#KNUCKLEHEADS (UPDATE): They come in all ages: Today’s collection of New Jerseyans accused of committing COVID-related crimes includes a 16-year-old girl who deliberately coughed on another Wegmans customer more than three times her age and a 54-year-old musician playing Pink Floyd covers for a crowd gathered on his lawn. Here's the latest list:
FROM SATURDAY (APRIL 4): With growing numbers of violators getting more brazen, police in New Jersey have been criminally charging more people committing coronavirus-related offenses. Here's an updated list (see below).
Some New Jerseyans who’ve ignored an emergency order by Gov. Phil Murphy are being charged with crimes that come with possible jail or even prison sentences and severe fines, particularly those that involve defendants coughing on or spitting at police and claiming they have COVID-19, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
“Last week, I said we were done with warnings and would take strong law enforcement action against anyone who failed to heed the Governor’s COVID-19 related emergency orders,” Grewal said. “This crackdown will continue until everyone gets the message that they need to stop these violations.”
Making terroristic threats during a state of emergency in New Jersey technically is a second-degree crime that carries a potential prison sentence of five to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000 under state statutes.
Although sentences end up being much less severe – particularly when there’s a plea bargain – those convicted still end up with criminal records, as well as penalties that could still put them behind bars.
“Because lives are at stake, enforcement action will be taken without hesitation against those who are blatantly placing the lives of others at risk,” NJ State Police Supt. Col. Patrick Callahan warned Friday.
Here’s an updated list of cases from the end of March through Friday, according to Grewal:
Wade Jackson, 54, jammed nearly 50 guests and a DJ into his one-bedroom apartment in Ewing and was immediately charged with obstruction, while also receiving a summons for violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s emergency order.
Police who found several youths playing soccer and me lifting weights at the Mine Hills Sports Complex in Wharton charged the owner, Juan Ocampo-Quiceno, 29, with violating the executive order.
The same went for Willi Rojas, 42, of Woodbridge, who was charged after opening his barbershop to customers, and for Edward Montero, 33, of Bridgeton, who held a health supplement sales presentation for more than 10 people at a gym.
Police also charged Joseph H. Benigno, 56, of Holmdel, with violating Murphy’s order by holding an auction with 15 to 20 people at a warehouse in Edison.
Joyce Billings, 59, of Columbia, managed to get charged twice after re-opening her Post Time Pub in Blairstown after police closed it the week before.
Rama Igbarra, 36, of Clifton, was charged with violating the emergency order by opening his Bobby’s Discount Home Furnishings store in Orange after police warned him to keep it closed.
Some offenders got violent, the attorney general said.
Matthew Shrewsbury, 34, of Milford, became combative with staff at Hunterdon Medical Center, where he was taken following a car crash, Grewal said.
After removing a protective surgical mask, he yelled and coughed at nurses and other staff, and threatened to spit on nurses and patients, claiming that “he had COVID-19 and did not care if he gave it to others,” the attorney general said.
Police charged Shrewsbury with terroristic threats, aggravated assault, risking widespread injury and endangering another person – and wrote him a summons for violating the order.
Steven P. Cato, 20, of Edison, was arrested after he coughed on police responding to his home on a domestic violence call and claimed to have the coronavirus, Grewal said. They charged him with three counts of aggravated assault on an police officer, making terroristic threats during an emergency, obstruction, resisting arrest and criminal mischief.
Louis A. Nunez, 52, of Manalapan, was charged with making terroristic threats during a state of emergency and spitting on a corrections officer while claiming he had COVID-19, the attorney general said.
Jacqueline Maltese, 48 of Hackettstown, was charged with simple assault and filing a false police report after she yelled at officers responding to a domestic violence incident that she had tested positive for COVID-19, Grewal said.
“That was not true,” he said.
In Newark, police in less than three days' time issued 416 summonses for violation of the emergency orders and ordered 24 non-essential businesses closed.
In Passaic, police stopped a vehicle and charged four men with violating the order: Rafael Medina, 21, Robert Feliz, 18, Edwin Valera, 25, Miguel Lopez, 22, and Angel Gonzalez, 18.
And in Atlantic City, police recovered a loaded .38-caliber revolver during a stop and arrested city residents Joseph Figueroa, 18, Alejandra Aguirre-Lopez, 22, Itayezci Pena-Noyola, 22, and Isais Pena, 20, and Hailey Leavens, 19, of Mays Landing.
Attention continued to be focused on Lakewood, where local resident Nathan Kline, 66, was charged with illegally selling alcohol out of a rental truck in a residential neighborhood with more than 10 people present.
Ephraim Adler, 42, and Sarah Adler, 18, violated the emergency order by opening their Brooklyn Southwest clothing store to customers, Grewal said. A sign on the door reportedly said: “Maximum of 50 People.”
Among other incidents in Lakewood:
Police ticketed 15 people at a large funeral in violation of state coronavirus restrictions and arrested Samuel Manheim, 27, of Brooklyn, after he refused to identify himself, Grewal said.
David Gluck, 48, and Abraham Haberfield, 32, were charged for holding a gathering of nearly three dozen people in a school facility that Gluck owns and Haberfield manages.
Yaakov Kaufman, 47, and Eti Kaufman, 45, of Lakewood, were not only charged with violating the emergency order but also with six counts of child neglect for an engagement party at their home. Other adults also were charged.
Eliezer Silber, 37, and Miriam Silber, 34, of Lakewood, also were charged with endangering children – five of them -- for holding a bat mitzvah with 40 to 50 adults and children outside their home, Grewal said.
Anthony J. Lodespoto, 43, of Matawan, sent Facebook messages to Gov. Phil Murphy and others threatening to go to Lakewood with a baseball bat and assault members of the Orthodox community for violating the governor's coronavirus restrictions, authorities charged.
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