Did Star-Ledger collude with Murphy A.G. to produce anti-ballot question headline?

Journalism isn’t what it once was.  Today, there is a revolving door between journalism, government, politics, and lobbying.  Today’s journalist is likely to be tomorrow’s political director.

Look at the case of Mark Magyar, one of Senate President Steve Sweeney's top aides.  In December of 2014, Magyar was hired as the Democrat's new Director of Policy and Communications.  Magyar had been a statehouse reporter for the Asbury Park Press and the Bergen Record, as well as the editor of the New Jersey Spotlight.

The corporate and political empire of Democrat Party boss George Norcross – the political machine of which the Senate President is a part – has a history of co-opting or attempting to co-opt local and regional newspapers in that part of New Jersey where his authoritarian rule is almost uncontested.  The machine is in the process of solidifying its rule in its southern New Jersey base, while expanding its power across the state – and beyond.

Mark Magyar is the spouse of Elizabeth K. Parker, Co-publisher and Executive Editor of the New Jersey Hills Media Group.  The group is controlled by the Recorder Publishing Company, a privately held entity in Bernardsville, that owns and publishes 17 local newspapers in Republican Morris County, Somerset County, and Hunterdon County -- and in Republican towns in Essex County.  Their readership comes from towns that usually get the short end of the sick from the Democrats in Trenton.  The company also sells other services, including website development, search engine optimization, "Reputation Management", and "Social Media Management".

Newspapers were never as pure and disinterested as their cheerleaders would have us believe, but at least – once upon a time/ just yesterday – they did constitute a locus of power independent of political machines.  Not necessarily of their corporate advertisers (per Herman and Chomsky), but certainly of base political machines.  Those days are drawing to a close.

We saw evidence of this on Saturday, when the office of Gurbir Grewal, the state Attorney General appointed by Governor Phil Murphy, conspired with Star-Ledger/ NJ.com reporter Rob Jennings to concoct a news headline the Murphy administration could use to undermine the people of Sussex County’s right to vote on Murphy’s Sanctuary State scheme.  At issue was a public question on the November ballot, passed by the Freeholders in April, that asks the voters their opinion on whether Sussex County Sheriff Mike Strada should follow American law on illegal immigration – or the directives of the Murphy administration.

The Democrat Murphy administration is arguing that Sussex County taxpayers should not have the right to vote on issues that affect the performance of county functions that they pay for entirely out of their highest-in-the-nation property taxes.  Taxation without the right to vote sounds pretty un-American to us.

Concurrent with plans to allow illegal aliens to have drivers licenses and to give incarcerated violent criminals the right to vote and hire lobbyists, the Murphy administration is using Grewal in an attempt to bully and intimidate the elected Freeholders of Sussex County into ending plans to allow the people the right to vote on a public question on the November ballot.  Popular sentiment across the state has been running against Murphy, so Grewal’s office was charged with finding a reporter who would provide them with a headline they could use.

Jennings, a former intern with Democrat Governor Mario Cuomo, was used to provide it.  Grewal’s office leaked confidential correspondence to Jennings, who promptly wrote a story with the headline:  “Sussex County caves to Murphy AG, will not put immigration question on ballot.”  It was the journalistic equivalent of performing fellatio for Grewal’s office.

Of course, the headline was false.  Jennings lied.  The Star-Ledger printed fake news.  Only the County Clerk had “caved”.  In fact, the County Freeholder Board had hired a conservative attorney less than 48 hours before to fight the Murphy administration.  This special counsel was charged with creating an updated ballot question with language that defeats the legal objections raised by the Murphy administration, so that Murphy and his cronies cannot hold up its placement on the ballot through legal maneuverings.

Jennings refused to write about it.  Even after he was contacted by Freeholders and the Special Counsel, Jennings refused to correct or update his story.  The lie remained published.

Not only did Jennings break the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), but Grewal’s office may have broken its professional code as well.  Word is that both may face ethical enquiries.

Despite the false headline, the Sussex County Freeholders remain resolved to fight the Murphy administration, with or without the assistance of the County Clerk.  And the Freeholders could always bring a lawsuit to compel the Clerk to place the public question on the November ballot.

New Jersey is unique in its forms and ways of political corruption – especially of systemic corruption – in that it rides the wave just ahead of the rest of America.  Sadly, it appears that what we once called journalism is on a rapid descent into the realms of propaganda and in future will be little more than coarse party broadsheets -- advertisements using histrionics worthy of Pravda or the Völkischer Beobachter.

Sussex County Freeholders moving ahead with ballot question on Murphy lawlessness

According to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger this morning, County Clerk Jeff Parrott has taken sides with the administration of Democrat Governor Phil Murphy:

“Sussex County Clerk Jeffrey Parrott on Friday sided with (Murphy political appointee) Gurbir Grewal in disallowing a ballot question, approved by the all-Republican freeholder board in April and supported by County Sheriff Michael Strada, that would have directed the sheriff to ignore Grewal’s (pro-illegal alien ‘Sanctuary State’) directives…”

Governor Murphy is using Grewal, his appointed Attorney General, in an attempt to bully and intimidate the elected Freeholders of Sussex County into ending plans to allow the people the right to vote on a public question on the November ballot.  The Murphy administration is doing this concurrent with plans to allow illegal aliens to have drivers licenses and to give incarcerated violent criminals the right to vote and hire lobbyists. 

That is correct.  Not only do the Democrats want to take away the right of the people of Sussex County to have a democratic vote concerning a function of government they pay for out of their property taxes – the Democrats want to give violent felons the right to vote while in prison, after being convicted of violent crimes.  It is a simple case of good and evil.  It could not be much clearer as to who the “bad guys” are.  

This morning’s newspaper story goes on to note that County Clerk Parrott decided to side with the Murphy administration even after the Sussex County Freeholders had decided to hire a special counsel to fight Murphy and his political appointee.  The Star-Ledger reported that on Wednesday evening the Sussex County Freeholders hired State GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt, a conservative stalwart, to do battle with Murphy.  Steinhardt is charged with creating an updated ballot question with language that defeats the legal objections raised by the Murphy administration, so that Murphy and his cronies cannot hold up its placement on the ballot through legal maneuverings.

County Clerk Parrott did not consult with fellow Republicans before deciding to join the Murphy administration in its opposition to the elected Sussex County Freeholder Board and to the people’s right to vote.  According to those close to the County Clerk, Parrott’s taxpayer-paid-for attorney does not believe that county taxpayers have the right to vote on issues that affect the performance of county functions that they pay for entirely out of their highest-in-the-nation property taxes.  Taxation without the right to vote sounds pretty un-American to us.   

The Freeholders are resolved to fight the Murphy administration, with or without the assistance of the County Clerk.  In the event that the County Clerk remains in the camp of the Democrat Governor, the Freeholders could bring a lawsuit to compel the Clerk to place the public question on the November ballot. 

Sussex Freeholder Hertzberg slams Murphy Sanctuary State scheme on South Jersey radio

In April, the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted to place an advisory question on the November ballot.  It asks county voters whether they want to direct their Sheriff (who is paid for by their property taxes) to (1) abide by the Murphy administration’s Sanctuary State directive or (2) respect the primacy of the Constitution of the United States of America and follow federal law on matters related to national borders, immigration, and citizenship.  

The Murphy administration quickly acted to block this exercise in direct, advisory democracy.  Governor Murphy is threatened by people having the opportunity to voice their opinion on this important issue.  Murphy doesn’t want people to have a vote about an office for which they pay entirely from taxes imposed on them.  

Governor Phil Murphy is telling voters:  You pay, but you don’t have a say.  

In defense of his Governor, Murphy appointee Gurbir Grewal has embraced the woke practice of philosophical inversion.  It’s the same practice that eliminates free speech in the name of “freedom” and that eliminates a diversity of opinion in the name of “diversity”.  We see it at work in government, academia, and – increasingly – in corporate and work environments.  It is George Orwell’s nightmare come true.

It is sad to see the state’s top law enforcement official – the Attorney General, no less – repeat the political lies he’s been taught by his master. Everyone knows that the very first victims of any immigrant community are the immigrants themselves.  But Grewal did as he was told and issued an edict demanding that the public question be removed from the November ballot.

Responding to the June 7th deadline imposed by Murphy (via Grewal) to muzzle democracy, county Sheriff Mike Strada stood up to Murphy and rallied county Freeholders to do the same.  The Freeholders flipped Murphy the collective “bird” and – along with County Clerk Jeff Parrott – allowed his June 7th “deadline” to pass. 

Sheriff Strada has written to United States Attorney General William Barr to request his advice and direction on the matter.  And he reserved the option to himself request a public question be placed on the ballot.  

The Freeholders have been no less open in their opposition.  Here is the audio of a recent talk show appearance by Freeholder Josh Hertzberg. Freeholder Hertzberg was on the Rich Zeoli show – one of the top talk radio venues in the Philadelphia/ South Jersey media market. 

Murphy’s Sanctuary State Directive Endangers Women & Children

By Dawn Fantasia, Sussex County Freeholder

According to the U.S. Department of State, the United States is a destination country for thousands of men, women, and children trafficked from all areas of the world. These individuals are being introduced into sex trafficking and forced labor, organ trafficking, sex tourism, and child labor.

Individuals often flee to the United States seeking a better life, but through dangerous means, and they are preyed upon and victimized because of the way they are choosing to enter the Country. To compound the matter, there is grave danger from those illegally entering the Country with the specific intent of committing violence and breaking our laws.

Under the direction of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has issued a Directive for state and local law enforcement agencies to, in essence, run interference against a Federal agency and to supersede protocol with a reckless State directive. As such, I am vehemently opposed to the name and the characterization of this Directive as the Immigrant Trust DirectiveThis Directive contains additional language that has little or nothing to do with building trust to encourage cooperation between undocumented immigrants and law enforcement agencies, and Attorney General Grewal’s characterization as such is disingenuous and blatantly false. The specific aspects of the Directive for which I take exception are as follows:

State and local police officers, correctional officers working in state prisons and county jails, and state and county prosecutors:

  • Cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases, or property, unless those resources are readily available to the public;

  • The directive prohibits police and correction officers from continuing to hold a detained individual arrested for a minor criminal offense past the time he or she would otherwise be released from custody simply because ICE has submitted an immigration detainer request signed by an ICE officer, and prohibits notification to ICE of such an individual’s upcoming release.

  • With respect to detainees charged with violent or serious offenses – such as murder, rape, arson, assault, bias crimes, and domestic violence offenses – New Jersey law enforcement and correction officials may notify ICE of the detainee’s upcoming release, but may continue to detain the individual only until 11:59 p.m. that day.

Ironically, the Directive is followed by the language below in a thinly-veiled attempt to encourage further interference with the following statement:

“Nothing in the Directive prohibits law enforcement agencies from imposing their own additional restrictions on providing voluntary assistance to federal immigration authorities.”

This Directive absolutely limits the types of voluntary assistance that New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers may provide to federal immigration authorities, and to encourage further noncooperation at the local level is foolhardy and dangerous. The language above clearly demonstrates that this Directive is masquerading as a means to encourage cooperation of undocumented immigrants with law enforcement agencies.

New Jersey does follow specific laws that grant legal immunity in order to promote and preserve the health, safety, and well-being of our residents, including the following:

  • New Jersey’s Good Samaritan statute ensures that doctors, paramedics, and bystanders are able to, in good faith, provide assistance at the scene of an accident without fear of being subject to legal action. 

  • The Overdose Prevention Act was created to encourage people to contact emergency workers if they believe that someone overdosed on illegal or prescription drugs. An individual who attempts to obtain medical help after experiencing a drug overdose is immune from being arrested, charged, or prosecuted for using the controlled substance.  

  • New Jersey’s Safe Harbor Law is an affirmative defense to prosecution for prostitution should a defendant be a victim of human trafficking, and was forced to commit a prohibited act.

  • The Safe Haven Law is in place to provide a safe means to surrender your healthy newborn without fear of criminal prosecution. 

In sharp contrast, the Immigrant Trust Directive far exceeds the simple protection of immunity from deportation based on immigration status in order to engender trust and promote cooperation between law enforcement agencies and undocumented immigrants. This is a gross mischaracterization of the Directive by the Attorney General. The Directive PROHIBITS state and local agencies from providing notification to ICE and PROHIBITS holding an individual who is alleged to have committed the most egregious of offenses past 11:59 the same day.

In a recent video interview published on nj.com, Attorney General Grewal states, “…and if ICE doesn’t pick them up, that’s on ICE”, further positing that there should be no finger-pointing at state or local agencies if an alleged criminal is released prior to the arrival of ICE on scene.

This is nonsense. The finger is pointed squarely at this reckless Directive; with it, Attorney General Grewal himself has created disingenuous and dangerous conditions.

He continues: “If a judge says they are free to go, who are we to say otherwise, unless we have a federal warrant?”

As reported in this piece by the New Jersey Herald:

A 38-year-old Newton man was arrested in for sexual assault of a minor, and two hours after his release from custody was again arrested after the victim found him hiding in her Newton home.

Fernando Diaz, was arrested three times prior to an indictment charging him with second-degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 13 while he was 20 years older; third-degree endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct; and three counts of fourth-degree contempt by violating a restraining order.

He was charged with second-degree sexual assault and third-degree endangering and a judge granted a temporary restraining order against Diaz. Diaz spent a night in jail and was released the following day at 2 p.m., police said.

Two hours after his release, Newton patrols responded to the victim's house for a report that Diaz was inside the home, according to an affidavit of arrest.

When patrols arrived, the woman indicated her child, who was the alleged victim, was inside the house and Diaz was in the basement.

After announcing who they were, patrols told Diaz to "stop hiding and come out," before they found him hiding in a shelving unit in the corner of the basement, the affidavit states.

Diaz is being held on an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detainer by the Department of Homeland Security. The detainer provides ICE agents extra time to determine if the individual should be taken into federal custody and ultimately deported.

We are fortunate that Federal intervention prevailed for the safety and welfare of the victims. And I am frankly disgusted at the willful ignorance displayed by the State for the safety and welfare of our residents, a State which continues to perpetuate this false narrative of trust in relation to criminal offenses committed by undocumented immigrants. As the former Bergen County Prosecutor, Attorney General Grewal took a firm and active stance on combatting the human trafficking crisis, often taking the lead in training sessions and symposiums. So why now would he issue a directive that further endangers those undocumented victims of crime, and endangers the population as a whole by restricting and/or prohibiting cooperation with the very agency dedicated to combatting human trafficking and smuggling?

As outlined by the Department of Homeland Security, ICE's role in combating human trafficking and smuggling is the following:

“ICE works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human smuggling and human trafficking. ICE accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations to identify, rescue and provide assistance to trafficking victims.”

It is my belief that our county and local agencies need to fully cooperate with ICE, so that any undocumented individuals with criminal offenses are deported, and the residents of Sussex County have the right to have a voice on this issue.

The state continues to let the people of Sussex County down. From the shameful display in Vernon Township by the DEP Commissioner McCabe regarding illegal and hazardous dumping in Vernon, to grossly inequitable school funding through the School Funding Reform Act, to the crippling restrictions of the NJ Highlands Act; how many more times will the State of New Jersey turn a blind eye to the safety and welfare of our rural communities?

Phil Murphy tries to suppress voting in Sussex County

In a move that is rich in hypocrisy, the Murphy administration has “ordered” the Sussex County Clerk, Jeff Parrott, not to place on the ballot a public question that allows voters in that county to instruct their Sheriff on the Sanctuary State directive issued by Governor Murphy’s attorney general.  The ballot question gives voters a choice to instruct their county Sheriff to (1) obey the state directive or (2) follow the laws passed by the Congress of the United States of America, signed by successive Presidents of both parties, and upheld by the United States Supreme Court. 

So Phil Murphy is telling Sussex County that they must obey him – and join him in disobeying the laws of the United States of America.  And he is attempting to suppress the rights of voters to have a say in the matter.

The “order” was issued by Murphy ally Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who Murphy appointed in January of 2018.  The Attorney General is the scion of a very wealthy but controversial family of developers.  And it is no secret that Grewal is angling for a spot in some future Democrat administration in Washington, DC, if he can get past the confirmation hearings (which are a whole lot tougher in Washington than they are in Trenton).  That controversial family of developers thing again (it’ll get you every time).

The “order” to deprive the voters of their right to voice their opinions on a ballot question pits Murphy and Grewal against Sussex County’s Sheriff, Mike Strada, who has strongly supported the ballot question and opposed Murphy’s Sanctuary State plan every step of the way. Strada, a career law enforcement officer who led a U.S. Army platoon in Iraq (Desert Storm), has no time for federal law breakers like Murphy and Grewal.

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Murphy & Grewal vs. Sheriff Mike Strada

 
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New Jersey Herald reporter Bruce Scruton did a good job of covering this breaking story, which appeared on that newspaper’s website late last night.  It can be accessed here:

https://www.njherald.com/20190524/attorney-general-nixes-countys-anti-sanctuary-ballot-question

Reactions from the Freeholders have been mixed, with some clearly in the mood to stand up for the rights of voters and others a bit tepid.  Four of the five member freeholder board cast votes in support of the ballot question earlier this year, but there is a long history in Sussex County of elected officials taking the advice of “go-along-to-get-along” establishment types.  This is what lured them into the solar debacle that cost taxpayers $26 million but has yet to identify a guilty party (despite nearly $600,000 in “studies” to find out what went wrong and who done it).

You can’t put a cost on doing the right thing – and the right thing is standing up for the right to vote and the primacy of the Constitution of the United States of America.  Too often doing the right thing is dismissed on grounds of cost (unless it can be monetized, as with the $600,000 in “studies” into the solar debacle). 

This is a moment of truth for Sussex County Republicans.  We’ve heard a lot about the “walk away” movement among the Democrats.  Republicans should understand the frustrations of their own base – at least enough to prevent a “walk away” movement of their own.