Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Is Waldwick chief still sending cops on suicide mission?

An aerial photo from PIX11 TV news after a tractor-trailer smashed into the unmarked car of Waldwick Police Officer Christopher Goodell, who was parked at the side of Route 17 south on July 17, 2014, operating radar to catch speeders. He was killed instantly, authorities said.


With speed cameras readily available, posting a police officer at the side of a highway to catch speeding tractor-trailers and other vehicles is nothing less than a suicide mission.

But that's exactly what Waldwick Police Chief Mark Messner did, leading to the death of Police Officer Christopher Goodell, who was little more than a sitting duck at 1:30 a.m. on July 17, 2014.

Now, a Bergen County grand has declined to indict truck driver Ryon Cumberbatch on a vehicular homicide charge, The Record reports on Page 1 today in a story that leaves many questions unanswered.

Was driver asleep?

The story by Staff Writer Allison Pries and Jim Norman says it isn't clear whether Cumberbatch was speeding, but there is nothing on whether he fell asleep at the wheel (A-1 and A-8).

Prosecutor John Molinelli is quoted as saying at the time of the crash "Cumberbatch drove directly into the police car without stopping or attempting to stop."

Still, no one knows whether the grand jurors decided they couldn't find the truck driver acted recklessly in causing the death of Goodell, as they would have to do to hand up a vehicular homicide indictment.

The story also errs in comparing an indictment to "a finding that there is enough evidence of probable guilt to go to trial" (A-8).

Many grand juries are said to be rubber stamps of prosecutors, and one judge noted grand jurors will, if asked, "indict a ham sandwich."

More holes 

Today's story also is silent on the inevitable lawsuit Goodell's family can file, seeking damages from the driver and truck's owner, J.B. Hunt Transportation Services.

Road Warrior Columnist John Cichowski, who wrote several columns about Goodell's death and people who own homes on the edge of the highway, must have been fast asleep when news of the grand jury's decision broke on Tuesday. 

Stile on Christie

In the last line of his Page 1 column today, Staff Writer Charles Stile says Governor Christie "is perhaps the most desperate" of the candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination (A-10).

Of course, few readers will get that far after glancing at another front-page headline and Stile column that seems little more than an apology for Christie's racially inspired scree against President Obama, Syrian refugees and black victims of police shootings (A-1).

Daibes and Borgs

Another Page 1 story today -- on a proposed deal between the state Department of Environmental Protection and multimillionaire Fred Daibes -- is the second major story about the developer and restaurant owner since Saturday.

The proposal is called lenient and a slap on the wrist, with Daibes required to pay only a third of a drastically lower cash penalty (A-1).

Daibes dropped out last year as developer of 19.7 acres along River Street in Hackensack owned by North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record.

Local news

Christie isn't the only one who is desperate.

Local Assignment Editors Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza really scrambled to fill today's thin section, with two major Paterson stories on the front (L-1).

Police, court and non-fatal accident news can be found throughout the section.

There is some relief in the obituary of Alice Ramsey Burns, 105, "the product of an early Hackensack family prominent in the realms of politics and motoring," but that story is buried on L-6.

Healthy recipes

Congratulations to Food Editor Esther Davidowitz for publishing a few healthy recipes among the usual mindless promotion of fatty pork and artery clogging desserts (BL-1, BL-2 and BL-3).

Three of the recipes, all free of butter and cream, are from freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson, who has been known to use those artery clogging ingredients with abandon.

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