Tag: Caroline Casagrande

Asbury Park Press Editorial: Get justice for Parker Drake

Caroline Casagrande

Asbury Park Press Editorial -

Some legal cases simply make your blood boil, particularly cases when law enforcement either cannot or will not press charges on behalf of the victim.

One such case — one of the most egregious we can ever recall — is that of Parker Drake, 19, a developmentally disabled young man. Last month, he accepted a dare from two “friends,” Nicholas Formica, 20, and Christopher Tilton, 19, both of Howell, to jump off the Manasquan jetty into the 30-degree water for $20 and two packs of cigarettes.

While he fought in subzero water to get to dry land, they laughed at his distress and filmed his struggle.

What were the two men charged with? Nothing.

Local police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor said their hands were tied. Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni explained the decision not to bring criminal charges against the two men this way: “We thoroughly explored it and found there is no criminal statute that fits the conduct,” he said. “It appears to be men exhibiting bad judgment.”

Bad judgment? They easily could have killed Drake. Apparently, according to the prosecutor, because Drake was an adult, and because he agreed to the dare, the two men could not be charged.

It’s hard to believe the police and prosecutor couldn’t find some statute related to bullying, reckless endangerment, bias crimes (against the disabled and incompetent) or some broader protections for the developmentally disabled that couldn’t have applied to this situation.

But they didn’t. As a result, Drake’s mother, Christine Marshall, was left to fend for herself. She hired an attorney, Lisa Krenkel of Allenhurst, and after being put through hoops in municipal court, she was finally able to file a complaint against the two men for disorderly conduct.

If, in fact, no law applies to this case, it’s outrageous. The two police departments involved and the county prosecutor should be leading a campaign to get the state Legislature to amend the laws to protect the developmentally disabled against the type of inhumane treatment perpetrated against Drake — whether the victims are 9 or 90. Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, who has introduced legislation to protect special needs students in the past, would be an ideal point person in Trenton.

The only thing more disgraceful than the actions of the two Howell men was the ordeal Drake’s mother has had to go through on her own to seek justice. Drake and Marshall say they want justice and to raise awareness of the need for unambiguous laws to protect developmentally disabled people from such situations.

The two Howell men deserve to have the book thrown at them. If the book doesn’t apply to these heinous acts, it needs to be rewritten. Local law enforcement and legislators need to work together to ensure justice is served in this case, and in any other similar cases involving the developmentally disabled in the future.

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Should kids be forced to wear helmets while ice skating?

Source: The Star-Ledger -

It might get a cold reception from some New Jersey kids, but state lawmakers have begun advancing a bill that would require them to wear helmets while ice skating.

The state Assembly Women and Children Committee on Thursday voted 5-1 to advance the bipartisan measure (A1437), which would require minors 18 to wear helmets on the ice or while using non-motorized scooters.

Figure skaters practicing or participating in competition would be exempt.

The legislation also increases the required helmet age by one year for roller skaters and skateboarders, who currently can choose to stop wearing them at 17. Parents or guardians of kids caught without helmets would face a $25 fine the first time and up to $100 for subsequent offenses.

Nancy Munoz

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union), another sponsor of the bill who is a trained nurse, said that “sports and recreational activities are responsible for about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children and adolescents.”

The bill does not change the mandatory helmet age for cyclists, which is currently 16 and younger. Riders of motorized scooters of all ages are already required to wear helmets.

Caroline Casagrande

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth) was the committee’s lone vote against the measure.

“I spend a lot of time at the ice rink with my boys and thought this was a solution in search of a problem,” Casagrande wrote on Facebook after the vote.

A 2004 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the “proportion of head injuries among ice-skaters… was greater than that observed for participants in other types of skating” and recommended mandatory helmet use for children at indoor ice rinks, where most of the injuries occurred.

The bill now heads for a vote in the full Assembly. It has not yet been introduced in the state Senate, and would need to pass both full houses before reaching Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

The U.S. Product Safety Commission’s website says no standard currently exists for what type of helmets should be used for ice skating, but that using hockey, bicycle, ski or skateboard helmets “may be preferable to wearing no helmet at all.”

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Casagrande cool on bill mandating ice skating helmets

Source: NJ Spotlight -

High-school football players and their parents know that adolescent athletes who sustain a concussion need professional attention and time to recover before returning to the field. Now, a new bill being considered by the Assembly would require any student who suffers a concussion to be evaluated by a doctor or other healthcare provider and get written clearance before they can go back to school.

Caroline Casagrande

The mandate was extended to ice-skating, which raised concerns from Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth). She is wary of any additional burdens for ice rinks, which already are expensive to operate. She also said she isn’t aware that there’s an existing problem with ice-skating concussions, but would research the issue further.

In addition, A-4207 would make the team in each district that deals with students with disabilities responsible for enforcing any limits on a student’s activities that were determined by the healthcare provider.

Traumatic injuries to the brain upset normal brain activities, and it can take days or weeks for the brain to stabilize, according to Dr. Stephen G. Rice, a sports medicine doctor. Only 10 percent of those with concussions lose consciousness, but they experience a wide range of other symptoms, from confusion to difficulty concentrating and remembering to anxiety and depression.

At the same time, the part of the brain that controls emotional response grows more quickly than the part that handles planning.

The combination of a concussion and the unsettled state of development of teenagers’ brains means these injuries can disrupt development.

The Assembly Women and Children Committee advanced the bill in a unanimous, bipartisan vote yesterday. The committee also voted for a bill that would extend the state mandate for children up to age 16 to wear helmets while bicycling, roller skating and skateboarding to cover 17-year-olds.

The mandate was extended to ice-skating, which raised concerns from Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth). She is wary of any additional burdens for ice rinks, which already are expensive to operate. She also said she isn’t aware that there’s an existing problem with ice-skating concussions, but would research the issue further.

Rutgers University team physician Dr. Robert Monaco also expressed concern about adding helmets to figure skating, which would significantly alter the sport.

On the helmet bill, Rice added that there’s no evidence that helmets prevent concussions, although they are effective in preventing skull fractures.

Casagrande took the opportunity during the committee hearing on the concussion bill to ask Rice whether it was appropriate for young people to play football.

He said that preadolescents taught the proper techniques don’t face as much risk because they don’t have the weight or speed to generate dangerous force. But it’s a separate question for teenagers and adults.

“I think the whole sport of football is under an enormous challenge,” Rice said.

“So many of the professional athletes realize 30 years down the road that they just don’t have the brain they once had,” Rice said. “We don’t know the answer for football and I think parents are voting with their own intelligence whether it’s appropriate for their child or not.”

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Casagrande Statement on BPU Decision on JCP&L

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, issued the following statement regarding today’s decision by the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) which cut JCP&L’s rates by $34.3 million, a reduction from the $115 million that regulators sought:

Caroline Casagrande

“We have been fighting JCP&L’s excessive profits since it was revealed they were earning well above their legal limit. Today, the BPU acknowledged this by ordering JCP&L to reduce its rates by $34.3 million annually and appear for another rate case no later than April 2017. We are disappointed in the final figure, however, a rate cut is better than a hike and the increased oversight is welcomed.”

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Peterson-Casagrande Bill Increases Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenders

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assemblyman Erik Peterson, R-Hunterdon, Warren and Somerset and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, introduced legislation today to increase the penalties for domestic violence-related simple assault.

The legislation (A-4301) was inspired by constituent Andrea Strony, who met with Peterson and told him her story of domestic violence.

Erik Peterson

“After meeting with Andrea and learning the facts behind her case, I felt compelled to do something,” said Peterson. “Andrea was attacked for more than two hours by her now ex-boyfriend. She was brutally beaten and traumatized by the experience, however, due to the nature of her injuries, her attacker was charged with simple assault.”

“This legislation would make any incident that involves domestic violence a crime of the fourth degree and a second or subsequent offense to a crime of the third degree,” explained Peterson.


Caroline Casagrande

“If there is one lesson we learned from the Ray Rice incident it is that New Jersey’s domestic violence laws need more teeth,” said Casagrande. “There were 70,000 domestic violence incidents reported in New Jersey in 2011 alone. This reform gives prosecutors another tool to combat this horrific crime.”

Strony, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said she is happy to see it introduced.

“My story is not the ‘typical’ domestic violence story we tend to hear and for that I am grateful,” said Strony. “Domestic violence knows no boundaries and affects us all. This bill is a key step in bringing to the forefront the ills of domestic abuse and the need for society and the justice system to address such acts in a more serious manner.”

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Asbury Park Press endorses Casagrande animal cruelty bill

Asbury Park Press Editorial -

When confronted with a case of animal cruelty, most people properly react with a mixture of disgust and rage, and a desire to see justice done. Those who abuse animals reveal themselves as something less than human. While every case is different in both circumstances and culpability, a rash of recent Shore-area cases have called attention to the need for passage of a number of bills aimed at protecting animals that have languished in the Legislature.

Among the bills we support is state Sen. Jennifer Beck’s “Shyanne’s Law,” which would amend animal cruelty laws to require convicted animal abusers to receive mental health evaluations. Passage could reduce the odds of an offender repeating the offense or committing violence against humans. The link between cruelty to animals and abusive and violent behavior toward humans has been well established.

Caroline Casagrande

We also support legislation by Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, that would prohibit those found guilty of animal cruelty offenses from owning pets. And several bills have been introduced that would stiffen the penalties for those found guilty of animal cruelty. Lawmakers in Trenton should consolidate them into a single compromise bill. Any law recommending an increase in current minimum fines and/or jail time for currently indictable animal cruelty offenses is welcome.

Victor “Buddy” Amato, chief law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, notes that animal abuse cases are not always easy to prove. Sometimes it is necessary to enter into plea bargains with animal abusers when the facts are murky.

But this much is clear. We shouldn’t countenance those who feel that animals are mere chattel to be mishandled or tortured. Abuse of animals is not an issue with two equally valid sides. There is but one side, and that is with the innocent.
Nobel Prize Winner Albert Schweitzer has already made the case: “(The human spirit) has come to believe that compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Most people with an ounce of decency in them understand this. What is needed is for state and local government to mete out harsher penalties for those who would cause animals needless suffering. Let our outrage be transformed into a tool for justice and judgement upon those who do not comprehend the heinousness of their crimes.

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Fiocchi bill would protect antique gun collectors

Source: The Daily Journal -

Legislation introduced in the state assembly Monday saw another local politician seeking to protect antique gun collectors from prosecution under New Jersey gun laws, adding momentum to a growing movement against state gun statutes.

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

A bill introduced Monday by Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi would exempt antique firearms from the state’s gun laws, which have come under criticism in recent weeks following the arrest of a 72-year-old Port Elizabeth man for having an unloaded flintlock pistol in his car.

“Many people from a variety of backgrounds collect vintage guns for many reasons,” Fiocchi said in a news release. “Some enjoy trading and selling while others are history buffs who attend national gun shows looking for another ‘treasure.’ Regardless, collectors should not face criminal prosecution or prison for possessing or transporting such a firearm that poses no danger to public safety.”

The Fiocchi bill seeks to revise the definition of “antique firearm” in the state’s gun law, and would exempt the possession of such unloaded antique handguns from prosecution under the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm, according to a news release issued by Fiocchi.

Under current law, an “antique firearm” is defined to include only rifles and shotguns, Fiocchi said. There is a separate definition for “antique handguns,” and the new measure would amend the law so there is one definition of “antique firearm,” including handguns.

Fiocchi is not the first lawmaker to respond following the November arrest of Gordon Van Gilder by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department for having an unloaded 300-year-old flintlock pistol in the glove compartment of his car.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande has stated that she plans to introduce a bill that would align state law with a federal statute exempting firearms manufactured before 1898.

The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday that they dismissed charges against Van Gilder, who had by that point hired a lawyer and gained local and national attention for his case.

Though Fiocchi did not specifically address the Van Gilder incident in his news release, other lawmakers have been more direct in calling for change following Van Gilder’s arrest.


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Casagrande antique gun bill endorsed by South Jersey Times

South Jersey Times Editorial -

Mention guns and you’ll trigger passionate discussions.

The recent case of a Cumberland County gun collector who found himself charged after cops discovered him with an antique weapon has focused the spotlight on the need for revisions in our own state laws governing firearms.

The story all unfolded on Nov. 19. Gordan Van Gilder, 72, of Port Elizabeth, was returning home after picking up his nearly 300-year-old flintlock pistol from a Vineland pawn shop.

The vehicle he was a passenger in was stopped by Millville police and the gun was found. There is much more to the saga of the stop including questions about why Van Gilder and his driver were in part of the city that is a known drug area, but our focus is on the antiquated state laws governing weapon possession.

During the motor vehicle stop, Van Gilder was up-front with police, according to authorities, and told them about the antique weapon in the glove compartment. The weapon was inside an envelope and was not loaded, reports said.

Despite the age of the gun and the circumstances that apparently showed there was no ill intent on Van Gilder’s part, Van Gilder was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon.

Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae used her “prosecutorial discretion” and wisely dismissed the gun charges against Van Gilder.

Webb-McRae also rightfully noted any type of gun in a vehicle can cause trouble “… the public should be forewarned about the prescriptions against possessing a firearm (even an antique) in a vehicle.”

Some are describing the incident with the antique firearm as an example of overreaction by police, but the point must be made here — and made in the strongest terms — the officers involved were following the law.

It appears the officers had good reason to stop the vehicle Van Gilder was a passenger in and they had no choice but to charge him.

There’s plenty that has been debated and will be debated about this case. That’s guaranteed.

One important result of this incident is how it has highlighted another New Jersey state law in need of change. That’s a good thing.

Caroline Casagrande

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth) plans to introduce a bill that would align the state’s law with a federal statute that exempts firearms manufactured before 1898 from weapons laws. That would put New Jersey law in line with current federal statutes.

It’s a move that makes sense.

In the wrong hands, weapons are deadly. But our Constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms and that’s something that can’t change.

What must change are our antiquated gun laws in New Jersey so they make sense.

Note: A-4250 was introduced on Feb. 24 and is also sponsored by Assemblymen Dancer and Fiocchi.

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Casagrande bill would exempt Antique firearms from N.J.’s gun

South Jersey Times -

A New Jersey State Assemblywoman announced her plans to introduce legislation that would exempt antique firearms from the state’s gun law, according to a statement released Thursday.

Caroline Casagrande

In the announcement, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R – Monmouth) said the legislation was in response to charges faced by Gordon Van Gilder, the former teacher facing a possible 10-year prison sentence after police found a flintlock pistol in his car in November.

“There is a complete lack of common sense when a 72-year-old man is facing a decade in prison for possessing an unloaded, 300-year-old antique pistol,” she said in the release. “Granting this exemption will put New Jersey in line with federal law that already exempts the possession of firearms manufactured prior to 1898.”

Van Gilder faces one count of unlawful possession of a weapon, according to the Cumberland County Criminal Case Management Office. The case is still in the complaint stage and no court dates are scheduled.

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Casagrande to Introduce Bill Addressing Antique Gun Possession

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said today she will introduce legislation exempting antique firearms from the state’s gun laws.

A retired Millville teacher is facing a 2nd degree felony charge for the possession of a handgun when police discovered his 1760s “Queen Anne” flintlock pistol during a traffic stop last November.

Caroline Casagrande

“There is a complete lack of common sense when a 72-year-old man is facing a decade in prison for possessing an unloaded, 300-year-old antique pistol,” said Casagrande. R-Monmouth. “Granting this exemption will put New Jersey in line with federal law that already exempts the possession of all historic firearms manufactured prior to 1898. Hopefully, the Cumberland County prosecutor will acknowledge the ludicrous nature of charging a man with no prior history and simply dismiss this case.”

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