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man gets probation in Stockton criminal sexual contact case
Wildwood man gets probation in Stockton criminal sexual contact case

MAYS LANDING — A former Stockton University student was sentenced to five years of probation Thursday after admitting to using his cellphone to take videos of a woman during a sexual act, which he posted on social media.

Zachary Madle, 26, also must complete 200 hours of community service on criminal sexual contact and invasion of privacy charges after pleading guilty last month.

During the sentencing, the court heard from the victim, who called Madle a monster who should be in jail.

“Every single night since you raped me, I have not been able to sleep without nightmares,” said the woman, identified as M.R. in court documents. “You are vile. You deserve to rot in a cell with the only thoughts being, ‘Was it worth it?’”

Madle, a Wildwood bartender and Stockton graduate, stared straight ahead while M.R. and her mother read victim witness statements addressing the pain and trauma the incident caused.

“I just would like to convey my deepest apologies,” Madle said when Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. asked whether he wanted to make a statement during the hearing. Madle wore a black suit and a purple-striped tie, his hands clasped in front of him.

The sentence was the result of a negotiated plea deal. Because Madle doesn’t have a history of prior offenses, even if the case had been taken to trial, there would be a presumption that he wouldn’t face jail time, Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer said, adding he told the victim that “you’re not going to find perfect justice as a result of this court case, but you’ll find some measure of justice and some measure of closure.”

A handful of family members and friends sat in the gallery, some sitting with M.R. and others sitting on the opposite side of the room, behind Madle.

“You may look respectable in your nice suit and tie, but the truth is you are a predator and you are a rapist,” M.R.’s mother said, adding she is disheartened he isn’t facing jail time and believes he will rape again.

“Zachary, you are a rapist and a thief,” she said, turning in her chair to look at Madle. “I don’t care what kind of plea bargain you were lucky enough to negotiate, but it doesn’t change the fact that you raped my daughter.”

Madle’s attorney, Steve Scheffler, said Madle’s remorse was genuine, and that he will never be able to forgive himself.

“Quite frankly, he’s incredibly ashamed for his actions and for what he’s done,” Scheffler said. “He makes absolutely no excuses for what he’s done. He takes full responsibility.”

During a plea last month, Madle admitted that on Feb. 15, 2017, he was in M.R.’s dorm room on Stockton’s Galloway Township campus and used his cellphone to take unsolicited videos or photos of the victim during a sexual act and then posted those videos or photos to Snapchat. He also admitted he had sexual contact with the victim to “humiliate and degrade her.”

In his ruling, DeLury said he had fashioned a sentence that “addresses the needs to correct this defendant and give the victim some measure of completeness in this case.”

He also highlighted the use of social media in the case, saying that “among the greater harms of modernity is the millennial need to post everything from the ridiculous to the criminal to social media. By recording his misconduct on social media, this defendant has reproduced perhaps into eternity the harm to this victim” and that the only value in it was “to provide the prosecution of incontrovertible evidence of his criminality.”

During a portion of her statement directed at Madle, M.R. spoke about how she had aspirations of becoming a state trooper, but the assault left her with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“You almost killed me that night,” she said. “Not only with what you posted and how that affected me, but the fact that you left me as I was already throwing up. … Imagine if I did roll onto my back. This would be a murder charge.”

She said her new goal is to become a detective, “so I can help convict more rapists like you and advocate for change in this criminal justice system, because you should not be walking away with probation.”

A federal civil lawsuit filed in July 2018 alleging Madle raped her while she was unconscious and that he posted videos of the sexual assault on his Snapchat account was settled in November.

Robert Fuggi, M.R.’s lawyer, said the details of the settlement were confidential.

‘You’ve got to be best friends': Couples celebrating milestone anniversaries share stories of long-lasting love

Alice and Ken Groome met their freshman year of high school in German class. Tom and Dawn Flynn and Doris and Bernie Leibowitz met on blind dates.

However they met, all three couples are celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries in 2020 and shared their stories of love for Valentine’s Day. Each couple's journey is different, but they all credit friendship as the foundation of a good marriage.   

Doris, 97, and Bernie, 99, married 74 years

Doris was just 17 when she met Bernie on a blind double date March 30, 1940. They went to the movies and saw "His Girl Friday" with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. One movie ticket cost “just a quarter or 50 cents a person,” according to Bernie.

“I thought he was nice,” Doris said of Bernie. “And I wanted a steady Saturday night date.”

“I thought she was stacked up pretty good,” Bernie added.

He called Doris for a second date for the following Saturday, during which he told her he loved her.

“I figured, ‘Who is this guy? He’s a nice guy and he loves me,’” she said. “I said to him, ‘If you love me, go home and write it 100 times.’”

And he did.

“The first time I saw her, she weighed 118 pounds, she was 5-foot-6 tall, built beautifully, beautiful face. … It was easy to fall in love,” he said.

Two years after they met, Bernie joined the military and served in the South Pacific. Throughout his tour, the couple sent letters back and forth to each other. They still have some of them.

He once sent Doris a Valentine’s Day card made from local materials from the South Pacific. Throughout their relationship, he preferred to make cards rather than buy them.

“I would draw a heart and write whatever I was thinking,” he said.

“One Valentine’s Day morning I came into the kitchen, and there on the table was a paper dish,” Doris said. “And he wrote on the dish, ‘You’re still my favorite dish, Happy Valentine’s Day.’ I didn’t need anything more.”

It’s gotten harder for him to make homemade Valentine’s Day cards in recent years, due to his lack of mobility. If he could, he would give Doris a big kiss.

The couple now live at Seashore Gardens Living Center in Galloway Township. They share one room but sleep in separate hospital beds. For one more night, Doris would like to share a big bed with her husband.

“We are roommates,” she said. “I need one firm mattress and one night of hugging from my husband, which would be wonderful.”

To remain a happily married couple for more than seven decades, the couple remained best friends and always gave 100% to the marriage, they said.

“Give all that you can and accept the best in a person,” Doris said.

Alice, 69, and Ken, 69, married 50 years

They met when they were 14 and started dating when Ken asked Alice to dance at a Columbus Day dance in Palmyra on Oct. 15, 1965.

“She laughed at some of the stuff I did, so that was always a good thing,” Ken said. “She paid attention to me.”

But there was someone else who was interested in Alice, although she ultimately liked Ken more.

“Whatever feelings I had were different for the two of them,” she said. “I was in my geometry class one day, and this other guy, Steve, was two rows over from me and said something to me that everybody in the room heard. It was basically, ‘I know you’re not interested in me, so spend your time with Ken.’”

But Ken has a lot of gratitude for Steve.

“I owe him a lot,” Ken said. “At one of the dances I gave her my ring, and she gave it back to me. Steve found out about it and basically said to her, ‘What the hell is a matter with you? Keep his ring!’”

Keeping the boy’s ring and wearing it as a necklace signified they were a couple.

After graduating from high school, they got engaged on Christmas Eve in Alice’s parents' kitchen at 10:15 p.m. The time coincides with their first date, Oct. 15.

“We’re still friends,” Ken said after 50 years of marriage. “We’d rather be with each other than with anybody else. She is able to bring me up when I need it. We still talk about everything. We can still laugh at each other and with each other, and we still have fun together.”

The Mays Landing couple don't have big plans for Valentine’s Day, and they don’t fight the crowds at restaurants. If they do go out, it’s somewhere unconventional (and less crowded) like a diner.

And five decades later, Ken would do it all over again.

“If I didn’t partner with Alice, I don’t know what I’d be doing or where I’d be,” he said.

Dawn, 55, and Tom, 59, married 30 years

The Margate couple had a mutual friend who wanted to pair them up, but Tom wasn’t into blind dates. After the friend pleaded with Tom, he agreed to meet Dawn at Gilhooley’s, a former bar in Margate.

“We met and we danced all night,” he said. “I fell in love.”

“Because I looked Irish,” Dawn jokingly interjected.

“I do tell my boys, ‘Find a sweet Irish girl so you can have Irish babies,’” he said.

Dawn liked that “he had his act together” and that he was a firefighter. “I thought that was pretty darn cool,” she said.

Asked how long the couple dated before Tom proposed, Tom remembered it as four years.

“No, 2½ years,” Dawn corrected him.

“Oh, right,” Tom said.

Remembering how he proposed also left Tom scratching his head.

“You know what, I’m drawing a blank,” he said, surprised.

Dawn jogged his memory and reminded him it was when they picked out the engagement ring together at the Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township.

“Then we went home to my parents' house and I already had the ring on,” Dawn said. “But they liked him anyway, so it worked out OK.”

It wasn’t until then that Tom asked Dawn’s father for his blessing as her father stood in a towel, fresh out of the shower.

“It was actually quite comical,” Dawn said.

Thirty years later, he still makes her laugh.

“We have fun together,” she said. “We laugh together. When he’s not around, I’m lost.”

“You’ve got to be best friends,” Tom said.

The couple usually works on Valentine’s Day at the Log Cabin in Margate, but this year they’re both off and plan to go to dinner.

“I’m thinking Italian,” Dawn said.

clowe-pressofac / Claire Lowe / Staff Writer//  

Zachary Madle, left, stands silently beside his attorney, Steven P. Scheffler, at his arraignment before Judge Jeffrey J. Waldman in October 2018. Madle was indicted last month on one count of aggravated criminal sexual contact and two counts of invasion of privacy in the alleged rape of a university freshman last February.

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Could Atlantic City be the future of national cybersecurity?

ATLANTIC CITY — Generous federal tax incentives are attracting investors and developers to the city with visions of creating a cybersecurity complex that would help move the local economy away from an over-reliance on tourism and casino gaming.

During the second annual Opportunity Zone Black Capitalism Fund Summit at the Showboat Hotel Atlantic City on Wednesday, interested investors, community leaders and entrepreneurs discussed how the city’s oceanfront location and federal Opportunity Zone program could be the catalysts for a new economic engine focused on cybersecurity, education and workforce development.

“This event can teach investors the kinds of opportunities we have here,” said James Whitehead, an Atlantic City resident and co-founder of the summit. “I believe that the type of investors that are here can help us drive about $3 billion of investment into Atlantic City to create America’s first cyber-triangle.”

Whitehead said the concept would include a national headquarters, a multi-use complex and residential housing for “cybersecurity warriors.”

Atlantic City’s proximity to several major metropolitan areas and the ocean make it a unique location for technology and aviation industries, Whitehead said.

“Right now, the Opportunity Zones in Atlantic City are in the Tourism District, which is where the ocean is,” he said. “If you’re the president of McDonnell Douglas or Lockheed Martin, would you like to wake up and look at the Atlantic Ocean or wake up and look at the concrete Pentagon?”

Atlantic City is one of 75 municipalities with designated Opportunity Zones in New Jersey under the federal government’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The federal program was designed to drive long-term capital investments into low-income urban and rural communities through attractive tax incentives.

The program has been scrutinized in some instances — such as the Rybovich marina project in West Palm Beach, Florida — for allowing well-connected and already wealthy individuals and corporations to capitalize from tax breaks while the poor communities that were supposed to prosper receive little, if any, benefit. New Jersey’s tax credit program has been subject to similar criticism.

But there are success stories. Washington, D.C., is one area where low-income neighborhoods are being developed through the Opportunity Zone program. Redbrick LMD, a D.C.-based development and real estate company, has been among those organizations taking advantage of the federal program, and its managing partner believes Atlantic City’s potential is similar to that of the nation’s capital.

“This city seems to be one of those places that could really benefit from the federal legislation,” said Louis Dubin, of Redbrick. “I think it’s just really important for those of us that are executing on these Opportunity Zone investments to get out and educate and tell people what’s going on.”

Atlantic City has four eligible Opportunity Zones — Chelsea, Ducktown/Boardwalk, Uptown and Downtown/Boardwalk, and South Inlet — based on the poverty rate and median family income of those areas.

Kaleem Shabazz, 3rd Ward councilman and president of the Atlantic City NAACP, said events like Wednesday’s summit are important to “let people know Atlantic City is open for business.” Shabazz also said an economic summit geared toward minority investors was important to demonstrate that communities such as Atlantic City, where blacks and Hispanics make up nearly 64% of the population, are not being marginalized when it comes to development opportunities.

“Diversity is always good. I’m glad that there are people of color here who want to invest, and we want to ensure them that Atlantic City is a place that they are welcome, that they can get a fair shake, a place that has a government that is going to be sensitive to their needs,” Shabazz said.

Forum focuses on mental health, substance abuse

In South Jersey, mental health and substance abuse are core concerns for voters, making it a key issue for Democratic candidates vying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

Amy Kennedy, one of those candidates, hosted a panel discussion Thursday morning at Enlightened Cafe in Ventnor to coincide with the rollout of her plan on the issues.

“We know how important the environment is, we know how important infrastructure is, we know how important our education system is, and housing and the economy,” said Kennedy, of Brigantine. “But I think we all know that our wellness is at the core of all those other issues, and that if we are not addressing mental health and wellness, if we are not addressing the deaths of despair that we are seeing every day, the rest of this (isn’t) gonna come together.”

Brigid Callahan Harrison, who is also running for the Democratic nomination, drew a distinction between Kennedy’s approach and her own.

“My focus is more on looking at public policy regarding mental health and substance abuse from a federal level,” she said, adding her policy priorities are in alliance with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Other Democratic candidates in the 2nd Congressional District race are Ashley Bennett, John Francis, Jack Surrency, Robert Turkavage and Will Cunningham.

Kennedy’s campaign event, in front of a few dozen attendees, included Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler, Atlantic City fire Chief Scott Evans and Jaime Angelini of the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County. The participants spoke about ending particular stigmas around mental health in their fields, recognizing early signs of trouble or trauma and the need to expand the availability of counseling and other treatment.

Kennedy, a former teacher and wife of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, formally released her proposal Thursday, which included a call for counselors and psychologists in every school, equipping first responders with the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, promoting universal screening at all health care facilities, making opioid manufacturers pay for the harm caused by addiction, reforming the criminal justice system to steer people dealing with those issues toward treatment instead of prison and funding mobile outreach teams.

Scheffler provided proof of the power of mobile outreach. His office’s Hope One Mobile Outreach Team has helped get 618 people into treatment for substance abuse since its unveiling in 2018, he said. He also spoke to the connection between mental health, substance abuse and law enforcement.

“We know that in the criminal justice system itself that ... 50% of the people incarcerated today have some type of either addiction or mental health issue, and that’s certified numbers,” Scheffler said. “So if they’re certified numbers, you probably could say that those numbers are much, much higher than that.”

Harrison, of Longport, a professor of political science at Montclair State University, in an interview Thursday described her main goals for tackling the worsening issues of mental illness and substance abuse.

Her policy push would be a three-part proposal, she said. She would look to increase funds for research, both for the cause of mental illness and its treatment; protect access to services and treatment, particularly in the Department of Veterans Affairs, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder for patients in rural areas; and ensure “parity of access” between physical and mental illness both in private insurance and government-run insurance.

Kennedy framed mental illness and substance abuse as issues that can be tackled effectively, as they impact everyone in some regard.

“On this issue, it is bipartisan. We know how many people are being affected throughout the country, and we know it’s a place we can make progress,” Kennedy said. “We are just at the beginning of this effort.”

Who is running in the 2nd Congressional District race?