Home>Highlight>Senate passes mandatory minimums bill

North Bergen Mayor and State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen). (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Senate passes mandatory minimums bill

With Murphy signaling opposition, measure faces a rocky path

By Nikita Biryukov, February 22 2021 12:40 pm

The State Senate cleared a bill eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for a slew of drug, property crimes and official misconduct in a 23-14 vote Monday.

The bill 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.

That proposal’s path through the legislature was upended after State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) amended to the bill to include official misconduct.

State Sens. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy) each said, at the time, they did not know who was responsible for the amendment.

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

Lopez has since backed away from the bill, but Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) will introduce the new bill in the lower chamber.

“At the end of the day, the judge in the case is in the best position to understand the unique facts to determine what the individual’s punishment should be,” Chiaravalloti said. “Mandatory minimums are a way for politicians to look like they’re tough on crime. We’re not in the courtroom, and we should defer to the judges.”

The Commission did not recommend reducing sentencing guidelines for official misconduct. Gov. Phil Murphy supported the original bill before the Sacco amendment and was later vocal in his opposition to its inclusion.

Though he last week declined to say how he would act on the bill if it reaches his desk, citing an oft-ignored policy that bars comment on pending legislation, he suggested he would oppose the new bill as well.

Spread the news: