State Police investigate arrest of protesters at Corzine talk

NJ State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes yesterday ordered his division's internal affairs unit to investigate the arrest Saturday of two protesters at Gov. Jon Corzine's town hall meeting in Cape May County.

"The superintendent has ordered the review and wants to have definitive answers," said Capt. Al Della Fave, a State Police spokesman. Investigators "are looking into what transpired. It's the responsible thing to do."

Conservative activist and former gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan and Atlantic City area radio personality Seth Grossman were arrested by local police Saturday outside Middle Township High School.

After four days of public scrutiny, the township and school district announced Wednesday night they were urging the municipal prosecutor to drop the charges. In a joint statement, they also blamed the arrests on event-security guidelines issued by the State Police.

Corzine: Gadfly's arrest not my doing. Local top cop calls it school district's call

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Gov. Jon Corzine insisted yesterday his office had nothing to do with the arrest of conservative activist Steve Lonegan at a town hall meeting in Cape May County, even though the mayor of Middle Township said local police acted at the direction of the governor's staff.

"All I know is they were doing what they were told to do," Mayor F. Nathan Doughty, a Democrat, said. Asked who had told them what to do, he said, "The governor's people."

Corzine was adamant in rejecting Doughty's claim about Saturday's arrest at Middle Township High School. Lonegan was arrested moments before the start of the town meeting at which the governor was to explain his plan to increase tolls on the state's major highways.

"That's just nonsense. It's nonsense," Corzine said. "I'm not going to be embarrassed by it. I can't find anybody that was around that said anything like that happened. Most of the staff was with me."

Newark officer fighting rebuke - He was suspended over Internet blog

A Newark police officer has filed a federal lawsuit that accuses the police department of violating his constitutional rights by suspending him without pay for anonymously criticizing his superiors on an Internet forum.

The suit by Officer Louis Wohlt man accuses the department of using improper subpoenas to ob tain his identity from an Internet provider, Optimum Online, and the Web forum,

Wohltman's attorneys, Rubin Sinins and Frank Corrado, said they hope the suit will break new ground in establishing the right of public employees to speak freely on the Internet without fear of reprisal.

N.J. court: Public can videotape meetings. Town erred in arrest of gadfly, justices say

Video cameras today are like the quill pens used hundreds of years ago to chronicle the actions of government, and New Jersey residents have a common-law right to use them to record public meetings, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

While it said governmental agencies can impose "reasonable guidelines" to make sure the recording does not disrupt their official business, the high court unanimously ruled in favor of Robert Wayne Tarus, a gadfly from Camden County who was arrested after he tried to videotape two Pine Hill Borough Council meetings in 2000.

The justices found the Pine Hill mayor was "arbitrary and unreasonable" in ordering the police chief to arrest Tarus -- a longtime critic of the mayor and council --because the borough had never adopted formal guidelines for videotaping public meetings.

Testing the limits of free speech. Departmental hearing nears for Trenton officer

In more than a decade as a Trenton police officer, William "Butch" Osterman has chased down car thieves, collared a man who doused a barber with gasoline and was dragged by a car driven by a fleeing suspect. His colleagues once chose him as the officer of the year.

But these days, Osterman is the center of his own criminal justice story, one that revolves around free speech and whether using the Internet to criticize his own police department represents a breach of rules, or an exercise of his rights as a citizen.

Newark police fire two for Web criticisms

Department learned names after sheriff subpoenaed Internet and cable firms

The Newark Police Department has fired two officers and is considering the dismissal of two others for anonymous comments they posted on a popular Internet blog.

The problem of thin-skinned politicos

A New Jersey politician is hoping to outlaw anonymous speech on the Internet, claiming that civility must be mandatory in political debate.  State Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi, a Republican from Somerset County, recently introduced legislation that would require any "public forum Web site" to solicit the legal name and addresses of everyone who can post messages to it.

What irks Biondi, a top Republican in the state assembly, is the political free-for-all that has grown around the New Jersey Star-Ledger's discussion site at The site's forum for Somerset County--that is, Biondi's home district--is home to a slew of pseudonymous posts that tend to be less than kind to local politicians.