Two law enforcement officials filed reports in 2019 after Star-Ledger editorial page editor Tom Moran allegedly put his hands on Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez during an attempt to interview her, witnesses said.
Separate reports filed by Executive Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Gene Rubino and Jersey City Police Sgt. Joseph Walsh outlined an April 18, 2019 incident at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City between Suarez and Moran. The New Jersey Globe obtained the reports as part of a request filed under the Open Public Records Act.
In a grainy surveillance video, also obtained as part of the OPRA request, Moran is seen hovering over Suarez and raising his hands as if to touch her.
Rubino said he saw Moran but was not listening to his conversation with Suarez.
“It is not uncommon for me to step away from the prosecutor or not actively listen to her conversations with others out of respect for her privacy,” Rubino wrote in his memorandum seven days later. “However, during those times, I try to maintain some visual contact with the prosecutor for safety reasons.”
Rubino said that as Moran “was trying to speak to the prosecutor, I did hear him say either the word, ‘testify’ or ”testimony,” which I thought was somewhat odd and thought perhaps it could be someone asking her about a pending criminal case.”
“I then immediately noticed the prosecutor’s facial expression change and Moran motioning his arm and hand towards the prosecutor’s back or arm area,” Rubino said. “From my vantage point, I was not able to see where exactly he touched or came into contact with the prosecutor. I then saw the prosecutor quickly pivot to walk away from Moran and heard the prosecutor say in a loud and clear voice words to the effect of, ‘Don’ t touch me. Don’ t you ever put your hands on me.’”
Rubino said he noticed “the commotion” and made his way closer to the prosecutor “as she quickly walked away from Moran, who continued to follow her.”
“At this point, the prosecutor was walking in front of me and Moran was just behind me and to my right side,” Rubino said. “As Moran continued to pursue the prosecutor, I extended my right arm slightly downward without coming in contact with him in an effort to prevent him from pursuing the prosecutor, and I said ‘Hey!’”
According to Rubino, Moran “discontinued following the prosecutor and walked straight towards the event room”
“Sergeant Walsh also noticed the commotion and escorted both of us immediately to our left and down the nearby staircase,” Rubino stated in his report.
Moran making physical contact with Suarez appears to be corroborated by a surveillance video obtained by Jersey City Police from Edward Hanley, the assistant director of campus safety at St. Peter’s University.
Walsh said he heard Suarez say, “don’t touch me” and noticed a “white male with gray hair wearing a light blue colored shirt” standing near her.
“I walked over to Prosecutor Suarez and asked was everything alright? Prosecutor Suarez stated everything was fine and she wanted to take the stairs down to her vehicle,” Walsh said in his report, noting that he escorted Suarez and Rubino to the parking lot. “While walking down the stairs, Prosecutor Suarez stated that the male that touched her arm was a reporter named Tom Moran who was attempting to ask her a question.”
The former acting U.S. Marshal for New Jersey, Donald I. Rackley, told the New Jersey Globe that it is never acceptable to touch a law enforcement officer.
“Under no circumstances can you do that,” said Rackley, who was in charge of security for federal judges, prosecutors and witnesses. “Who does that? He can’t do that, especially in the times we live in now.”
Rackley pointed to the brutal murder of a federal judge’s son at her home last summer and said that he might have ordered that a summons be issued to a reporter who put his or her hands on a federal prosecutor.
Suarez did not press charges against Moran.
“After she refused to return phone calls, I saw her at an event, asked her to answer questions, and gently tapped her elbow when she didn’t respond, since I couldn’t tell if she heard me,” Moran said. “That’s it. To call that bullying is silly.”
The Star-Ledger editorial board led by Moran took a hard stance in 2016 after Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was accused of shoving a reporter. The Star-Ledger called it “thuggish misogyny,” although the circumstances were not necessarily identical.
This story was updated at 9:58 PM with comment from Moran.