By Charles Layton
The four adults accused of a months-long spree of rock-throwing vandalism in Ocean Grove and elsewhere plan to apply to Pretrial Intervention, a program designed for first-time offenders.
According to a letter from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the program “will include community service as well [as] an agreement to pay full restitution to all victims over a period of time.”
If the four defendants are allowed into this program, and if they comply fully with its conditions, they “will have the opportunity to have the matter dismissed,” the letter says. This would spare the defendants the stigma of a criminal conviction. “Should anyone fail to comply with conditions imposed by the program, then he/she will be facing an indictable conviction for a third-degree crime,” the letter says.
A third-degree crime in New Jersey can draw a sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison plus a large fine.
The four adult defendants are charged with criminal mischief. (A fifth defendant is a juvenile.) Police have said that during the past winter and spring the defendants cruised around numerous towns late at night, smashing the windows of homes and parked cars and committing other acts of vandalism. More than 150 of these incidents were reported in more than 20 towns, all of them, except Brick, in Monmouth County.
Neptune Police have cited 33 acts of window smashing in Ocean Grove alone from January through March.
The prosecutor’s office had earlier contacted the victims of these crimes by mail, asking for details, including receipts for repair of damages. This information has served as a basis for plea bargain negotiations with the four adult defendants.
In its latest letter, explaining the Pretrial Intervention Program, the prosecutor’s office informs the victims that they “are entitled to input on the disposition of the case.”
One victim we spoke with was unhappy at the prospect of having the defendants treated as first-time offenders. “The first time they threw a rock was the first offense,” this person said, “but the 150th time?”
The four defendants in question are Philip David Williams, 24; James Joseph Turetzkin, 19; Lauren Ashley Magaw, 21, and Tyler Emmons, 18. All are from Neptune Township except Turetzkin, who is from Neptune City.
These defendants had been scheduled for a pre-indictment court appearance on June 14, but that court date has been postponed until August 9 to give more time for negotiations aimed at a settlement. If no settlement is reached and the defendants do not plead guilty, the case would go before a grand jury and, in the event of an indictment, be tried by a jury.
New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program provides defendants, generally first-time offenders, an opportunity for alternatives to traditional criminal prosecution. According to an online explanation provided by the state (go here to read it) the PTI program “is based on a rehabilitative model that recognizes that there may be an apparent causal connection between the offense charged and the rehabilitative needs of a defendant. Further, the rehabilitative model emphasizes that social, cultural, and economic conditions often result in a defendant’s decision to commit crime… Any defendant who is charged with an indictable offense may apply.”