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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy opposes axing sentencing guidelines for official misconduct

Quietly amended bill would excise mandatory minimums for some public corruption

By Nikita Biryukov, September 16 2020 2:21 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t backing a quietly-made amendment adding official misconduct to a bill removing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for a list of minor, mostly drug-related crimes.

“Let me say unequivocally: Official misconduct was not on the list, so I just want to say as clearly as I can I do not support official misconduct being roped into this legislation,” Murphy said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The bill was drafted with heavy considerations for recommendations made by the New Jersey Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, which suggested eliminating minimums for most drug crimes and shoplifting offenses. The bill also reduces mandatory sentence lengths for certain types of robbery and burglary convictions.

The commission did not recommend adding official misconduct to the list, and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a member of the commission, in a July 2019 op-ed included official misconduct in a list of mostly violent offenses that he said should retain their sentencing guidelines.

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy), the bill’s prime sponsor in the legislature’s lower chamber, told Politico New Jersey, which first reported the amendments, she was not made aware of the changes.

The measure passed a vote before the Assembly prior to being amended by the Senate committee. A companion bill retroactively applying the reduced sentencing guidelines was also amended to include official misconduct.

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