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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    He's been indicted on aggravated manslaughter charges and others including vehicular homicide and assault by auto.

    Robert J. Gardner, a 20-year-old Turnersville man with several DWIs on his record, has been indicted on aggravated manslaughter and several other charges stemming from a night of alleged intoxicated driving that resulted in a hit-and-run and fatal wreck that killed a 31-year-old mother of two. 

    According to the complaint against Gardner, he recklessly caused the death of Cathleen LaBance "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life," resulting in the aggravated manslaughter charges.  

    He was also indicted on vehicular homicide, causing death while operating a motor vehicle, driving with a suspended license and assault by auto vehicle. 

    These charges are from a combination of two accidents that took place on Sept. 6. 

    Less than an hour before Gardner's pickup truck crossed over a grass median and struck LaBance's car --  killing the 31-year-old mother of two --  he had allegedly rammed into another vehicle on Route 42 and took off at speeds nearing 80 to 100 mph, according to the criminal complaints. 

    Officers received their first 911 call of the night and responded to the scene where a woman was hurt, suffering injuries to her neck, back and knees, according to police reports.

    A look at months of DWI, drug charges man, 20, faced before crash that killed woman

    While tending to the scene of the first crash, Washington Township police received a second call for another wreck further down the road which turned out to be fatal.

    Police said Gardner's pickup truck crossed from the southbound lanes of Route 42 into northbound traffic and struck the driver's side of LaBance's car.

    Witnesses at the scene, including a recovery coach and police officers, reported Gardner as being sleepy, lethargic and performing a "head nod" -- all behaviors associated with being under the influence, they said. 

    According to the police report, Gardner admitted to officials that he had used PCP a half-hour before driving.

    Less than a month prior to the hit-and-run and fatal wreck, Gardner was charged  with his third DWI but a warrant was not issued for his arrest, though he broke the terms of release for his previous offenses.

    On Sept. 12, Judge Christine Allen-Jackson ordered to detain Gardner based on his disregard for the safety of other motorists on the road that night, as well as his previous record.  

    Caitlyn Stulpin may be reached at cstulpin@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @caitstulpin. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    It took four years to get the law passed, paving the way for Armageddon Brewing to open.

    It's not easy to open a new brewery in New Jersey. But for Armageddon Brewing, it is taking an act of legislation.

    The four friends launching the business in Somerdale want to make hard cider and mead -- two products that remain rare in a state where craft breweries are popping up like daisies.

    That may have something to do with the fact that New Jersey had no laws governing the running of cider- and mead-making operations -- until the Armageddon partners wrote the legislation themselves and worked for four years to get it passed.

    "I had a party the following day," Christian Annese, 35, of Somerdale, said of the law's signing in May.

    Then, the real work began for Annese and his partners --Matt Olsen, a teacher, Kyle Laird, an information technologist, and Gill Cornwall, who works for a company that does patent work in the pharmaceutical industry -- as they try to make their dream business a reality.

    Armageddon Brewing launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign this month, hoping to raise $30,000 to start their business. They hit their goal with just an hour to go on the fundraiser Friday.

    The partners were always planning to invest all their savings in the project with a goal of opening their tasting room in Somerdale as early as August of 2018.

    While legislation in 2012 made it possible for dozens of microbreweries to open across the state, Annese said there are only two cideries and a big demand for the beverage here.

    "Cider is where craft beer was 10 years ago," he said of the growing interest. "We're hoping since we made it easier, we'll see a lot more cideries opening."

    Mike Kivowitz, founder of the website New Jersey Craft Beer and a club by the same name for brewers and enthusiasts, said he doesn't think cider and mead-making operations will ever be as numerous as the state's microbreweries. He also thinks breaking into the cider market might be especially hard.

    "Mead will probably take off faster because, well, it's so unique," he said.

    Anything you can brew, I can brew better

    Annese, a web designer for Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia, said he and his friends began homebrewing beer in 2011.

    Then a doctor misdiagnosed him with a gluten intolerance. "So for like a year I changed my diet and stayed away from gluten, and that meant I couldn't drink beer," Annese said.

    A friend suggested he drink cider instead, but Annese was not a fan of the super-sweet ciders he had tried in the past.

    "I said I'd never had a good cider and he said why not try to brew it yourself," Annese said.

    The friends, all from Camden County with the exception of Olsen, who halls from Atlantic County, also thought that they could make good mead. The ancient, alcoholic drink is made by fermenting honey in water and can be flavored with various spices and fruit juices.

    After getting a great response to their free cider samples at a borough festival in 2012, they started considering turning pro. "That was when we found out about all of the road blocks."

    There were no laws on the book about making cider or mead. Because cider is made from a fruit juice, Annese said, the only way to have a legal cidery at that point was to take out a winery license.

    This is what the state's three cider producers, Jersey Cider Works in Newark, Oldwick Cider Works in Oldwick and Twisted Limb Hard Cider in Stillwater Township, have done.

    But the rules about vineyards were written to help farmers and encourage agritourism. They include requirements that a winery must have at least three acres of vineyard and that 51 percent of the ingredients be grown in New Jersey -- something that Annese said would make it difficult to make cider during the winter months.

    "And mead isn't even a thing," Annese said.

    Before the law was changed, there were no legal provisions for making mead because it isn't made with fruit juice like other wines. Annese said the state's only meadery, Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall, has a special license from the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

    When the friends realized there was no way they could legally open the kind of urban operation they wanted to, they decided they needed a new law. Annese met with local legislators and they told him to write it up.

    Over the four years it took for it to get signed, Annese drove to Trenton several times to testify before committees and speak with skeptical legislators.

    Also during that time, the partners drew up a business plan for Armageddon Brewing. They found a space to rent in Somerdale -- though Annese doesn't want to reveal its location until the lease is signed.  

    They've also been perfecting their ciders and meads, Annese said. He drove "all over New Jersey" to find different kinds of cider to brew with, and started his own small orchard in Kutztown, Penn. of 50 trees to raise special varieties of apples, including French and English cider apples and American heirloom varieties.

    blog-orchard.jpegChristian Annese grows 24 varieties of apples in his three-acre orchard in Kutztown, Penn. (Christian Annese)

    While some big cider brands use concentrate instead of fresh fruit juice, Annese said they plan to use fresh juice and also buy and press their own apples once the brewery is up and running. They won't use any artificial flavors, he said.

    They find most of the big-name ciders are too sweet and have an artificial apple taste, Annese said.

    The flavors they've come up with instead, as they boasted on their Kickstarter page, range from "incredibly dry, almost champagne like, to sweet and juicy like you were taking a bite from an apple right off the tree."

    Mead -- a drink thought to be one of the oldest alcoholic beverages on the planet -- can also have diverse flavors depending on the type of honey, spices and fruit juices added. Some taste like honey while others are more wine-like and complex. 

    They tried at first to buy local honey, but Annese said beekeepers don't sell it in bulk and he needed about 24 pounds per five-gallon batch.

    He now buys from Dutch Gold, a big company in Lancaster, Penn., where he can get different varieties made by bees that pollinated blossoms of oranges, raspberries and wildflowers, among others.

    But is there a market for mead in New Jersey? Annese said he thinks people will be clamoring for it, once they're introduced to the product.

    armageddon-brewing.jpgAn Armageddon Brewing glass and t-shirt that donors can get for giving to the Kickstarter campaign. (Christian Annese)

    As for their name, Annese said Armageddon Brewing was born out of their dark humor and desire for an "edgy and memorable" theme. The names of their beverages draw from ancient mythology and even Adam and Eve, he said.

    "It's not the end of the world so much as the end of you having to drink overly sweet, candy-like, mass-produced commercial ciders and meads," he said.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    He got one of the retrials after the Supreme Court ruled violent rap lyrics can't be used as evidence.

    The third time is the charm for the state to get charges to stick against Vonte L. Skinner, who shot and paralyzed a man in 2005.

    Skinner, 39, was convicted and given a 16-year prison sentence in 2015 in his third trial in connection with the shooting.

    The state's Appellate Division this week upheld that conviction, rejecting Skinner's claim that he should get a fourth trial or a more lenient sentence.

    Skinner shot Lamont Peterson seven times at close range in Willingboro Township in 2005, jurors found. Peterson testified that he and Skinner sold drugs as part of a three-man team and that the shooting happened after they argued.

    Skinner testified that he was present for the shooting, but that an unknown person was responsible.

    His first trial ended in a mistrial but in 2008, he was convicted of attempted murder and other charges in connection with the shooting.

    In a ruling that made waves across the country, that conviction was overturned by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2014.

    The court ruled that the trial judge had allowed "highly prejudicial" evidence at the trial by letting prosecutors present pages and pages of gangster rap lyrics Skinner had written. The lyrics described shooting someone in graphic detail, among other things.

    Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the 2014 ruling that the lyrics were irrelevant to the charges. "One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song 'I Shot the Sheriff,' actually shot a sheriff," she wrote.

    Skinner got a new trial in 2015. The jury convicted him of two counts of aggravated assault but deadlocked on the attempted murder charge. He was sentenced to 16 years subject to the No Early Release Act, which meant he had to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before he could be eligible for parole.

    Given the time he has served since his arrest more than a decade ago, he will be eligible for parole June 23, 2019, according to the Department of Corrections.

    The appellate judges on Wednesday rejected Skinner's arguments that he should get a new trial or a shorter sentence.

    He claimed that the trial court should not have allowed him to be tried on the charges because of double jeopardy and "fundamental unfairness," but the Appellate Division said his third trial was in accordance with law because the previous convictions were dismissed.

    The judges also dismissed his argument that the verdict was against the weight of evidence.

    "The jury's verdict clearly hinged upon its conclusion that the victim was a credible witness," the ruling said, helped along by supporting evidence like cell phone records.

    Skinner is serving his sentence at Bayside State Prison in Maurice River Township, according to the Department of Corrections.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The settlement was approved in Haddon Township this week.

    Haddon Township has agreed to pay $175,000 to a former police officer who claimed he was fired, in part, for rebuffing unwanted sexual advances from the chief of police.

    The measure was unanimously approved at a commissioner's meeting Tuesday in this town of 15,000 in Camden County.

    The payout will go to former officer Jason DeMent, who was fired in 2015 after 11 years on the force. DeMent sued the township after he was terminated and claimed Chief Mark Cavallo had sexually harassed him.

    Cavallo declined to commented on DeMent's allegations before the meeting Tuesday. He also declined comment on allegations from four other ranking officers that he sexual harassed them.

    The township maintains DeMent was terminated because an degenerative eye ailment that prevented him from doing his duties. The settlement was approved after a 45-minute, closed-door executive session.

    "During meeting, we were advised by council that it was in our best interest to settle this case," Mayor Randall Teague said Thursday.

    A resolution approving the measure said the township's joint insurance fund would pay the settlement, but if they didn't settle now the township would be responsible for paying damages going forward. The township admitted no fault in the agreement.

    Earlier in the week, Teague said the township had acted appropriately in addressing accusations against Cavallo, despite a currently climate in which leaders in business and media have stepped aside in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

    "I think those situations are where those persons admitted they did it," Teague said.

    DeMent's lawsuit claimed he had text messages, pictures and other inappropriate communications from Cavallo. But the settlement says DeMent agrees that he has no inappropriate communications from Cavallo and that he was never subjected to a hostile work environment.

    Captain Scott Bishop, Lieutenant Sean Gooley, Sergeant Thomas Whalen and Detective Sergeant Joseph D. Johnston, also alleged that since 2008, Cavallo had made flirtatious, sometimes sexual comments and inappropriately touched them. An attorney for those officers filed a tort notice -- a document offering reasons for a potential lawsuit -- in February, but have taken no other legal action since.

    The officers have retained a new attorney, Jeffrey Caccese, who said his clients are continuing to do their jobs and report to Cavallo. 

    Teague said an internal investigation into the complaints against Cavallo will be completed soon and is expected to be discussed in a closed-door session at the next commissioner's meeting. He said an attorney hired by the township has interviewed every member of the police department.

    Teague had also previously said the allegations against Cavallo surfaced during discussions of promotions and new hires in the 26-officer department and he believes the disputes may be related.

    The settlement with DeMent spelled out terms.

    "There is an absence of documentary support for his claims that Chief Cavallo sent text messages to him of an inappropriate nature or that Chief Cavallo otherwise subjected (DeMent) to a hostile work environment," the resolution said.

    Cavallo, 59, makes $135,499 and received a 2 percent raise in July. He has been a chief since 2009 and a member of the township police force for 34 years.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The event will take place on Dec. 5 at Adelphia in Deptford.

    In the season of giving, the Gloucester County and Camden County Republican Organizations proudly announce a two-county sponsored "Toys for Tots" drive that will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford.

    The "Toys for Tots" Foundation is run by the United States Marine Corp Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah.

    The event includes open buffet, beer and wine with an admission fee of $20 per person and a new, unwrapped toy. Unwrapped toys will be collected and donated to the local chapter with toys distributed to families in Gloucester and Camden Counties. For more information please contact Mary Behm at 856-905-0970.

    Have community news you'd like to share? Send an email to sjtowns@njadvancemedia.com. Have an event happening you want to share? Go to nj.com/events to submit your information to be included in a community calendar. 

     

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    The 60-by-120-foot rink is open until Feb. 14.

    'Tis the season for skating in Camden County after the Winterfest Ice Skating Rink in Cooper River Park opened for the year Friday night.

    The opening event for the rink in Pennsauken included a tree-lighting ceremony, an ice dancing show, carriage rides and more.

    For several weeks, county workers have been building the 60-by-120-foot rink and surrounding Winterfest features, including a carousel and trees covered in lights. 

    A "lodge" also sells soft pretzels and hot chocolate to skaters who need to warm up, according to a release from the county.

    The attraction is open until Feb. 14.

    "Every year we talk about new ways to attract residents into utilizing our brilliant open spaces throughout the park system," Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash said in the press release. "The rink and holiday show provide that additional incentive for thousands of people to become unique visitors for passive and active recreation and for regular park users and opportunity to this green space in a whole new light."

    The WinterFest Ice Skating Rink will be open Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., on Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., on Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

    Children 4 years of age and younger can skate for free, though there is a $4 skate rental fee for all ages. Kids 5 to 12 will be admitted for $4 and adult admission is $6. Veterans and seniors can receive a discounted admission of $4.

    More information is available here. 

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The two men in ski masks got away with an undisclosed amount of cash, officials said. Watch video

    An employee at a Winslow Township pharmacy was not giving up without a fight when a pair of gun-wielding men allegedly robbed the store Thursday.

    The employee of Professional Center Pharmacy pulled out a gun and exchanged shots with the two robbers after they held another employee at gunpoint, according to a statement from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

    Prosecutors did not say if anyone was injured. The release also did not reveal any details about the employee who was armed, including whether he or she was on duty at the time, had a permit for the weapon, or was working as a security guard. The worker was described only as an "additional employee who had been in the store."

    Winslow police referred all questions to the prosecutor's office, and a spokeswoman for the office did not immediately respond to a request for additional details Saturday.

    A pharmacy employee on Saturday said the business would not comment on the incident.

    The men, wearing ski masks, black hoodies and gloves, went into the pharmacy at 339 South Route 73 around 7 p.m. Thursday, prosecutors said. They immediately drew handguns and leapt over the counter, according to the video, where the prosecutor's office said they held an employee at gunpoint.

    thumb-armed-robbery.jpgA man with what appears to be a gun jumps over the counter of Professional Center Pharmacy in Winslow Township in this still from a surveillance video. (Courtesy of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office)
     

    They then exchanged gunshots with the armed employee and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, the prosecutor's office said.

    The video shows them vaulting back over the counter, with one man falling to the ground, before running to a car outside the store. The vehicle was a silver four-door Pontiac that traveled south on Route 73, according to prosecutors. 

    News reports of foiled robberies show that some pharmacists across the country are choosing to carry guns to protect themselves from being targets of criminals seeking opioid painkillers.

    In fact, a similar situation transpired five years ago in the same township. According to a 6abc story at the time, pharmacist John Agyemang of Jolin's Pharmacy at 412 Sicklerville Road opened fire on a man he said was armed with a gun and demanding prescription painkillers. He told the news station he started arming himself because he feared crime related to the opioid addiction epidemic.

    Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Camden County Prosecutor's Office Detective Martin Farrell at 856-225-8428 or Winslow Township Detective Carl Mueller at 609-567-0700.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The fire, which happened early Sunday at the Blackwood Falls Apartments in Gloucester Township, displaced 18 residents.

    One person died Sunday morning in a fire at an apartment complex in Gloucester Township.

    Police Capt. Brendan Barton told NJ Advance Media that authorities responded to reports of a fire that broke out in a unit at the Blackwood Falls Apartments around 2:30 a.m.

    Two other residents were sent to local burn centers for treatment, he said.

    Blackwood falls apartmentsThe fire occurred at the Blackwood Falls Apartments on Washington Avenue. 

    Barton said he could not provide further details on the victim who died because authorities were still working to notify the next of kin.

    The fire was contained to one apartment but another was "minimally" damaged, he said.

    In total, 18 residents from eight departments were displaced by the fire, the department said in a news release. Apartment management and the American Red Cross arranged a temporary shelter last night, the release read.

    "We're in the process now of allowing most of the residents back into the apartments," Barton said.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Animals throughout the Garden State wait for someone to take them home.

    The Food and Drug Administration says it has received about 68 reports of pet illnesses, and even deaths, related to bone treats.

    Some of the reports involved more than one dog; a total of about 90 animals have been affected. About 15 dogs have died of the illnesses, the agency said.

    CBS News reported these treats differ from uncooked, butcher-type bones because they are processed and packaged for sale as dog treats. The products may be dried through a smoking process or by baking, and may contain other ingredients such as preservatives, seasonings or smoke flavorings.

    Different types of bone treats for dogs, including treats described as "Ham Bones," "Pork Femur Bones," "Rib Bones," and "Smokey Knuckle Bones," were listed in the illness reports.

    "Giving your dog a bone treat might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet," said Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA.

    Symptoms reported to FDA by owners and veterinarians in dogs that have eaten bone treats have included:

    • Gastrointestinal obstruction (blockage in the digestive tract)
    • Choking
    • Cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Bleeding from the rectum

    Other types of commercially-produced pet treats have been linked to illnesses in the past. Jerky treats made in China were pulled from store shelves in 2015 after reports of thousands of dogs and cats getting sick. Several people who handled the products got sick as well.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    A Camden man who was shot by police has been charged for unlawfully possessing a gun, authorities said.

    A man who was wounded during an exchange of gunfire with Camden County police officers over the weekend has been charged with multiple weapons offenses, authorities said. 

    Shlawrence Unique Ross, 37, of Camden, faces several weapons charges, including unlawful possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of a weapon by certain persons, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said Monday. 

    While patrolling in Camden early Sunday, officers heard gunfire and investigated. A witness pointed them toward Ross, police said. 

    Upon encountering the officers, Ross pulled a gun and opened fire, authorities said. Police returned fire, eventually hitting Ross, authorities said. 

    He was taken to Cooper University Hospital for treatment of his injuries, according to the prosecutor's office.

    The police officers involved were not injured, and were placed on administrative leave while the officials investigate the shooting, as per standard policy. Their names have been withheld pending an investigation by the prosecutor's office. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    To what extend should store owners -- who might otherwise shut down businesses high-crime areas -- be allowed to carry weapons or take other intensive security measures?

    The gun-rights lobby in New Jersey will surely add this one to their "good-guy with-a-gun" database, so understand that armed battles between robbers and store clerks don't always end so well for the clerk.

    Still, you have to admire the moxie of a Winslow Township pharmacy clerk who caused a pair of alleged robbers to flee after the clerk opened fire at the duo Nov. 30. Local police wouldn't comment in detail how the incident went down, and the report offered by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office was sketchy.

    thumb-armed-robbery.jpgA male with what appears to be a gun jumps over the counter of Professional Center Pharmacy in Winslow Township in this still from surveillance video. 

    But, yes, in this case, a good guy with a gun caused a couple of masked bad guys with guns to flee. 

    It happened at an independent pharmacy on Route 73, which may have governed the employee's response. Chain retailers who fill prescriptions by the millions don't want the safety risks and legal liability associated with having armed employees. Some convenience store and fast-food chains have policies barring employees from resisting a robber in any way. In a few head-scratching cases, corporate suits terminate the still-shaken worker.

    It's always smarter to give up the cash in the register or the narcotics behind the counter. Some armed criminals want the drugs or the money, and nothing else -- unless they panic. A possible exception is when the clerk knows that his life or that of a co-worker is in imminent danger. This may have been the case in the Winslow robbery, since a second employee was reportedly being held at gunpoint before the shooter intervened.

    And, when two bad guys with guns go up against one good guy with a gun, that's an uneven match. The bad guys don't always run away.

    Nonetheless, our laws and policies need to reflect a need for heightened security in some public-contact businesses, such as pharmacies, as well as gasoline stations and eateries that stay open late. This can involve some tradeoffs in high-crime areas.

    The main question is whether business owners can have licensed firearms -- if the alternative is that stores will close at dusk or flee the neighborhood entirely.

    Such business flight is more than a convenience issue. Suppose a parent with a seriously ill child can't get medication locally past 5 p.m? If produce stores, often operated by immigrant families working long hours, move out due to safety fears, it can plunge a neighborhood into the depths of a deep-fried food desert.

    The quandary doesn't always involve guns. In Philadelphia on Monday, a group of merchants protested a pending city ordinance that would prevent them from serving customers from behind bulletproof windows. The councilwoman sponsoring the bill says the windows are disrespectful to customers, because all of them get treated like criminals.

    "What message does it send to our children?" she asked.

    Maybe it sends the message that some business people are laudably committed to serving a neighborhood, even to the point that they'll forgo personal relationships with patrons in an effort to avoid being shot. 

    Some of these locations, it's true, are nuisances that operate as single-serve alcohol shops. But the bill also targets legitimate quick-serve restaurants, mainly Asian ones.

    The view from here is that the indignity of getting food through sliding glass is superior to having a bunch of restaurant owners who feel the need to be armed to the teeth, or who pull up stakes to leave blight behind. Defensive security, when reasonable, is the better option.

    Update: Late Monday, Philadelphia City Council dropped the bulletproof-glass ban from its proposed ordinance regulating "stop-and-go" food establishments.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Take a look at the Player, Coach and Team of the Year in every conference.

    GIRLS SOCCER SEASON IN REVIEW, 2017

    Erin Keefe of Ridge is the NJ.com Player of the Year

    Wall is the NJ.com Team of the Year

    Kim Maurer of Allentown is the NJ.com Coach of the Year

    ALL-STATE TEAMS

    All-State 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams

    All-Group 4

    All-Group 3

    All-Group 2

    All-Group 1

    All-Non-Public

    FINAL RANKINGS

    The NJ.com Top 50

    Group and conference rankings

    CONFERENCE REVIEWS

    Claudia Dipasupil of Northern Highlands is the Big North Conference Player of the Year

    Hailey Gutowski of Cinnaminson is the Burlington County Scholastic League Player of the Year

    Gabi Johnson of Oakcrest is the Cape-Atlantic League Player of the Year

    Sophia Schwab of Haddonfield is the Colonial Conference Player of the Year

    Gianna Pittaro of Steinert is the Colonial Valley Conference Player of the Year

    Lauren Krinsky of East Brunswick is the Greater Middlesex Conference Player of the Year

    Skyler Matusz of Kearny is the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League Player of the Year

    Claire Perez of Park Ridge is the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Player of the Year

    Kayleigh Furth of Newton is the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Player of the Year

    Jordynn Stallard of Washington Township is the Olympic Conference Player of the Year

    Jada and Jasmine Colbert of Freehold Township are the Shore Conference Players of the Year

    Erin Keefe of Ridge is the Skyland Conference Player of the Year

    Natalie Nevins of West Orange is the Super Essex Conference Player of the Year

    Annie Sanker of Pitman is the Tri-County Conference Player of the Year

    • Grace Elliott of Westfield is the Union County Conference Player of the Year

    Brandon Gould may be reached at bgould@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonGouldHSLike NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    The state's best cream donuts? We visit two contenders in our latest N.J.'s best bakery installment.


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    Find out who landed on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Team All-State.


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    The incident occurred in Camden on Nov. 28.

    Two men have been charged in a fatal shooting in Camden that left a Lawnside man dead and another man injured, the Camden County Prosecutor said Tuesday.

    Darnell Konteh, 25, of Camden, was charged with murder and Anthony Pinson, 25, of Franklin Township, was charged with attempted murder, for a shooting on Nov. 28. 

    Investigators say a witness saw Konteh fatally shoot Stanford Brown, 30, near Atlantic Avenue and Rose Street shortly before 7:20 p.m. and saw Pinson fire at and hit a 25-year-old man who was treated and released from Cooper University Hospital. The witness said both alleged shooters then fled in a dark-colored vehicle after the shooting, authorities said.

    The pair were arrested the next day in New Brunswick by federal, state and local officials while sitting in a parked car. Konteh was allegedly armed with a gun when he was caught, officials said.

    Konteh was held at Camden County jail and Pinson was held at Middlesex County jail.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
     

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    The incident occurred early Sunday morning.

    A 57-year-old man was killed and two others remain in critical condition after a weekend apartment fire in Gloucester Township, authorities said Tuesday.

    Glenn Hands died in the blaze that was reported at 2:54 a.m. in the D building of the Blackwood Falls Apartments in the 200 block of Washington Avenue, township police said. First responders reported heavy smoke coming from the building.

    A 50-year-old woman and an 11-year-old girl were hospitalized after the fire and both were listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday.

    Eight fire companies responded to the blaze. Nearly two dozen other residents there were evacuated from eight nearby apartments after the incident.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
     

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    When it's all said and done, the best 50 teams in New Jersey


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    Who were the best players in N.J. this season?


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    In the wake of a continuing investigation into sexual abuse by guards at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, another two inmates have filed a lawsuit against corrections officers and administrators at the women's prison

    Two more inmates at the state's troubled women's prison charge they were the victims of repeated sexual assaults or abuse by several guards, and faced retaliation when they complained.

    In a lawsuit filed in state Superior Court, the inmates--both serving lengthy sentences for robbery--said they were forced into sexual acts with a number of corrections officers, including two who have already been criminally charged in cases involving other women incarcerated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Union Township.

    And they claimed that administrators knew what was going on, but did nothing about it.

    The complaint, filed Monday, declared that "a pattern and practice exists in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility where sexual assault is prevalent and frequently perpetrated by corrections officers on inmates," with the knowledge and acquiescence of prison officials and administrators.

    Among those named as defendants included four corrections officers, the current and former prison administrator, the state's Department of Corrections commissioner, and numerous unnamed "John and Jane Does" working at the state prison.

    "We are just scratching the surface of the number of sexual assaults that have been committed by correctional officers, due to other correctional officers and administrators turning a blind eye and therefore condoning these acts," said attorney Mark Frost of Philadelphia, who represents the two women.

    Matthew Schuman, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, declined comment.

    "We do not comment on pending litigation," he said.

    A spokesman for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's office, which has an ongoing investigation at the prison, also declined comment.

    A number of other female inmates at the prison have filed similar lawsuits in recent months. Over the past three years, at least five corrections officers and once civilian employee at Edna Mahon have been criminally charged with sexually abusing inmates--including Brian Y. Ambroise and Thomas Seguine, who were both named in the latest lawsuit.

    An attorney for Ambroise, James Wronko of Somerville, was aware of the lawsuit.

    "He denied the allegations when he was indicted. He still denies it and the case will be tried next year," he said.

    Seguine pleaded guilty to official misconduct in February and has been sentenced to three years in prison. Ambroise is awaiting trial.

    An NJ Advance Media special report earlier this year drew scrutiny to abuse claims at the women's prison, disclosing that officials had quietly fired three officers in 2010 after one was accused of abusing more than a dozen inmates. There are 613 women currently incarcerated at Edna Mahon, according to Schumann.

    Contact between an inmate and an officer is considered sexual assault under state law, which recognizes that prisoners cannot consent to sexual relationships with those charged with overseeing them.

    Aleks Kajstura, legal director of the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit, non-partisan Massachusetts-based group that advocates for prison reform, said that nationally, females account for 7 percent of sentenced prison inmates, but "represent 33 percent of all victims of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization in federal and state prisons." The numbers are even higher in local jails, where she said females represent only 13 percent of inmates in local jails, but account for 67 percent of all victims of staff-on inmate victimization incidents.

    "It's a pervasive problem everywhere," Kajstura said of sexual assaults or abuse of women in prison. "But it's something that doesn't get reported very often because of the power dynamics at play--who is the person you're going to report it to? The person who assaulted you."

    Those who do report it often end up in solitary confinement for their own protection, she added.

    "If the state takes you under their jurisdiction, there should be an additional burden not to rape people," Kajstura said.

    3 FEMCON PEET MCCREAWomen inmates move between the areas of the maximum and medium security compounds at the Edna Mahan Women's Correctional Facility in Clinton. (Jerry McCrea | Star-Ledger file photo) 

    In the latest lawsuit, a 22-year-old Elizabeth woman charged that Ambroise pursued and harassed her, and performed oral sex on her several times a month. She said other guards frequently opened the curtain to the bathroom while she was showering. After she complained to investigators from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's office, she said officers retaliated by destroying her possessions.

    A second inmate, a 24-year-old Cherry Hill woman, claimed Seguine had sex with her, and that they began corresponding with each other by letter on a regular basis. She said another officer gave her a vibrator and told her he wanted to watch her use it on herself. She also alleged that other guards also pulled open the shower curtain to see her naked, and that one later touched her under her clothes on her genitals.

    After Seguine was criminally charged, she was placed in protective custody against her will.

    Attorneys for the two women said the actions by the corrections officers, and inaction by prison administrators, violated the inmates' constitutional right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

    "The acts committed by the defendants shock the conscience and constitute intentional misconduct, excessive use of force, assault/battery, cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference to (the plaintiffs), and an unnecessary, wanton infliction of harm for no good faith purpose," the lawsuit stated.

    According to the filing, at least 16 women have been assaulted by prison officers in the past five years, while the prison for years reported no cases or under-reported cases of sexual abuse.

    Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Worthy of a museum or gallery

    As you can imagine, I look at thousands of photos each year for these galleries. There are always some that simply stand out.

    5371068118_5153114886_o.jpgClose, but not eggs-zactly. 

    Not because they were taken by professional photographers who've had years to perfect their craft, but because they were taken by folks like you and me, usually using the basic cameras we had available to us back in the day.

    Sometimes it's the composition, perhaps an unintentional balance of shapes or lines. It could be the lighting, or perhaps the contrasting shades.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    But what makes them truly works of art in my mind was that for the most part, they just ... happened. People going about their daily lives, inanimate objects positioned just right.

    Here's a selection of some vintage New Jersey photos that we think qualify as works of art. And here's a link to last year's gallery.

    Vintage photos from N.J. that are works of art

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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