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

Murphy signals opposition to new mandatory minimums bill

Measure still cuts guidelines for official misconduct

By Nikita Biryukov, February 17 2021 3:48 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy suggested he may not back a bill eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for some non-violent drug and property crimes as well as for a series of minor corruption charges.

“I still want to pursue the legislation based on the recommendations and the spirit of the recommendations that came from that commission,” he said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill, which largely resembles a previous measure that, on the recommendation of the New Jersey Sentencing and Criminal Disposition Commission, eliminated minimum sentencing for crimes like possession and burglary, among others.

Murphy declined to comment directly on the bill, citing an oft-ignored policy that bars comment on measures that haven’t reached his desk and adding he had not read the newer legislation.

“But my basic place is still where it’s been,” he said.

The older bill had broad support, but its path through the legislature was upended when State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) added an amendment removing sentencing guidelines for official misconduct.

Politico New Jersey later reported Walter Somick, the son of Sacco’s longtime girlfriend, faced an official misconduct charge.

Those provisions still exist in the new bill, which also removes mandatory minimums for a series of offenses committed by elected officials and public employees, including some bribery charges, money laundering and tampering with public records, among many others.

Advocacy groups have continued to push for the elimination of mandatory minimums despite the inclusion of offenses not recommended by the commission.

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