New Jersey woman in charge of judicial security says she is the target of harassment

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The New Jersey justice system’s court security officer says she is the target of harassment by members of the state police, but state officials have reportedly ignored her pleas for help.

Robin Morante, who heads the office that protects judges and investigates legal threats, says she has been the target of food poisoning, defamation and workplace harassment. She retained an attorney who twice wrote to Attorney General Matthew Platkin about the matter on May 31 and June 13, detailing her dealings with state police and asking him to launch an investigation, but Platkin didn’t. would not have answered.

Morante’s attorney said the issues with the state police were hurting the operation of his office.

New Jersey has seen much discussion about the safety of federal judges since the July 2020 murder of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’ son and the injury of her husband by an attorney who appeared before her, but the safety of judges of state has received less attention.

Steven Barnes, director of communications for Platkin, declined to comment when contacted by a reporter about Morante’s allegations. The judiciary and state police also declined to comment on Morante’s allegations.

The antagonism between Morante and the state police began in May 2021, when Morante and a colleague in his office were hospitalized after eating food contaminated with THC oil, a byproduct of marijuana, said Patrick Whalen. An investigation by the State Police Unit that provides security for the Richard J. Hughes Court Complex found that a court worker gave Morante and his co-worker Dunkin Donuts hash browns doused in THC oil. The person identified as responsible has resigned, but has not been charged with any crime, Whalen said.

As a result of the state police investigation, the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the criminal charges, a spokeswoman for the district attorney said. Mercer County, Angelo Onofri. But Morante believes the response to the incident was influenced by the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis.

“Based on information and beliefs, this criminal incident was downplayed and ignored because it did not align with the administration’s ‘legalization of weed’ platform,” Whalen wrote in his letter of the June 13 at Platkin.

Although one person was identified as the perpetrator of the food poisoning, a state police report on the investigation did not say another person was allegedly responsible for what happened. , creating the false impression that Morante ingested the THC oil on purpose, Whalen said. And two soldiers who regularly interact with Morante’s office obtained the report and allegedly circulated it widely among state police, creating the false impression that Morante had overdosed while using recreational drugs, said said Whalen.

“Because the report doesn’t mention the actual perpetrator, the only logical explanation was that it was our fault. So it’s misleading and it’s spreading to multiple people,” Whalen said. Morante complained in an email to Col. Patrick Callahan, Chief of State Police, of the soldiers’ alleged conduct regarding the release of the report, but Callahan reportedly did not respond and refer the matter to the Office of Professional Standards , says Whalen.

But after Morante complained to Callahan, two state troopers whose duties involve interacting with the Office of Forensic Security reportedly cut off all communication with her, Whalen said. And those soldiers also filed a lawsuit that Morante made disparaging remarks about a particular assignment judge, Whalen said. An investigation revealed that the allegations were unfounded.

A few months later, in early November 2021, signs were posted on utility poles near Morante’s home in Hopewell that read ‘Fire Robin Morante’. Later, similar signs were hung on poles near state police headquarters in Ewing, Whalen said. Whalen says the signs are a form of harassment, since they were hung where Morante’s family would see them on their daily commute. The signs “were hung to damage my client’s reputation” and “created undue anxiety and fear for [Morante’s] family,” Whalen said in her June 13 letter to Platkin. Whalen added that because the first cluster of signs appeared just after the conclusion of the investigation into Morante’s alleged bashing of the judge, there is a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that members of the police unit of State responsible for judicial security have played a role in the display. of signs.

Whalen’s June 13 letter to Platkin asked her office to assume control of the criminal and administrative investigations into the incidents of which she complained, including the forensic examination of the color printers and computers likely used to manufacture the signs, and recordings of cellphone towers from the period the signs were probably hung.

Whalen wrote in his June 13 letter to Platkin: “Retaliation against and threats against the head of the state court and judicial security should not be tolerated or ignored, especially when involving security forces. potentially high-level state order and officials engaging in improper, retaliatory, unethical and unlawful acts. »

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