by James J. Devine
A week after Sheriff Ralph Froehlich was re-elected to an unprecedented 11th term in 2007, a grainy video captured the shooting death of 13-year-old Elijah Henderson. Two inmates accused of violent crimes pulled off an elaborate escape from the Union County Jail a month after those shootings. Three years later, Edariel “Riddick” Melendez, an alleged member of the Crips street gang, is on trial and Froehlich is seeking yet another term in the post he has held since 1977.
Melendez is accused of killing not only Henderson, but also 54-year-old Celso Pedra, a construction worker who lived a few blocks away from where three teenagers were fired upon as the pedaled bicycles along Fulton Street after midnight.
Elizabeth has a mayor and a police director who say there are no gangs in the city and who have never addressed the issue of police corruption, despite a grand jury report that says 70 of 350 police officers belong to a secret organization that undermines justice.
An honest Elizabeth cop won $650,000 in a whistle-blower lawsuit that cost taxpayers $2 million altogether. A successful complaint lodged against Froehlich by former Sheriff’s Officer Virginia Fanelli cost taxpayers $3 million. Meanwhile, County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow felt the need to take over responsibility for investigating murders because there were dozens of unsolved homicides.
Plainfield, Elizabeth, Union, Roselle, Linden and other communities have become like shooting galleries where dead bodies pile up and citizens are unsafe in their own homes. Sen. Raymond Lesniak won approval of new laws eliminating drug free school zones and making it easier for prison inmates to be released early.
This morning I saw a piece of campaign literature from Union County’s regular political organization that blames me for all your problems. Maybe it was something I said. Maybe they’re deluded. If you vote to re-elect anybody this year, the person responsible for all our problems will be you.
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