New Jersy cop beat person, then lied about it, prosecutor alleges. A Paterson police officer was arrested Friday after allegedly beating a person while on duty and then lying about it in his report, authorities said. Trenton mayor looking for police director who’s more ‘vested’ in the city. As Trenton comes out of the coronavirus pandemic with the rest of the country, Mayor Reed Gusciora said he’s looking for a police director who is more vested in the the state capital.
Spencer Finch, 44, of Mahwah, was charged with official misconduct, aggravated assault, tampering with public records and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, according to a release from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
The alleged incident happened on May 26 while Finch was on duty and in uniform, but the time and exact place were not disclosed by the office.
Finch allegedly punched the person, who was not identified, in the face, hit the person multiple times with a flashlight and kneed the person in the face, the office said. It was unclear if the person he allegedly hit was someone he was arresting and what the circumstances leading to the arrest were.
Finch also allegedly prepared, signed, and submitted a police report describing the incident that contained several false statements, the release stated.
His first court appearance is scheduled to be held virtually on Saturday and the office said it intended to file a motion for Finch to remain in jail until his trial.
Finch’s status with the Paterson Police Department was unknown Friday evening as a spokesperson for the department could not immediately be reached for comment.
In his first remarks after firing Sheilah Coley on Wednesday, the mayor said he wants a police director who will handle the challenges of policing in a post-pandemic world.
He said the ideal director will strengthen ties with the community, recruit in the city’s high school and continue what Coley started. “Someone who’s vested in the city on a daily basis,” Gusciora said.
Coley never discussed her exact address, but it’s well known she still lives in the Essex County area, as she was a 25-year Newark police officer until 2014, and was a chief and director there, as well as in East Orange.
Trenton directors are not required to live in the city, and Gusciora would not be explicit about why he suddenly let Coley go, but said he would not disparage her. “She did some good things. I think it was just time for change.”
“I just think there’s things that we can do differently,” he added. Coley started as police director on May 1, 2019.
If you look at any similar city, it’s not unusual for cabinet members to “come and go” at times, and in Trenton, they served at the pleasure of the mayor, Gusciora said.
He declined to get into specifics on if he has any leading candidates for the job. He said he has confidence the police department is in good hands with officer-in-charge Capt. James Slack.
Gusciora said the city will respect the 20 days that Coley has to remain on the payroll, under a city ordinance, although he questioned its constitutionality. “Rather that risk more litigation, we’re prepared to ride out the 20 days,” he said.
The mayor said Trenton has good things on the horizon. The City Council on Thursday night approved the switch to a budget that operates on a calendar year, starting Jan. 1, rather than the fiscal year, staring on July 1. (Trenton was one of seven New Jersey municipalities operating on a fiscal year, Gusciora has said pushing for the change.)
And, the city is about to see over $30 million in American Rescue Plan funds, the first of two payments of a total of $73 million the city is slated to receive.
“I think it’s going to do a lot for tax stabilization, and maybe get us out from the [oversight] of the state Department of Community Affairs,” Gusciora said.
Groups say they found poll issues in Newark, call on election official to investigate
When Ryan Haygood went to his polling place at the Nellie Grier Senior Day Care Center in Newark to vote Tuesday in the primary election, he said there were no voting machines available.
Haygood is the president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, an advocacy group that has worked on wealth and criminal justice reforms. He said he wasn’t offered a provisional ballot until he asked for one.
“I went to my Newark polling place at 7:30 on Tuesday morning to cast my ballot only to find that there were no voting machines available,” said Haygood. “I was told to return later and not offered a provisional ballot until I proactively requested one.”
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and 19 other groups sent a letter Friday to Essex County Superintendent of Elections Patty Spango calling on her to investigate issues at Newark’s polling places during the June 8 primary.
Spango did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of State, which oversees elections, did not respond either.
Haygood said election officials at his polling site told him other districts in Newark also did not have machines.
Some of the organizations that signed onto the letter monitor voting issues during each election cycle. They monitor a hotline, social media posts and field volunteers.
The letter sent to Spango said there were issues in last year’s general election, claiming multiple polling places in Newark were not open at 6 a.m.
“Counties like Essex like to pride themselves on holding successful elections, and in many ways that is true,” said Henal Patel, the institute’s Democracy and Justice Program director. “But for an election to be truly successful, it must provide equal access to the ballot to all voters, and, unfortunately, that has not been the case.”
Spango became superintendent of elections in Essex County after the November 2020 election.
The letter called on her to respond by June 17.
Drunk driver pleads guilty in wreck that killed college student ‘doing the right thing’
A Mercer County man pleaded guilty Friday in the head-on drunk driving crash that killed a 20-year-old college student, who was the designated driver for his fraternity brothers when the wreck occurred in 2018, officials said.
David Lamar pleaded guilty to second-degree death by auto and two separate counts of third-degree assault by auto, according to a spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of six years in state prison for the death by auto offense with consecutive three year terms for the remaining charges leading to a cumulative 12 year sentence, spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13.
Lamar, 25, of West Windsor, was driving south on Pennington Road in Ewing Township early Dec. 2, 2018 when his vehicle crossed the centerline and slammed into another car driven by Michael Sot, a sophomore at The College of New Jersey, authorities said.
Sot died from his injuries while his passengers were seriously hurt, according to officials. Sot, of Clark, was the designated driver that night for his brothers at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
He was remembered as kind and caring with a promising future, and always eager to help friends.
At a 2019 court hearing, Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Stacey Geurds said Lamar was captured by security footage drinking for nearly three hours at a bar on the TCNJ campus before the wreck.
Tests showed Lamar had a blood-alcohol content almost three times the state’s legal limit at the time of the crash, according to prosecutors.
In Sot’s memory, an effort was launched to promote using sober, safe designated drivers. The Remembering Michael Sot HERO Walk was scheduled for June 19 at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark.
“Michael Sot was doing the right thing as a designated driver for his friends when a drunk driver drove into his car killing Michael and injuring his friends,” a posting for the event said.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Grillo handled the case, the prosecutor’s office said. Lamar’s lawyer, Robin Lord, could not be immediately reached to comment.