or if the prosecution related to the sized assets ends without a conviction.
The exceptions apply only when there is no known owner of the seized asset or the State proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the seized asset is cash worth more than $1,000 or non-cash property worth more than $10,000. This law will make it easier for individuals with dismissed or acquitted cases to recover seized money and valuables.
Today’s signing builds upon Governor Murphy’s signing last week of S1963, which will require comprehensive disclosure and transparency requirements for civil asset forfeitures.
The bill was sponsored by Assemblymembers Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Shavonda Sumter, and Nancy Pinkin, and Senators Joe Cryan, Declan O’Scanlon, and Linda Greenstein.
S3309 establishes the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program in the Office of the Attorney General to fund violence reduction initiatives. The New Jersey Violence Intervention Program will award grants to municipalities, health agencies, law enforcement agencies, and non-profit organizations that implement effective, evidence-based violence intervention initiatives in communities with disproportionately high rates of gun violence.
The bill was sponsored by Senators Joe Vitale and Linda Greenstein, and Assemblymembers Lou Greenwald, Eliana Pintor Marin, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.
“The bills signed by Governor Murphy today will not only ensure fairness and equity in our criminal justice system, but will also help make our communities safer,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “In particular, I want to thank Governor Murphy and the legislature for recognizing the groundbreaking gun violence prevention work we are doing at the Attorney General’s office by codifying it with the ‘New Jersey Violence Intervention Program.’ With today’s legislation, we honor Dr. King by continuing to bend that long arc of the moral universe further towards justice.”
ESSEX - An Essex County woman and a Canadian man were indicted Jan. 17 for their roles in a securities fraud scheme that induced victims to invest $30 million worth of cash and cryptocurrency based on fraudulent misrepresentations, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Edith Pardo, 68, of Bloomfield, New Jersey, and Boaz Manor, 46, of Toronto, Canada, are each charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud in connection with a blockchain technology company. Pardo was arrested by special agents of the FBI, while Manor remains at large.
According to the indictment: In 2003, Manor co-founded and managed a hedge fund based in Toronto, Canada. In connection with his work at that hedge fund, Manor pleaded guilty in Canada to one count of transferring monies in breach of trust and one count of disobeying a court order. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Following his release from prison, Manor founded a business, CG Blockchain Inc., and began creating a product called ComplianceGuard, which was purportedly designed provide hedge funds with a blockchain-based auditing tool. While raising money for CG Blockchain, Manor hid his true identity and criminal past from investors and others by using a variety of aliases, including “Shaun MacDonald.” He also changed his appearance by darkening his hair and growing a beard.
Manor secured a significant portion, if not all, of the initial seed money in CG Blockchain from a close family member. In order to conceal the source of this money, Manor recruited Pardo to act as a conduit for the money. The defendants misrepresented to potential CG Blockchain investors that Pardo was an independently wealthy investor who provided millions of dollars in seed money to CG Blockchain.
The defendants also misrepresented that 20 hedge funds were using ComplianceGuard and were each paying CG Blockchain a $1 million yearly fee. In reality, none of the 20 hedge funds paid fees to CG Blockchain, and many of the hedge funds did not receive or use ComplianceGuard at all.
In 2017, CG Blockchain launched an “Initial Coin Offering” (ICO), and began marketing its new product - “Blockchain Terminal” - to potential investors. CG Blockchain described Blockchain Terminal as a computer terminal that allowed hedge funds and financial institutions to trade and manage cryptocurrency. Manor actively marketed the token to investors, while failing to disclose his true identity or his role at CG Blockchain. The defendants also misrepresented to ICO investors that the Blockchain Terminal had “Actual Clients” and was “installed at 20 hedge funds.”
In 2018, CG Blockchain publicly announced that it had raised $30 million from its ICO. Following the ICO, CG Blockchain investors learned of Manor’s true identity and criminal past. When confronted by an investor, Manor admitted that he had hidden his real identity and criminal past because disclosure of that information would have resulted in “the company being destroyed.”
The conspiracy and wire fraud counts in the indictment carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The securities fraud count carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed a civil complaint against Manor and Pardo based on the same conduct.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the SEC for the assistance provided by its Enforcement Division.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vijay Dewan and Catherine R. Murphy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Photo By Kristopher Seals
While many were looking forward to the announcement of Academy Award nominations, one political figure was announcing the end of a presidential run.
U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) started his POTUS campaign with a kickoff rally in Newark back in April 2019. While he garnered endorsements from the likes of NJ Governor Phil Murphy, the Senator and former Mayor of Newark failed to gain serious momentum. Despite having solid performances in the debates, he could not overcome front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, along with Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.
Here now is a statement Booker posted on his campaign Web site:
“Nearly one year ago, I got in the race for president because I believed to my core that the answer to the common pain Americans are feeling right now, the answer to Donald Trump’s hatred and division, is to reignite our spirit of common purpose to take on our biggest challenges and build a more just and fair country for everyone.
“I’ve always believed that. I still believe that. I’m proud I never compromised my faith in these principles during this campaign to score political points or tear down others. And maybe I’m stubborn, but I’ll never abandon my faith in what we can accomplish when we join together.
“I will carry this fight forward - I just won’t be doing it as a candidate for president this year.
“It’s with a full heart that I share this news - I’ve made the decision to suspend my campaign for president.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory.
“Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win - money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.
“So I’ve chosen to suspend my campaign now, take care of my wonderful staff, and give you time to consider the other strong choices in the field.
“I’m proud of the ideas we brought to this Democratic primary and, more importantly, the values we championed throughout - that the only way we make progress is by bringing people together - even when we were told that our approach couldn’t win. Because our values must always be our values, even when that’s not convenient.
“Over the past eleven months of this campaign, we rallied around bold ideas to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face as a nation. We moved the debate forward on gun violence - introducing a plan with the most aggressive gun safety measures our country had ever seen. We advocated for progressive, swift change to our criminal justice reform system. We fought to protect and strengthen reproductive rights and access to abortion. Together, we spoke out and stood up for people and communities that have been left out and left behind.
“We never backed down from our commitment to being a campaign powered by the people. I’m so grateful to the supporters who invested time, money, and resources into building this organization. I’m forever indebted to you and your activism.
“I will be doing everything in my power to elect the eventual Democratic nominee for president, whomever that may be, and to elect great Democrats to the Senate and up and down the ballot. 2020 is the most important election of our lifetimes - we have to beat Donald Trump … but beating Trump is the floor, not the ceiling.
“We must remember that throughout the campaign to come, and as we work to build a more just America in Trump’s wake. It’s activists like you who are going to be so important in this election and I feel so lucky to have you on my team.
“We may have not reached our ultimate goal, but over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible, inspiring, engaged people all over this country, and I am more confident now than ever that together we will rise.”
As there are many people who will congratulate Booker on his noble attempt, one rather famous individual decided to take a jab at him.
“Really Big Breaking News (Kidding): Booker, who was in zero polling territory, just dropped out of the Democrat Presidential Primary Race. Now I can rest easy tonight. I was sooo concerned that I would someday have to go head to head with him!” - President Donald Trump sarcastically posted on Twitter.
NEWARK - On Jan. 10, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. presented a balanced and responsible 2020 budget of $769.9 million that stabilizes the County's financial plan and addresses the challenges due to the ongoing national economic conditions. Layoffs have been avoided since 2004 and budgets have been unveiled before the State's statutory deadline of January 15th for 17 consecutive years.
"Every year we are faced with a variety of challenges that affect our County. By starting our planning process early and presenting our budget by the January 15th statutory deadline, we are able to create a strong groundwork and sound financial plan for our Department and Division Directors and Constitutional Officers to follow throughout the year," DiVincenzo said. "Presenting our budget by January 15th is important because it gives our municipal partners and constituents a clear snapshot of what to expect from the county," he noted.
"We have worked aggressively over the last 18 years to address long-standing issues affecting Essex County and strengthen our finances. These past few years, we have seen the fruits of our labor - getting a Aaa bond rating, helping Newark accelerate the replacement of its lead water service lines and partnering with our municipalities and public school districts to purchase equipment. These would not have been possible if we did not remain vigilant about keeping our financial house in order," the County Executive said.
The County Executive pointed out that his administration monitors the budget throughout the year and started preparing the 2020 budget in June 2019. Getting an early start enabled Department and Division Directors, Constitutional Officers and County agencies to identify and address issues, investigate ways to reduce expenses and generate new revenue, and have a plan in place by the statutory January 15th deadline. "This rigorous planning and constant vigilance has helped us to respond proactively when we are faced with challenges brought on by the national economy, unexpected events or new laws," DiVincenzo said.
"The one thing I enjoy is that because the county's financial situation so strong, the Freeholder Board can work on a lot of other issues that come before us. I want to thank the County Executive and his team for running the County so efficiently," said Freeholder President Brendan Gill, who was accompanied by Freeholder Vice President Wayne Richardson and Freeholders Carlos Pomares, Tyshammie Cooper, Patricia Sebold and Robert Mercado.
This constant attention to detail in preparing the budget has enabled Essex County to do the following:
· In August 2018, Essex County earned a Aaa bond rating with a Stable Outlook from Moody's Investors Services, the first time in history that Essex attained the highest rating available. To put this in perspective, when DiVincenzo entered office, the County's bond rating was just above junk bond status. Having a strong bond rating demonstrates the fiscal health of a government and helps save money because lower interest rates generally are offered.
· Starting in 2007, DiVincenzo implemented a "debt diet" initiative to stabilize the County's debt service by refinancing existing debt without extending its maturity date and limiting the amount of new debt to a maximum of $20 million annually. In 2019, the debt service payment is $124.6 million, which will be reduced to just $49.3 million in 2026.
· With its strong financial footing, Essex County has been able to utilize its Aaa rating to help municipalities and school districts obtain interest savings when borrowing for capital projects and equipment purchases. Essex partnered with Newark to loan $120 million to expedite the replacement of lead water service lines and, through its first-ever Pooled Government Loan Program, Essex bonded $11.9 million to help the municipalities of Irvington, Roseland and West Caldwell and the public school districts in Belleville, Cedar Grove and Livingston borrow money for equipment purchases at reduced interest rates.
· DiVincenzo has downsized the County workforce by not filling open positions unless they are essential to public safety and public health operations. This includes positions such as nurses at the Hospital Center or Corrections Officers at the Correctional Facility. Under DiVincenzo's leadership, over the last 18 years, Essex County's workforce has been reduced from a high of almost 4,000 employees in 2003 to 3,544 in the 2020 budget proposal.
· Over the years, Essex County has built a strong fund balance by realizing savings in previous years' budgets. The fund balance projected for 2020 is about $76.8 million. This reserve helps the County respond to emergencies, displays fiscal stability to bond rating agencies and has helped improve the County's cash flow and avoid taking out Tax Anticipation Notes for the last five years. (When DiVincenzo took office in 2003, the previous administration left a budget deficit of $64 million.)
· $30 million in fund balance is being used as revenue in the 2020 budget.
· The strong fund balance also has been utilized to pay for capital projects, one example being the construction of the third parking deck at Turtle Back Zoo. This helps the County avoid borrowing money for capital improvements and paying interest.
· Under DiVincenzo's direction, the county continually looks for new opportunities for recurring revenue, which includes shared service agreements with other governments and government agencies and new fees. The 2020 budget is projected to have about $98.8 million of new, recurring revenue, which lessens the County's reliance on raising property taxes.
· The 2020 budget includes just a 0.5 percent property tax increase, well below the 2.0 percent cap limit mandated by the state and the second consecutive year the increase was held to 0.5 percent.
· Over the last eight years, Essex County has held the increase in property taxes to about 1.37 percent, which is under the state cap of 2.0 percent.
· Over the last 18 years, Essex County has held the increase in property taxes to about 2.28 percent, which is the fifth lowest percentage rate of increase of all New Jersey counties behind Hunterdon, Monmouth, Burlington and Somerset counties.
The DiVincenzo administration has worked hard since 2003 to eliminate the structural budget deficit and ensure that Essex does not spend more than the revenue it collects. Austere budgeting, downsizing the workforce, eliminating unnecessary contracts and conservative spending practices have strengthened Essex County's financial position, raised its bond rating and restored the County's fiscal health. Essex's bond rating has improved 18 times and is now Aaa with a Stable Financial Outlook by Moody's Investors Services. This is the first time in history that Essex County has earned a "triple A" rating, which is the highest rating available. (The County has a AA-plus rating with Fitch Ratings.)
The 2020 budget proposal has been forwarded to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for review.
NEWARK - Caldwell University has agreed to pay the United States more than $4.8 million to resolve allegations that it engaged in a fraudulent scheme to defraud a federal education benefit program, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
“Caldwell University tried to hoodwink the Department of Veterans Affairs and, worse, veterans themselves, by claiming to offer online classes developed and provided by Caldwell that were in fact marked-up offerings by an online correspondence school,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Our veterans should never be treated this way, and we will continue to work to ensure that they receive all of the benefits that they deserve as a result of their service to the country.”
“Caldwell University’s civil settlement, along with the previous criminal convictions, sends a clear message to other educational institutions that VA OIG is dedicated to holding those accountable who would take advantage of VA programs that are intended to assist veterans and their families,” Jeffrey K. Stachowiak, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, said. “Our veterans sacrificed to serve our country and they deserve to receive the full education benefits that they earned through their military service. VA OIG is committed to working closely with our fellow law enforcement partners and thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey, for its dedication to this investigation.”
According to the settlement agreement: From Jan. 1, 2011, through Aug. 8, 2013, Caldwell University submitted false claims for payment to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in order to receive education benefits and funds pursuant to the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act (Post 9/11 GI Bill) to which it was not entitled. The Post 9/11 GI bill was designed specifically to help veterans who served in the armed forces following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Three individuals previously pleaded guilty to separate informations charging them with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud related to this scheme to defraud the VA. Lisa DiBisceglie, the university’s former associate dean of the Office of External Partnership; David Alvey, founder and president of Ed4Mil LLC; and Helen Sechrist, a former employee of Ed4Mil, admitted their respective roles in the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in tuition assistance and other education-related benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Alvey was sentenced on June 4, 2018, to five years in prison. DiBisceglie and Sechrist were each sentenced on June 5, 2018, to three years of probation. All three defendants were also ordered to pay $24 million in restitution.
According to documents in this case and statements made in court: Caldwell contracted with Ed4Mil to recruit and enroll eligible military veterans in non-degree fully online classes that were purportedly provided by Caldwell. DiBisceglie helped get approval from Caldwell’s administration to develop and administer a series of non-credit online courses for veterans in Caldwell’s name. In order for the courses to be eligible for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, DiBisceglie, Alvey, and others prepared and submitted an application to the VA stating that the courses were developed, taught, and administered by Caldwell faculty and met Caldwell’s stringent educational standards. The VA approved the online courses for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based upon the representations in Caldwell’s application.
However, Caldwell did not participate in developing or teaching the online courses. The courses were developed, taught, and administered by a sub-contractor of Ed4Mil, an online correspondence school in Pennsylvania that was not approved to receive education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Thousands of veterans were ultimately enrolled in the unapproved online correspondence courses without their knowledge while Caldwell and Ed4Mil profited. Even though Caldwell contributed no content or value to the courses, Caldwell charged the Post 9/11 GI Bill 10 to 30 times the prices charged by the online correspondence school for the same courses. As a result, the government paid over $24 million in tuition benefits to the university.
Allegations of fraud involving a separate government education benefit program were raised in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The qui tam complaint alleges that Caldwell and Ed4Mil fraudulently obtained education benefits under the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program. This settlement resolves federal allegations that Caldwell defrauded the Post-9/11 GI Bill administered by the VA, along with the qui tam action.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigation Division, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Stachowiak; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark; and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General Eastern Regional Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Geoffrey Wood, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Eskew, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care Fraud Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole F. Mastropieri of the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit in Newark.
The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no admissions of liability.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced Dec. 30 that Grafton Thomas had been charged with five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill, a federal hate crime, related to his machete attack during Hanukkah observances at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, on the night of December 28, 2019.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said, “As alleged, Grafton Thomas targeted his victims in the midst of a religious ceremony, transforming a joyous Hanukkah celebration into a scene of carnage and pain. Today (Dec. 30) is the eighth day of Hanukkah, the festival of lights that commemorates Jews’ struggle to practice their faith more than two millennia ago, and we are about to welcome in a new year. Even in the face of tragedy, both milestones are an occasion for renewed hope and resolve: To combat bigotry in all its forms - and to bring to justice the perpetrators of hate-fueled attacks.”
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said, “Every American should be free to live and worship in safety. The Department will vigorously prosecute those who commit hate crimes, and we will continue to work with our state and local partners to bring to justice anyone who violates the civil rights of Americans.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “When an individual’s actions cross the threshold of a federal crime, as we allege Mr. Thomas did here, we will act swiftly. The message from today’s charges should be crystal clear - the FBI won’t tolerate violence against anyone. Working with our partners, we will hold anyone who commits a crime like this accountable for their actions. The federal penalties for this type of attack are severe and justified. In this instance, the local community was engaged, and their actions were essential to saving lives and led directly to Mr. Thomas’s capture. It’s the rest of our community’s joint responsibility to step up and engage as well - don’t give hate a platform to propagate and don’t dismiss this type of behavior as someone else’s problem, address it and immediately report suspicious activity to authorities.”
According to the Complaint unsealed in White Plains federal court: On December 28, 2019, Thomas entered a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, which is adjacent to the Rabbi’s synagogue, during observances related to the end of Shabbat and the seventh night of Hanukkah. Thomas declared to dozens of assembled congregants, “no one is leaving,” and attacked the group with an 18-inch machete. At least five victims were hospitalized with serious injuries, including slash wounds, deep lacerations, a severed finger, and a skull fracture.
Following the attack, Thomas traveled in a car to New York City, and he was stopped in Harlem by members of the New York City Police Department. The responding officers observed what appeared to be blood on Thomas’s hands and clothing, and smelled bleach coming from his vehicle. A search of Thomas’s vehicle led to the seizure of, among other things, a machete that appeared to have traces of dried blood on it. Law enforcement subsequently searched Thomas’s residence and cellphone pursuant to warrants. The residence contained handwritten journals with several pages of anti-Semitic references. Thomas’s cellphone contained Internet searches dating back to at least November 2019 for terms such as “Zionist Temples” in Staten Island and New Jersey, as well as a webpage visit on the day of the attack to an article titled, “New York To Increase Police Presence After Anti-Semitic Attacks.”
Thomas, 37, is charged with five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 247. Each of the five counts carries a maximum prison term of life. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI, the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, the Ramapo Police Department, the Rockland County Sherriff’s Office, the New York State Police, the Clarkstown Police Department, and the New York City Police Department, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit, its White Plains Division, and the Civil Rights Unit of the Office’s Civil Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael K. Krouse, Lindsey Keenan, and Lara Eshkenazi are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
NEWARK - Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II announced Dec. 23 that an Essex County jury has convicted serial killer Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, 23, of Orange on three counts of murder in connection with the deaths of three young women he killed between August and November 2016 and the kidnapping, sexual assault, and attempted murder of a fourth woman.
“This defendant somehow thought that he could kill these women without anyone caring. The investigation undertaken by our office, in cooperation with others in law enforcement, makes clear that those of us in law enforcement would not allow that to happen,” said Acting Prosecutor’s Stephens. “The jury’s verdict makes clear the community would not either. Every victim is important, and we pursue each case was an unwavering commitment to produce the best outcome possible based on the evidence we can gather.”
After a two-month trial, the jury took less than three hours to find Wheeler-Weaver guilty on all counts, including three counts of murder for killing Sarah Butler, 20, Robin West, 19, and Joanne Brown, 33.
In addition to the murder counts, Wheeler-Weaver was also found guilty of kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder of a 34-year-old woman who survived the attack. The jury also convicted him of three counts of desecration of human remains and aggravated arson.
Butler, a Montclair resident who was attending Jersey City University was murdered on Nov. 22, 2016. Her body was found in Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange on Dec. 1, 2016.
Brown of Newark was murdered on Oct. 22, 2016. Her body was found in a vacant home in Orange on Dec. 5, 2016.
West, a native of Philadelphia who was living in Union Township, was murdered on Sept. 1, 2016 in Orange. Wheeler-Weaver set fire to her body and then torched the vacant home.
“Three years ago, three families suffered the terror of a missing loved one, followed by the horror and loss of learning they had been murdered. The survivor suffered a horrible trauma, from which she continues to recover. For the past three years, we have worked to win justice for these women. The jury has now delivered that justice on behalf of our community,” said Assistant Prosecutor Adam B. Wells, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Mira Ohm.
“We thank the jury for their tremendous service. This result could not have happened without the cooperation of members of the law enforcement community as well as the victims’ friends and family who worked with us in solving these heinous crimes,” said Assistant Prosecutor Ohm.
Acting Prosecutor Stephens thanked all the law enforcement agencies that worked so closely with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office on this case. He extended a special thanks to Sergeant Christopher Smith of the ECPO, Lieutenant Michael Krusznis of the Newark Police Department, ECPO Captain Thomas Kelly, retired ECPO Sergeant Paul Sarbando and ECPO Detective Mario Suarez.