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State Sen. Sandra Cunningham. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

No one taking responsibility for mandatory minimums amendment

Cunningham says she doesn’t know who added official misconduct to list of crimes slated to have their minimum sentencing guidelines axed

By Nikita Biryukov, September 22 2020 2:17 pm

No one is taking responsibility for a quietly made amendment adding official misconduct to a list of offenses that will have their mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines excised under a bill working its way through the legislature.

The bill, originally penned to remove minimum sentencing guidelines for non-violent property and drug crimes, was quietly amended last month to include official misconduct.

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), the bill’s prime Senate sponsor on Tuesday told the New Jersey Globe she did not know who added the provision, and she said she was still undecided on whether or not she would support the quietly added measure.

The amendments were made during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting held on Aug. 24.

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy), the measure’s chief sponsor in the lower chamber, last week told Politico New Jersey, which first reported the amendment’s existence, she was not aware the amendments had been made.

The bill was spawned partly by recommendations from 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. In fact, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a member of the commission, in a July 2019 op-ed explicitly included official misconduct in a list of mostly violent offenses that he said should retain their sentencing guidelines.

The amendment also drew a rebuke from Gov. Phil Murphy.

“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 a COVID-19 briefing last week.

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