NJ virus crime this week: Having drinks at the American Legion
Police last week charged three men with the misdemeanor offense of violating the governor's emergency orders after they defied authorities and sat for drinks at the American Legion Post 253 in Spotswood.
Spotswood residents Richard Luecke, 53, and Bruce Egbert, 59, and Monroe resident Barry Korsak, 57, were cited on May 16 with violating the stay-home orders, which prohibit sit-down service at bars and restaurants, including at clubs like the American Legion. The three men had been cited for doing the same thing on May 3, police said.
The charges were among a dozen emergency-order violations reported in a Friday roundup by State Police.
Gov. Phil Murphy and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan have said that an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents and merchants have been following the orders and safety regulations, even as a growing number of lawmakers and business and religious groups have called for the state to hasten its move toward lifting the pandemic restrictions on commerce and gatherings.
State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-Somerset, on Friday said he was worried that the restrictions are "leading to unnecessary conflict between New Jersey law enforcement and state residents."
A high-profile case of defiance in South Jersey resulted in a series of daily charges this week against the owners of the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, which the state Health Department ordered to remain closed on Wednesday. The gym, however, reopened Friday after closing Thursday to repair a backed-up toilet and are now facing a court action by the state Attorney General's Office.
A handful of other businesses in the state have been defying the orders to a lesser degree.
“A number of local law enforcement agencies have reached out to me to express concern that they are facing increasing hostility from New Jerseyans who are ready to go out and resume living, even if Gov. Murphy says they should stay locked down at home,” Bateman said Friday in a written statement. “The governor has to recognize that the continuation of his lockdown restrictions is putting our police and first responders in incredibly difficult situations. He’s creating unnecessary conflict with residents who are ready to take responsibility for their personal health and safety in a world with COVID-19.”
Callahan said Friday in a written statement that police and medical workers are "ultimately winning the war because of the extraordinary resolve and fortitude of New Jersey citizens who are doing their part day in and day out, abiding by the executive orders and sacrificing for the greater good."
A violation of the emergency orders is a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Police charge suspected violators with a summons, not arrest.
Suspects accused of spitting, coughing or throwing bodily fluids at police or emergency responders while claiming to be sick with the coronavirus are being charged with the more serious second-degree crime of terroristic threats, which carries a potential prison sentence of five to 10 years.
Other violations reported this week:
Gutemberg De Cavalcante, 31, and Gaffar Poonawalla, 54, the manager and owner of Bob Smoke Shop on Ferry Street in Newark, were charged on May 17 after police reported seeing customers in the back of the store.
David Fitha, 51, of Brooklyn, owner of Payless Clothing Store on Springfield Avenue in Irvington, was charged on May 18 and 19 with opening his business to customers.
Jonathan Cozzino, 21, of Union City, the manager of Dominos on 31st Street, was charged May 19 after police reported seeing two workers not wearing face coverings while making a pizza and working the cash register. Police said the eatery had been warned numerous times.
Katherine Hermes, 53, of Peapack-Gladstone, was charged by Bernardsville police on May with opening her Country Home Store on Olcott Square. Police said she had been warned.
Mario N. Albunia, 63, of Jersey City, was charged May 21 by Hoboken police with opening Mario's Pizza on Garden Street for on-site dining. Police said they saw customers dining at tables inside and outside and not sitting 6 feet apart. Police said Albunia had been warned.
Jose A. Morales Jr., 24, of Kearny, spit on a police officer two times and claimed he had coronavirus after being arrested May 16 on charges of stealing a vehicle, police said. He was also charged with second-degree terroristic threats, third-degree aggravated assault on an officer, third-degree throwing bodily fluids and violating the emergency orders.
Christopher G. Sabini, 20, of Elmwood Park, fought with officers responding to a domestic disturbance on May 15, police said. Sabini purposefully coughed in a cop's direction, officials said. He was charged with second-degree terroristic threats and three counts of fourth-degree aggravated assault on an officer.
David S. Youssef, 31, of Cliffwood, pushed, wrestled and tried to spit on Aberdeen police officers who had responded to a domestic violence call on May 18, police said. He was charged with second-degree terroristic threats for threatening to kill relatives and for claiming to have COVID-19 after spitting at cops. He's also charged with third-degree aggravated assault on an officer, third-degree resisting arrest, fourth-degree throwing bodily fluids at an officer, fourth-degree endangering and harassment.
Marquise Cadet, 26, of Jackson, spit on a police officer and claimed he had the coronavirus after his arrest for refusing to wear a mask at the Dollar General store on May 18, police said. Officers were called to the store at Manhattan Street Plaza because the bare-faced Cadet was harassing customers, officials said. Police said he was uncooperative and tried to run away. He was charged with second-degree terroristic threats, fourth-degree aggravated assault on an officer, fourth-degree resisting arrest, fourth-degree providing false information to police and obstruction.
Randall Rivers, 53, of Gloucester Township, kicked, coughed and got his blood on officers who had responded to a domestic dispute on May 21, police said. Police said Rivers claimed he had COVID-19 as he coughed on officers. He was charged with second-degree terroristic threats, third-degree resisting arrest and disorderly conduct for shouting profanities at officers.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.