BRICK TOWNSHIP, NJ(CNBNewsnet)--Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato today announced the July 19, 2018 decision by the State Appeals Court to reversed a Superior Court Judge’s decision admitting former Brick Township School Academic Officer Lorraine S. Morgan into a Pretrial Intervention Program.
Morgan was charged with official misconduct after taking part in a 2013-2014 scheme in which former Brick Township School Superintendent Walter Uszenski, his daughter Jacqueline Halsey, and Morgan’s husband Andrew Morgan obtained full-time pre-school day care and related services for Uszenski’s grandchild at the public’s expense. In order to accomplish that goal, Uszenski’s grandchild was fraudulently classified as disabled which would make him eligible for these services at no cost to the child’s family. Because Lorraine Morgan approved payment for in-home services which were not authorized, she was charged with Official Misconduct. Uszenski, Andrew Morgan, and Halsey were variously charged with a number of offenses including official misconduct, theft, and false swearing.
Morgan applied to the Pretrial Intervention Program but was rejected by the Program Director as well as the County Prosecutor. However, Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels overruled these objections and ordered Morgan into the program. OCPO appealed and a two-judge panel reversed Judge Daniels’ decision.
Appellate Judges Joseph L. Yannotti and Michael J. Haas observed that the decision to accept or reject a defendant’s pretrial intervention application is essentially a prosecutorial function. The panel wrote “it is the fundamental responsibility of the Prosecutor to decide whom to prosecute.” The appeals court underscored what it considered a “major error” in Judge Daniels’ decision; that “the decision was predicated on the Judge’s own assessment of the PTI factors” and that “he ignored the nature of the offense, the facts of the case, and the impact placing defendant in PTI would have on the prosecution of her codefendants.” In reinstating the Prosecutor’s decision rejecting Morgan for PTI, the appeals panel concluded “judicial disagreement with a Prosecutor’s reasons for rejection, as had occurred here, does not equate to prosecutorial abuse of discretion so as to merit a judicial override of the Prosecutor’s decision.”