Dusty’s Law: Three Years Later

On January 17, 2014, Dusty’s Law was signed and enacted, ensuring that seeing eye dogs and seeing eye dogs in training will have additional safety protections under the laws of New Jersey.  This was a measure that Keep NJ Safe worked on and advocated for, along with the man who inspired the bill and worked tirelessly for its passage: Roger Woodhour, the volunteer seeing eye puppy raiser who was with Dusty when the dog was attacked. [Read more about their story HERE]

Today, Roger and his wife Sheila are leaving New Jersey to enjoy their well-earned retirement years.  Together, they have raised 31 seeing eye puppies for The Seeing Eye school in Morristown, NJ, and will continue to do so once settled into their new home.  Keep NJ Safe Executive Director Lisa Yakomin recently presented Roger with a Certificate of Appreciation, in recognition of his efforts and advocacy.  We wish Roger and Sheila all the best as they begin this new chapter.

NJ Considers Tougher Penalties for Distracted Driving – A4062

On Thursday, January 19, 2017, the Assembly Transportation Committee will hear Assembly bill A4062, sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. According to the bill description, this legislation “would allow prosecutors to more easily obtain conviction for vehicular homicide against a person who failed to maintain lane due to distracted driving.”  If passed, the law would allow prosecutors who are seeking to convict someone of vehicular homicide to cite distracted driving as proof of recklessness. Using a hand-held wireless telephone has already been added to the definition of distracted driving under currently law, and this bill would expand the definition further to include inattentive driving that results in the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle due to the driver engaging in any of the following: reading, writing, performing personal grooming, eating, drinking, interacting with passengers, pets or unsecured cargo, or engaging in any other activity that causes distractions.

Eileen Marmino, a 34-year-old married mother of 17-month-old twins, was struck and killed by a distracted driver while riding her bicycle in July, 2015. She was killed on her wedding anniversary.

Both of the Prime Sponsors for A4062 are Democrats, but with Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg and Assemblyman Joe Howarth–both Republicans–signed on as co-sponsors, the Assembly bill now has bi-partisan support.  The Senate version, S2342 (also known as “Eileen’s Law”, for accident victim Eileen Marmino, killed in July 2015), already boasts strong bi-partisan support, as it is prime sponsored by Republican Senator Dawn Addiego and Democratic Senator Patrick Diegnan. S2342 was released unanimously from the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee on September 29, 2016, and referred to the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee, where it awaits further action.

Assemblyman Wisniewski, who is also the Chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, took quite a bit of flack back in August, 2016 for a bill he filed (A1908) that called for steep fines to be assessed on distracted drivers. A local news organization ran headlines that motorists could soon be ticketed for drinking coffee, and a pile-on of derision ensued, with affronted motorists crying “Nanny State” and extolling on their right to eat a hoagie while flying down the NJ Turnpike.  The Transportation Committee put both A4062 and A1908 up for public discussion only on September 22, 2016, along with two other bills relating to distracted driving (A854, which calls for the creation of a Distracted Driving Task Force, and A4005 which would add questions about Distracted Driving to the NJ Driver’s Licensing exam). On Thursday,  A4062 will be heard for potential release from Committee, a necessary step in getting the bill put before the full legislature for a vote.  To hear the discussion on these bills, you can listen to the archived recording HERE. Discussion on the bills begins at the 33:07 mark. (Playback works best with Internet Explorer.)

While KEEP NJ SAFE supports the protection of an individual’s personal freedoms, without unnecessary or intrusive intervention by the government, we believe that a strengthening of the distracted driving laws are long overdue. On a recent drive to the Statehouse in Trenton, we spotted several motorists swerving dangerously over into the adjacent travel lane. In each case, the drivers were reading and/or looking down intently at their phones while texting. This behavior has to stop, and it is becoming more and more obvious that motorists are not doing enough to regulate themselves. There must be accountability when a driver allows unnecessary tasks to impede their ability to safely operate a car to the point where they are taking the life of another human being. Yes, folks, you CAN wait until you get to the office to have that cup of coffee, or wake up a few minutes sooner and have it at home. Isn’t 10 extra minutes worth saving a life?

The 2016 year-end statistics recently released by the NJ State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit are frightening, and cannot be ignored  Fatalities for 2016 were up 8% over the previous year (a 12% increase in the number of deaths reported in 2013). A total of 607 people lost their lives in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2016–and 166 of those deaths were pedestrians struck by a car.

Eileen Marmino’s infant twins, who are now forced to grow up without her in their lives.

One of the things that many people seem to forget when they read statistics like these, is that as bad as the numbers seem on the surface, the actual number of “victims” is far, far greater.  Not only did 607 people lose their lives last year, but thousands of family members, friends, neighbors and community members were also deeply hurt and forever affected by the tragic loss of a loved one. Eileen Marmino left behind her devastated husband Paul, and 1-year-old twins, Joey & Ellie. Her parents, Bruce and Eileen, testified before the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee last September, and I expect they will do so again this week when the Assembly hears A4062.  The pain they have endured is one that every parent fears most: losing a child. And yet, they are once again revisiting the tragic circumstances that took their daughter’s life, in an effort to save other parents from experiencing the same suffering.

If you would like to express your support for A4062, please email the Assembly Transportation Committee members as soon as possible, and ask them to release the bill after it is heard on Thursday.   Their email addresses are as follows:

asmwisniewski@njleg.org, aswhuttle@njleg.org, asmbenson@njleg.org, aswchaparro@njleg.org, asmchiaravalloti@njleg.org, asmclifton@njleg.org, aswdecroce@njleg.org, asmgiblin@njleg.org, asmkennedy@njleg.org, asmmcguckin@njleg.org, asmmoriarty@njleg.org, aswoliver@njleg.org

CALL TO ACTION: Support the Expansion of A373/Joan’s Law!

Keep NJ Safe Advisory Board Member Rosemarie D’Alessandro is calling on residents throughout New Jersey to support A373, the updated version of Joan’s Law, which will expand its protection to require Life in Prison without Parole for persons convicted of a sex crime against a victim that is 18 years of age or younger.
Support expansion of Joan’s Law with a phone call or email
1. Please call Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto at (201) 770-1303 or send him an email at asmprieto@njleg.org
2. Ask him to post Bill number A373 for a vote at the January 23rd Voting Session of the full Assembly
3. Let him know that a vote on January 23rd will be very important in helping to get the bill passed on the 20th Anniversary of the passage of the first Joan’s Law, April 3rd.
4. The Bill A373 requires life imprisonment without parole for persons convicted of the murder of a minor under the age of 18 in the course of the commission of a sex crime. The current Joan’s Law protects children under 14.
5. Some points to consider when you call or email:
• Express your feelings on why the Bill should become law, and what it can do to protect all minors in our state, and bring justice to young victims.
• Explain what the expansion of Joan’s Law can mean in New Jersey, how it will strengthen the protection of our most vulnerable citizens (children), and will serve as model for other States to follow.
• For additional background information on Joan’s Law, read about Keep NJ Safe’s efforts HERE and/or go to www.Joansjoy.org
“Your call is very important in making a difference in society.  Thank you very much for your action.” –Rosemarie L. D’Alessandro

Donations? No, not yet, thanks for asking!

In response to a few recent email inquiries that have come through (I guess everyone is now in “tax season” mode), yes, the Keep NJ Safe Foundation IS a registered 501(c)3 public charity, and as such, donors can deduct contributions they make to this organization under IRC Section 170.

However…we do not currently accept donations of any kind. Since its inception in 2009, this organization has always been a “labor of love”, and I’ve been personally funding the costs associated with KNJS (i.e. the website hosting, photo copying, postage, etc).  All of our Board members and Advisory Board participants also volunteer their time, without any compensation.

I would like to expand our outreach and education services at some point, which will require more resources than I can fund by myself, so we will eventually set up a way to donate, but we’re just not there yet.  In the meantime, for those who have expressed a desire to support our efforts, thank you. For now, we simply appreciate your moral support, in the form of letter-writing and sharing our Call to Action info as needed.

— Lisa Yakomin, Executive Director

UPDATE: Righetti Future Parole Eligibility Set

We just received an update for those who have been following the Montelaro case, and have advocated with Keep NJ Safe to keep Kim’s rapist/murderer behind bars.  Today, Kim’s brother Paul received word from the NJ Parole Board that Christopher Righetti will receive parole eligibility again within 10 years.

Unfortunately, if past history is any indication (which it certainly has been), that 10-year time frame will translate into only about 4 years, since prisoners are permitted to shave significant amounts of time off of their future eligibility date for “good behavior”…i.e., following the rules that they’re supposed to follow while they’re jail.

While we would have been happier to have seen the Parole Board set a date much farther into the future, realistically, this was about what we expected.  Again, judging by what has happened numerous times in the past, the Montelaro Family will, in all likelihood, be re-living this parole ordeal all over again sometime in the year 2020.

Rest assured, when it does happen, we will be ready to renew the fight to keep Righetti in jail, and to keep our community safe. We hope that we can, once again, count on you to help us when that day comes.

If you’d like to be kept updated on developments relating to the Montelaro case, please take a moment to “Like” the Justice for Kim Facebook page, and/or sign up for email updates from Keep NJ Safe by using the Subscribe form on the right-hand side of this page.

NOTE: We absolutely do NOT sell or share our mailing list with anyone, for any reason. Seriously, we hate SPAM e-mails, and we respect your privacy. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Kim’s resting place, recently decorated for Christmas 2016.

Thank you to everyone who shared our social media posts, forwarded our Call to Action emails, and wrote letters to the NJ Parole Board, signed our petition, advocated with their town government and elected officials to pass support resolutions, and sent notes of love and support to the Montelaro Family.  The outpouring from the community this time was truly extraordinary, and we know the reason we were successful in getting Righetti’s parole denied again is because of the thousands of good people who took the time to help…you spoke up for Kim, a young woman who can no longer speak for herself, and you accomplished a wonderful kindness for the Montelaro family. Again, THANK YOU.

Expanded Joan’s Law Clears Another Hurdle, Passes Assembly Appropriations Committee

Great news out of Trenton this afternoon: A373 was passed unanimously through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and is now one step closer to becoming law.  Congratulations to our good friend and advisor, Rosemarie D’Alessandro, for her tireless advocacy on behalf of our community.  Her daughter Joan’s legacy of love continues to flourish and live on through the works of the Joan’s Joy Foundation.

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Keep NJ Safe Executive Director Lisa Yakomin with Joan’s Joy Founder Rosemarie D’Alessandro

Read the full story about today’s committee hearing at NorthJersey.com


Expanded version of Joan’s Law to be heard this Thursday, 10/6/16

A373, the expanded version of Joan’s Law, will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 1pm.  The meeting will be held on the 4th floor of the State House Annex, Committee Room 11.

Another bill will also be heard at that time: A315, known as “Lisa’s Law”, which calls for the establishment of a pilot program to allow electronic monitoring in certain cases where a domestic violence order of protection has been in violated, and notification of the victim of the offenders whereabouts should they again violate the protective order. This bill appropriates $2.5 million for the pilot program. .

Making A Difference, One Person At A Time

I saw this video posted on Facebook just now, and had to share it.  When you see so much suffering in the world, it’s easy to think, “But I’m only one person, what can I do?”  The simple gesture of kindness demonstrated by the man on the train in this video, literally giving the shirt off of his own back to another man in need, is a perfect example of one person–just one person–making a positive difference.