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Free Speech Fight Over, Norwood Activist Creates Special Needs Startup

Jonathan Singer and daughter Rebecca.
Jonathan Singer and daughter Rebecca. Photo Credit: COURTESY: J. Singer

NORWOOD, N.J. – A Norwood activist for children with special needs hopes to succeed with a start-up company aimed at helping businesses and their employees become warm and welcoming to people with disabilities.

A state judge in Hackensack earlier this year cleared Jonathan Singer of charges that he harassed his ex-wife’s attorneys on Facebook and through emails to their peers.

Another judge three years ago ordered the 52-year-old former Tenafly resident to remove the Facebook posts -- and then found him in contempt of court when he refused.

Singer was in Florida at the time and says he was “cut off from access to [my] funds and credit cards,” preventing him from hiring a lawyer.

Singer said he offered but was denied the opportunity to participate in hearings by phone, leaving him a fugitive.

Authorities in Sarasota County arrested Singer in December 2014. A month later, he waived extradition and was brought to New Jersey.

Singer was eligible for – and accepted entry into – a pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI), which allowed him to clear his name if he followed certain requirements for three years.

Singer said he wanted to fight but agreed to the intervention program because he “had no money available to hire an attorney to go to trial.”

He then went after the prosecutor handling his case by sharing her Facebook posts about her personal life to attorneys general and prosecutors nationwide, as well as on the Drive4Rebecca Foundation Facebook page.

Although Singer agreed to prosecutors' insistence on a three-year PTI term, he went to Presiding Superior Court Judge Susan Steele in Hackensack earlier this year, alleging “what was blatantly a case of malicious prosecution and abuse of power.”

Steele agreed to dismiss the charges after what had been less than a year of PTI.

Singer -- whose 20-year-old daughter, Rebecca, has a rare genetic-based autism disorder – has worked long and hard for special-needs youngsters.

He was among a group who opened the REED Academy in Oakland for autistic children 2003.

He also has raised more than $1 million for various charities through his through his Drive4Rebecca foundation, has helped parents advocate for their children and wrote “The Special Needs Parent Handbook” – countless copies of which he distributed for free to parents and donated to libraries and schools nationwide.

Singer’s legal tangles began in 2013, when he blasted Tenafly school officials over paying for his daughter’s education – including a mass email in which he called them “educational child abusers.”

Officials called police but didn’t file charges.

In 2014, Singer and another man – who was dressed as Moses – distributed donuts to parents at Tenafly Middle School while picketing for educational rights for special-needs youngsters.

Eventually, school officials agreed to pay for Rebecca to attend a special school in Pennsylvania.

Singer and his wife later divorced, after which he said he moved to Florida “to get away from it all.”

Then came the infamous Facebook battle with her lawyers.

“There was terrible defamation,” Singer says. “ ’The system’ kept me from earning a living in my field of investments and insurance for some time, among the many other assaults on my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, including the fact that my relationship with my 17-year-old son has suffered possibly irreparable harm based upon lies.

“The real victims are me and my kids.”

Singer said he’s now working on a startup, Welcomable, that’s “dedicated to helping people with disabilities find welcoming accessible places and to helping businesses to be more welcoming.”


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