[9/26/09 – 8:19 am] The following story, taken from the Philadelphia Daily News of Thursday September 24th reports on a motion in Burlington County Superior Court.
Animal-cruelty charges dropped against Burlington County cop
By JASON NARK
Philadelphia Daily News
If animals could talk, a few cows in Burlington County might ask state legislators to hurry up and outlaw bestiality.
During a bizarre hearing there yesterday, a Superior Court judge dismissed animal-cruelty charges against a Moorestown police officer accused of sticking his penis into the mouths of five calves in rural Southampton in 2006, claiming a grand jury couldn’t infer whether the cows had been “tormented” or “puzzled” by the situation or even irritated that they’d been duped out of a meal.
“If the cow had the cognitive ability to form thought and speak, would it say, ‘Where’s the milk? I’m not getting any milk,’ ” Judge James J. Morley asked.
Children, Morley said, seemed “comforted” when given pacifiers, but there’s no way to know what bovine minds thought of Robert Melia Jr. substituting his member for a cow’s teat.
“They [children] enjoy the act of suckling,” the judge said. “Cows may be of a different disposition.”
Burlington County Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Morgan was certainly irritated by the ruling, claiming the grand jury didn’t see the videos of the alleged incident, including one in which one hungry calf allegedly head-butts Melia in the stomach.
“I think any reasonable juror could infer that a man’s penis in the mouth of a calf is torment,” Morgan argued. “It’s a crime against nature.”
Although a bill was introduced in 2005 to ban bestiality, New Jersey still has no explicit ban on the sexual penetration of animals, which is why the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office charged Melia with animal cruelty.
Morley said it was questionable whether Melia’s alleged crimes against cows, although “disgusting,” fit the definitions in the animal-cruelty statute.
“I’m not saying it’s OK,” Morley said. “This is a legal question for me. It’s not a question of morals. It’s not a question of hygiene. It’s not a question of how people should conduct themselves.”
Sex with cows is the least of Melia’s problems, though.
He and former girlfriend, Heather Lewis, of Pemberton Township , are also accused of sexually assaulting three young girls over a five-year period, sometimes in Melia’s
home in Moorestown , where he was a patrolman, authorities said.
Melia has been suspended from the force, said a spokesman with the Prosecutor’s Office.
Melia and Lewis were both arrested in April 2008, shortly after one of the girls told her stepfather of the alleged abuse.
During the course of the investigation, authorities also discovered child pornography on Melia’s home computer as well as videos of him with the cows.
Morley also ruled yesterday that the prosecution must turn over copies of images and videos from the computer to the defense, including one video that allegedly shows one of the girls being “subjected to sexual activity.”
Lewis, who also appeared in court yesterday, is also accused of sexually assaulting a juvenile male. Morley denied a defense motion to have Lewis’s individual sexual assaults separated from Melia’s case.
Melia, Lewis and their attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
Morgan, the prosecutor, said in court that the owner of the cows was “very upset” by the incident.
[09/20/09 – 7:42 pm] By order filed September 14th, the New Jersey Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand against a municipal court judge.. The disciplinary order concluded that Judge Emery Toth, JMC violated both the rules of Court and the New Jersey Code of Judicial Conduct in his handling of a prisoner case during a teleconference. As a result of a rude provocation from the prisoner, the judge engaged in a brief colloquy with him using terms that the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct found to be intemperate. The judge also found the prisoner guilty of contempt in the face of the court and sentenced him to six-months in jail without utilizing the procedures required by Rule 1:10-1.
Prior to the imposition of final discipline by the Supreme Court, Judge Toth had stipulated to the facts of the case and had apologized. The order of discipline brings the matter to a conclusion.
Download a copy of the ACJC presentment in this case.
[9/15/09 8:30 pm] On September 1st, the Supreme Court replaced Rule 1:38 with a comprehensive new procedure that will provide an administrative framework for access to the records of the judiciary by members of the bar, the press and the public. The new Rule, together with the New Jersey common law, will exclusively control future access to judicial records as the Open Public Records Act does not apply to the judiciary.
The Hon. Roy McGeady, PJMC (Bergen Vicinage) has prepared a comprehensive memorandum of law that explains how the newly revised Rule 1:38-1 et seq. has been organized.
Click here to download a copy of the memorandum.
Our sincere thanks to Judge McGeady for making this memorandum available.
[9/13/09 – 8:55 pm] This Tuesday morning, the New Jersey Supreme Court will decide the future of the assessment of points under N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2, the Unsafe Operation of a Motor Vehicle Statute. The case under consideration by the Court was decided by the Appellate Division under Patel v. Motor Vehicle Commission, 403 N.J. Super. 373 (App. Div. 2008). There, the Court held that although a first or second violation of the statute will not result in the assessment of motor vehicle penalty points from the MVC, every third offense requires points (currently set at four), regardless of how long it occurs following a second offense. Thereafter, if the defendant can go five years following his third offense, a fourth offense will not result in point assessments.
The argument by the plaintiff is that the Legislature intended to provide relief on third offenses following a five-year period from a second offense.
In a second important municipal court case to be argued before the Court on Tuesday, the Justices will review a presentment by the Advisory committee on Judicial Conduct in a case captioned In re Boggia (D-118-08). The issue in this case affects many of the part-time judges in the state and relates to whether a sitting judge can be subject to discipline when a partner in his firm makes a political contribution in the name of the firm without the judge’s knowledge or consent.
The Patel case can be seen by streaming video at 11:15 am. The Boggia matter will be streaming at 2:00 pm. You may use the following link to watch the arguments.
[09/10/09 – 10:33 pm] This morning, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) released a complaint that charged Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Steven Perskie with a number of violations of the Rules of Court and the New Jersey Code of Judicial Conduct (ACJC). The complaint alleges that the judge was improperly hesitant to recuse himself from hearing a case during which a long-term, personal friend and business associate was likely to testify as a key witness. Thereafter, following his recusal, the judge actually attended the trial on two occasions and remained in court watching the proceedings for a substantial period of time. The ACJC also contended in the complaint that the judge was less than candid about his activities related to this case during his sworn testimony before the Senate as part of his reappointment process.
The judge will now have an opportunity to file an answer to the complaint and contest the allegations in a plenary, public hearing before the ACJC. All final discipline in matters involving judges is imposed by the Supreme Court.
Download a copy of the complaint in In re Perskie.