vineland prosecutor sworn in

Vineland Municipal Court Judge John Kaspar administers the oath of office to Inez Acosta, who becomes the city's first Hispanic prosecutor May 30. Acosta was sworn in to the post in Mayor Robert Romano's offices. Standing with Acosta are her son, Jake Cruz, and daughter, Lianna Velazquez.

VINELAND — A 1982 Vineland High School graduate was sworn in Wednesday as the first Hispanic prosecutor in the city’s history.

Resident Inez Acosta, 47, says her ability to speak Spanish will “definitely be a plus” in a city where U.S. census data show that 38 percent of the population is Hispanic.

Municipal Court interpreters don’t report for duty until 11 a.m., she said. Spanish-speaking people can now converse with the prosecutor earlier in the day, she said.

Acosta, who was sworn in before family and friends by Municipal Court Judge John Kaspar in Mayor Robert Romano’s City Hall office, said she intends to work to make the municipality safer for its residents and visitors. She also said she will work with Municipal Court staff to make proceedings more efficient.

But Acosta said what means more to her is that she can serve as prosecutor in the city where she grew up and attended school.

“I’ve come full circle,” she said. “I’m home.”

Acosta replaces Scott Pagliughi, who left the post several months ago for medical reasons. Acosta was one of seven people who applied for the $74,500-per-year post.

Romano said Acosta has all the qualifications to serve as the city’s prosecutor.

“And, she lives in Vineland,” Romano said. “That played a part.”

Local officials said Acosta’s previous jobs included a stint as associate city solicitor and an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. She also worked with several law firms, along with South Jersey Legal Services here.

Acosta holds a law degree from Rutgers University and a bachelor’s degree in business management from St. Joseph’s University.

One of the more high-profile Municipal Court cases Acosta will oversee involves Anderson Sotomayor, the 45-year-old local resident that city police arrested five times in five weeks for allegedly driving while intoxicated. Sotomayor is scheduled to appear in Municipal Court on Thursday for a procedural matter, and the bulk of his offenses will be heard June 13.

Acosta said she is familiar with Sotomayor’s cases, but declined comment.

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