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

Murphy still opposed to mandatory minimums bill

Veto over changes to official misconduct penalties appears certain, but timing hazy

By Nikita Biryukov, March 08 2021 4:04 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy remains opposed to the inclusion of official misconduct in a bill eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for a series of non-violent crimes, including drug and property offenses.

“Nothing new on mandatory minimum sentences, and no insight for you on timing,” Murphy said. “I am basically where I have been.”

The measure, which largely resembles a previous proposal based on the recommendation of the New Jersey Sentencing and Criminal Disposition Commission, was sent to the governor’s desk last week after clearing the Assembly in a 46-20 vote with four abstentions.

Though Murphy backed the older bill, which did not change sentencing guidelines for official misconduct and a series of related offenses in the new measure, he balked after State Sen. Nick Sacco (D-North Bergen) amended it to include official misconduct, which carries a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.

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

The newer bill seemed destined for a veto — most likely a conditional one — even as it advanced through the legislature in February, though the governor declined to comment on when he might take action on the bill.

Murphy has maintained his opposition even in the face of a push by a multi-faith group of religious leaders and the New Jersey Bar Association.

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