‘No law violated,’ NJ prosecutor says about dogs that killed 3-year-old
CARTERET — Middlesex County prosecutors will not file criminal charges against the owners of two pit bulls that killed a toddler in his backyard on March 16 because there is no evidence of criminal intent.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone's office, which is in charge of the investigation, has not provided any additional details about the incident, which left the boy's mother, Shabana Mohammed, seriously injured after she jumped on top of 3-year-old Aziz Ahmed to protect him from the charging dogs.
At a vigil on Sunday night in front of the family's home, Oma Morgan, a co-worker of the boy's father, told NJ.com that Ciccone has not spoken to the family.
The prosecutor, however, did send a letter dated March 23 to "concerned citizens" who have contacted her office, explaining that no criminal conduct has been identified.
"There has been no intentional, knowing, or reckless criminal conduct uncovered. Based upon information received, no previous violent incidents involving the animals in question has been conveyed to law enforcement," Ciccone, a former Superior Court judge, says in the letter.
"In this case, based upon the information known at this time, it would appear as if no law has been violated. Thus, despite the well-intended demands for justice, no charges will presently be filed. Again, this decision is based upon the facts and evidence known to law enforcement at this time," Ciccone said.
She said there was one incident of the dogs running loose but the dogs did not show any aggressive tendencies.
That incident took place on Oct. 23, borough spokesman Jon Salonis told New Jersey 101.5. A neighbor called police who picked up the dogs and brought them to police headquarters, where they were returned to their owners.
Two weeks ago, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick told New Jersey 101.5's Steve Trevelise that it's unlikely the owners would be criminally charged.
"The only time the owners are responsible for the dog's action is when the dog is used as a weapon," Bramnick explained, adding that the family's only recourse is to sue the dog owners for monetary damages.
The family of the toddler continues to collect signatures on an online petition seeking charges against the owners of the dogs, which were euthanized after the attack.
At a vigil for the boy on Sunday night, the crowd chanted for "Aziz's Law," which would allow for criminal charges against the owners of a dog. It was the family's first time back at the home since the attack.
Mayor Dan Reiman joined family members in asking for support of the Responsible Dog Ownership Act, an Assembly bill requiring that the state Department of Health establish leashing and fencing requirements to be implemented and enforced by individual municipalities. One of the bill's sponsors is Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex.
Violations could be penalized up to $500 if a pet were allowed to roam without a leash or other restraint in a residential neighborhood, park or open space where a child could be present.
The bill was introduced in 2020 and is currently in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.