LAWYER: STORE FACES ‘DEATH PENALTY’

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Red Bank’s legal offensive against the controversial Best Liquors store on Leighton Avenue is the economic equivalent of a ‘death penalty’ case, its lawyer argued Thursday night at the conclusion of a three-hour hearing.

The session wrapped up at about 10p without a decision by the Borough Council, which is sitting in judgment. The council instead opted to adjourn until next Thursday at 4p, when it is expected to rule on whether the store’s record of illicit booze and cigarette sales to minors merits action. Download best_liquors_charges_and_specifications.pdf

If so, the penalties, if any, could be as severe as a revocation of the store’s license to sell liquor, Mayor Pasquale Menna said earlier this week.

That possible fate is not lost on either Sunny Sharma, who owns the store, or his lawyer, Samuel ‘Skip’ Reale Jr., who ripped the case made against the store by Borough Attorney Tom Hall.

Reale said Hall was relying on “second- and third-hand hearsay” in an effort to shut the store down.

“Hall is basically asking for the death penalty,” Reale said in a summation to the council. “Is the evidence you’ve heard the type of evidence you’d want somebody to use in determing whether your business should continue or not?”

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FIRE AT RIVERVIEW EXTINGUISHED

Img_0811_2The scene outside the Blaisdell Pavilion early this morning.

Emergency personnel and equipment swarmed Riverview Medical Center early this morning in response to a midnight fire in the hospital’s basement.

The fire was was extinguished within an hour without any apparent injuries, though individuals believed to be among the emergency responders were seen taking oxygen in an ambulance outside the hospital.

Patient care was believed to have been little affected, though fire and hospital officials were not immediately available to provide details.

An unconfirmed report indicated that the fire was started in a light fixture in the basement of the Blaisdell Pavilion, at the eastern end of the East Front Street institution.

No flames or smoke was visible from outside the hospital. Most of the fifth-floor lights of the Blaisdell wing were off throughout the response, though there were no immediate indications if that was related to the fire.

Hospital service workers David Johnson and Iris Rodriguez said they were working in the sub-basement linen operation when the alarm went off. The exited by the stairs, and found the basement level filled with a fog-like smoke, they said.

Security personnel were on the scene and directed them to leave the building, said Rodriguez.

“They were holding cloths over their faces,” said Johnson. “That’s how thick it was.”

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FIRE QUELLED ON WESTSIDE

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Red Bank volunteer firefighters quickly brought a house fire at 31 West Westside Avenue under control shortly after noon today.

There were no injuries. The cause of the blaze is under investigation, says Fire Chief Patrick McSorley.

The house is at the corner of Clinton Place.

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SHIPPING OUT: FOOD DONATIONS SOUGHT

According to a news release from RiverCenter, 75 Marines from 6th Motor Transport Battalion, based in Lincroft at Half Mile and Newman Springs Road are shipping out to Iraq on May 28 — Memorial Day.

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American Recreational Military Services (A.R.M.S), a nonprofit that provides family support services to armories in the tri-state region, has asked RiverCenter to help plan a send-off breakfast for the soldiers and their families. But no budget exists for this type of event, so it can only happen through donations. A.R.M.S. is seeking breakfast food donations or monetary donations to put toward purchasing food for this event.

The event will be from 5a until 7a and some 350 to 400 people are expected to attend. Below is a list of the items needed.

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MTOWN NORTH GRAD AMONG VA. VICTIMS

The Asbury Park Press and the Star-Ledger are reporting that a Middletown North High School graduate was among the 32 people shot and killed by a gunman in yesterday’s carnage at Virginia Tech.

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The student was identified by Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger as 23-year-old Julia Pryde, a graduate student in Biological Systems Engineering.

Pryde, Scharfenberger told the Press, was an “outstanding academic student,” as well as an athlete. She’d been on the school swimming team.

“I’m in complete and utter shock over it, and I can’t begin to fathom the enormity of the loss,” Scharfenberger said. “We’re going to do everything we can to pull together for the family. Anything we can do for them will be done.”

The Ledger has posted a heartbreaking account of how Pryde’s parents learned of their daughter’s death. Separately, the paper posted a profile of Pryde.

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AND NOW, THE WINDS

The National Weather Service has a wind advisory calling for gusts of 45 to 50 mph until 6p.

From the posting:

THE COMBINATION OF THE VERY WET GROUND…DUE TO THE HEAVY RAINS
YESTERDAY WILL MAKE SHALLOW ROOTED TREES SUSCEPTIBLE TO TOPPLING.
ANY WEAK TREE LIMBS OR FALLING TREES MAY CAUSE SCATTERED POWER
OUTAGES.

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BAUER HEADED INTO PORT

Virginia S. ‘Ginny’ Bauer, New Jersey’s Secretary of Commerce and the widow of a man killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, is Gov. Jon Corzine’s choice to fill a seat on the board of the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Star-Ledger is reporting.

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The Red Bank resident, then living in Rumson, vaulted into the public eye by helping secure tax benefits for the families of attack victims in the weeks immediately following the attacks. Nearly two years later, she was picked by then-Gov. Jim McGreevey to head the state lottery. A year ago, she moved to the commerce department at Corzine’s request.

Since the attacks, the Ledger says,

she has become a leading advocate for families of 9/11 victims and has been actively involved in the redevelopment plan for the site, which the Port Authority owns.

Bauer would be the first 9/11 widow from New Jersey to serve on the Port Authority’s board.

Corzine called her the “perfect choice” to fill one of the state’s six seats on the 12-member board that oversees operations of the financially self-sufficient public agency.

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TIFFANY COMING TO TOWN

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After months of rumors, it’s official:

Tiffany and Company, the 170-year-old icon of what was once known as the carriage trade, is ready to sprinkle some of its glitter on Broad Street.

The retailer announced today that it has leased a portion of the vacant Garmany building, next door to Garmany’s present business location. Tiffany said it will open a 6,000-square-foot emporium in November.

Red Bank, the company says in a press release, is “a jewel among Jersey shore communities.”

“With its vibrant arts community, fine restaurants and luxury shopping, Red Bank is an increasingly popular destination and a natural setting for a TIFFANY & CO. store,” said Beth O. Canavan, executive vice president of Tiffany & Co. “We’ve secured an ideal location, and we think the many residents and visitors who enjoy shopping on this charming street in the center of town will appreciate Tiffany’s exceptional quality, craftsmanship and superior service.”

The addition of Tiffany to the downtown retail mix, however, is also likely to bolster the argument that district has moved too sharply upscale in terms of prices and merchandise.

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STATE HANGS UP ON CELL TOWER SWAP

Those dead spots you keeping hitting in Fair Haven when talking on your cell phone? They’re no closer to being filled, thanks to a decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection that the borough may not use Green-Acres funded land as a site for a cell tower.

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And Mayor Michael Halfacre says he thinks the DEP officials who heard the borough’s hourlong presentation on the request had made up their minds in advance, according to a story on the Asbury Park Press website.

From the story:

The application, which could have set a statewide precedent if it had been approved, was denied after Fair Haven officials made an hour-long presentation to about five state officials.

“When we were through, they left the room and came back after two minutes and said, “we’re not doing this,'” said Mayor Michael Halfacre, who was at the meeting. “It was clearly a predetermined denial.”

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SEASTREAK ICE UPDATE

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Updating the item below…

SeaStreak has now cancelled ALL boats to and from Highlands.

From the carrier’s latest email blast:

Due to ice conditions SeaStreak will be making the following changes today’s schedule:

All service to and from Highlands will be cancelled. SeaStreak will be providing
shuttle bus service from Atlantic Highlands to bring you to your cars at Conners
and the Sandy Hook Bay Marina.

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‘WOMAN FULLY ENGULFED IN FLAMES’

The Asbury Park Press reports that a fire at the Fountains Condominium Complex on 1340 Ocean Avenue continues to burn.

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From an update posted at 9:39a:

SEA BRIGHT — A fire at 1340 Ocean Ave., at the Fountains Condominium Complex, continues to burn as firefighters and emergency workers are battling fire, winds and frigid temperatures.

“The wind is making it difficult getting the fire under control,” said Councilwoman Dina Long, who was at the scene and in contact with fire officials.

At least one person was critically burned, witnesses said. The fire was reported about 6 a.m.

Winds off the river and sheets of ice on the roadway are hampering efforts to battle the blaze.

Long said about six to eight units are burning. The fire was reported after neighbors heard screams this morning and looked out to see a woman fully engulfed in flames on her balcony, witnesses said.

The Fountains Condominium Complex is a multi-unit high-end real estate property on the Shrewsbury River.

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ERNST RESIGNS; CANGEMI MAY GET SEAT

In a move that stunned her council colleagues, Kaye Ernst Monday night announced that she’s resigning and moving to Pennsylvania after little more than a year on the Borough Council.

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One of two Republicans on the six-member governing body, Ernst cited personal reasons for her decision, including past mistreatment by unnamed others on the council, taxes that have increased more rapidly than her income, and the needs of her retired parents, with whom she’ll be moving to Lord’s Valley, Pa., in the Poconos.

Ernst said that the political atmosphere at Borough Hall had begun to change for the better since the start of the new year, a turnaround she credited to Mayor Pasquale Menna. Still, she said, her personal circumstances compelled her to sell her house and move out of state.

“You cope with your fate as a matter of choice and not chance,” she said, “and I am making the choice to change my life. I no longer feel that I am able to live the life that I want to in the town that I love so much, and in fact, not in the greatest state in America, which is New Jersey. My parents have offered me their unequivocal love and support throught my life, and it is now my privilege to take care of them.”

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PARKS & REC MINI-MYSTERY

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Something’s brewing at the Red Bank Parks and Recreation Department, which has Borough Hall watchers abuzz with speculation. But no one in a position to say what, exactly, is up will say much, citing rules covering government-employee rights.

Hmm.

Here’s what we know.

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HOUSE FIRE

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Smoke pours from a house that was extensively damaged by fire on South Pearl Street late Monday afternoon.

Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control.

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429-COUNT CHILD-SEX INDICTMENT

An Ocean Township handyman already in custody on child pornography charges has been indicted on 429 counts, according to the Asbury Park Press.

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From the report:

Clement Bilski Jr., 43, of Maple Avenue was charged with 74 counts of aggravated first-degree sexual assault, 30 counts of second-degree sexual assault, six counts of third-degree criminal restraint; two counts of third-degree possession of a weapon; two counts of third-degree obscenity, 11 counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct with a child, and seven counts of third-degree invasion of privacy.

He also was charged with 295 counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child by manufacturing child pornography; one count of distributing child pornography; and one count of fourth-degree endangerment by possessing child pornography.

The charges involve at least 10 Monmouth County children and one in Ocean County, ranging in age from 23 months to eight years, sexually assault between 1998 and 2005.

Bilski was a self-employed contractor who had worked out of a Lincoln Avenue home in Long Branch from 1996 until April when he moved to Ocean Township.

Authorities said on occasion, Bilski had used video cameras in bathrooms and bedrooms to surreptitiously record children in various states of undress.

Bilski had been jailed since April 21 on $1 million bail on previous child pornography charges after police raided his Ocean Township home and seized dozens of pornographic videos and DVDs. He is being held in Monmouth County Jail, Freehold Township.

The Star-Ledger, citing unidentified law enfocement sources, reported that dozens of videotapes found in Bilski’s home “graphically captured him sexually assaulting as many as a dozen children.”

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LEAD-FOOTED A.G. GETS THE BOOT

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New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber, who had 12 speeding tickets, four bench warrants issued for her arrest and three license suspensions even before her questionable intervention in a Bergen County traffic stop involving her boyfriend in May, has been asked to resign, according to the Star-Ledger.

The newspaper, citing “a senior Democratic official familiar with the meeting” between Gov. Jon Corzine and Farber, says Corzine made the request earlier today. The request followed the filing of a report by Richard J. Williams, a special prosecutor appointed by Corzine, who concluded that Farber hadn’t broken any laws, but had violated state ethics rules when she raced to the scene of a traffic stop involving her boyfriend, lawyer Hamlet Goore, on a traffic violation.

According to a story moved by the Associated Press, Williams said in a report to Corzine that

Farber violated state ethics laws by “approving actions which allowed Mr. Goore to drive his vehicle home.” Specifically, Williams pointed to ethics code provisions that say state officials should not use their positions to receive “unwarranted privileges, benefits, or advantages for themselves or others.”

According to the Ledger:

The sources said Farber did not immediately agree to resign and it remains unclear whether she will honor the governor’s request or fight for her job.

WEATHER ALERT

The National Weather Service has issued a severe weather alert for much of southern and central New Jersey, including southwestern Monmouth County.

A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for the region until 9p.

BODY FOUND

Investigators pulled the body of a woman from the Navesink River in Rumson on Wednesday. An autopsy found no sign of trauma, and the cause of death is under investigation. The Asbury Park Press says a State Police forensic anthropologist will try to identify the body, which was in an advanced state of decomposition.

The body was spotted in the river west of the Oceanic Bridge by a Rumson resident at about 9:30a.

From the Press account:

Authorities could only broadly estimate the woman’s age, which they put between 16 and 45 years old. The woman’s race also is undetermined, although [First Assistant Monmouth County Prosector Peter A. ] Warshaw said she may be of Asian descent. The body is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds.

“There will be substantial forensic efforts taken to identify the body, including an exam by forensic anthropologist from the New Jersey State Police and a careful review of dental impressions,” Warshaw said.

Warshaw said the woman was wearing a size 2 pair of jeans, an olive green, long-sleeved, hooded sweat shirt with an orange short-sleeved shirt underneath. She also was carrying a small amount of cash in her pockets.

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