Back in Court with Michele Lodzinski

Michele Lodzinski was back in court on August 23, 2016 and not to get sentenced as was originally planned after a jury handed over a Murder One Conviction on May 18, 2016. Defense Attorney Gerald Krovatin, it seems did a lot of law research this summer and has returned to the courtroom to further his client’s plea of innocence in the death of her son 25 years ago. One of the strangest moments in court that morning, before Superior Court Judge Dennie Nieves even had the chance to hear the oral arguments of two defense motions to either get a mistrial for Michele Lodzinski or get her an acquittal, was when one of the former jurors on the trial was asked to leave the courtroom by a court officer. It seems that Krovatin spotted the former juror in the back of the courtroom and asked the judge for a side bar along with the two prosecutors to discuss the issue that resulted in the juror’s expulsion.

His first motion, ironically, was also about the expulsion of a juror, this one happening during the trial. “The replacement of juror number 1 for juror number 6, left the court with no other choice but to declare a mistrial,” Krovatin stated. “The misconduct of juror number 1 in his doing outside research on the Internet about FBI Agent Butkiewicz violated juror oaths.” Agent Butkiewicz, according to Krovatin was a key witness for the state, having found the blue blanket that opened up the cold case in 2012.

He talked about “seepage” effecting juror deliberations, as if they were hot house flowers receiving too much water. Not only did he take offense at this seepage issue, he also felt that jurors didn’t deliberate long enough after the juror number 6 was placed on the panel. Three jurors, before the switch were leaning towards the defense version, upsetting Krovatin’s apple cart. The judge interjected that juror number 12 ratted out the foreman, “she said, ‘he was doing outside research.’” Krovatin said she ratted him out because she didn’t agree with him and he might have persuaded other jurors. The judge reading from the record, “Juror number 13 said ‘We were talking about credibility of what’s his name (Butkiewicz), it could have changed some people…’” The judge remembered that when he first started interviewing jurors about the foreman they didn’t want to talk about him doing outside research. The tricky part of the judge interviewing the jurors about the misbehaving foreman, was that he is not allowed to know about the particulars of their deliberating. That is private. So this is a very tricky business.

And Krovatin’s other big problem was how the jury could only deliberate for four hours with the substitute. The judge had instructed them to begin deliberations from the beginning.“How do you go through a two month trial in four hours?”

Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Christie Bevacqua you can imagine was not very happy with Defense Attorney Gerald Krovatin’s motion for a mistrial.

“You have sunk to a new level, and you speculating about what the jurors thought during deliberations is all speculation. The judge dismissed the juror for personal reasons The dismissed juror failed to follow his oath, he wasn’t candid with the court, and he was dishonest and failed to follow the instructions of the judge.”

Krovatin’s second motion, acquittal for his client has been heard three times by the court so I think there is less of a chance for this old hat. Yes it is circumstantial evidence, yes, only bones were found so no cause, and yes, the mother had no prior accusations of  abuse of her five year old son, but a jury heard the case and found her guilty of murder one. She was the last person with him as Scott LaMountain explained to the judge. His body was found across the street from where his mother worked, in a creek. He was a healthy little boy, what happend to him the hours before his mother reported him missing?

The only thing we will find out in thirty days is if his mother will be sentenced for his death.

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Mark Di Ionna’s The Last Newspaperman

When does a newspaper story become bigger than the real people it is covering? Recently the Dharun Ravi webcam spy trial dwarfed all of its sad main characters.  Mark Di Ionna is a Star Ledger columnist who covered the New Brunswick, New Jersey trial and was the first newsman to interview Dharun Ravi at his home in Plainsboro. DiIonna is also the author of the Last  Newspaperman, a fictional novel about several high profile 1930s New Jersey stories that gave birth to tabloid journlism. It is Di Ianno’s personal statement about the trials and tribulations of watching rather than participating in life. His narrator is a reporter who happens upon an elderly newspaperman, Fred G. Haines, close to his death and eager to look back on his life with a young observer, a fresh pair of eyes.

Although all the cases covered in the novel occurred in New Jersey in the 1930s, they all made national and even international newspapers and radio outlets. The Lindberg Kidnapping case, the Hindenburg tragedy and the Morrow Castle fire and sinking off the coast of the Jersey shoreall were larger than life. Splashed across tabuloids, these catasrophes created heros and villianns, deserved or not by the actual personalities.

Di Ianno paints a grim picture of reporters that sneak  in to morgues, peek in to windows and hound the victims of horrible crimes, whether they are distraught mothers, depressed hero aviators  or victims of fires and sinking ships.

If you have any interest in Jersey history, wierd tales, or what its like to folllow ambulances  or villians to get story de jour, DiIanno’s small town Jersey tale  is compelling and deeply felt by a journalist with a conscience.

He will do a reading and a book signing at the Highland Park Public Library on Monday, October 1 at 7:00 PM.

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Judge to Consider Mistrial and Acquital In Michele Lodzinski Trial

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What I like About Patti Smith

Since my last year in college, Patti Smith always seems to be out there someplace singing, writing or popping up with a new memoir . Her recent book, Just Kids chronicles her relationship with the artist and photographer Robert Maplethorpe, her kindred spirit. Both meet as they journey to artisthood. Smith arrives by bus from South Jersey and meets Maplethorpe in Brooklyn in the neighborhoods surrounding Pratt. Maplethorpe has dropped out of the art school jus as Smith removed herself from a teachers college to devote themselves full time to exploring their inner spiritual lives and to finding their medium. Both draw, photogrph, write and ultimately Smith picks up the guitar. Both charm the art world, creeping closer to becoming celebrities. Along the way, they work dismal jobs in book stores,, dressing windows and in Maplethorp’s case, even turning tricks, although that might be a part of his exploring the dark side. Skinny, willing to forgo food for art supplies, they devote themselves to their arts, he ultimately finding his way to the camera. They forge an air tight friendship after their love affair is turned off track by Maplethorp’s homosexuality. However they are truelly brother and  sister of the soul, their devotion to each other’s well being undeniable as they explore other love interests. Time, illness and geograpy does not sever their deep bond. Patti Smith devotes this book to Maplethorpe who died in 1987. Anyone who dreams of becoming an artist should read this to see just what the sacrifices entail. it’s not always a pretty picture but if you are driven and have no choice and little bit of talent, who knows where it might lead. Just look at Patti Smith.

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Blogging Advice from Blogger Leora Wenger

Just as in all aspects of social life, sharing, being polite and respectful as well as providing good information will make you a popular blogger.

As a beginning blogger, Leora Wenger’s workshop, held at the Highland Park Public Library in early June tuned me into the details of what it means to be a successful blogger. She not only spoke about why we want to blog,  (to share books, experiences, photos, travel) but also about the etiquet of blogging. “My first blog I wrote about all kinds of things, I experimented,” Leora shared with our group.

Before the workshop, she asked six of her blogger friends questions and here are some of their responses. “Content is king. In other words if you write garbage other people will not want to look at it,” Leora emphasized. “Be prepared to invest time to post on a regular basis. If you have never done it before write a few drafts and then publish them when you are ready.”

Focus on one piece of information. Focus on your voice. Be brave, remember they are all afraid of making apple pie and you already know how to do it. (Of couse apple pie is a methaphor in this respect, but you can blog about it.

Be prepared to read other people’s blogs. Get links back to your own blog. Use your own name and be polite as possible. Put a link back to your blog.  Comment Luv plugin is a way to get your blogs publicized at other sites.

What is the differene between a blog and a website? Blogs consist of articles, called posts.

Categories can include anything your writing about and are hierarchical. Painting, ex. books, literature. Tags can be types of painting. if you have too many categories, you can write a tag.

When you add a new post you can type in a heading and then your content.  Always remember to save your work.

Can you make money blogging? Yes, but at first don’t think about that.

You can make money by selling your own services, sell someone else’s ads on your site, Google Ads, text link ads, affiliate marketing., set up a donation box, use paypal.

If you use your own email, be prepared to get spam.

Businesses use blogs to inform customers who want to learn more in depth information. You can localize and personalize your business by adding a blog.

Problogger is one of the most well known. If you want to make money, his blog can be very informative. He has a friendly tone and he is a good teacher. He encouraged his audience to leave comments. He is the Bill Clinton of Bloggers.

A Blog is a good way to get people to develop trust before you try to sell to them. In other words, it can be a powerful marketing technique. Copyblogger is another popular blogger personality. Platforms for blogging include Blogger,, self hosted WordPress (Leora’s favorite), Tumblr, Google, YouTube – video as a form of blogging? It can  complement your blog.

Tumbler is cute, but people often post images they shouldn’t.  They also post things without giving credit or asking permission. You should read the creative liscenses of photographers before using their work.

Google plus is like a blog but if you don’t want to set up an official blog, you can share your ideas. Some  people like to talk and not write. You can set up a camera and talk.

Use strong passwords so you will not get hacked. “Write for the reader, tweak for the search engines.”

Be friendly to other bloggers. Guest posting is a way to introduce your writing to new blog communities.

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Author David Lubar Reachs Reluctant Children and Teens

It wasn’t uncommon for a 10-year-old David Lubar to be tossed out of his Morristown elementary school class for talking incesantly, according to the author who spoke to 50 of his most loyal Highland Park fans, many of them boys.

“That’s what started me off reading,” Lubar admitted. “Where do you send the noisiest kid, to the quietest place, the school library.”

It was also the place where his mother worked as a school librarian. “She always handed me books so I would stop talking.”

David Lubar has published 20 books including Sleeping Freshman Never Lie, The Weenie Series, Dunk, The Talents, and Hidden Talent.

“His creativity and humor inspire even the most reluctant readers to pick up his books,” Fran Lee, children’s librarian at the Highland Park Public Library, said. “David Lubar is able to write with a child’s perspective on life.  He gets write down to their level and it works to make them readers.”

Lubar reported that as a child he wanted to be a comedy writer because he loved the popular 1960’s Dick Van Dyke Show that focused on a group of writers who worked on a popular network variety show. His first year as a writer, after graduating with a Philosophy Degree from  Rutgers university, he made only $8. His second year, he made ten times as much pulling in $80.

To supplement the beginning of his writing career Lubar worked as a writer for computer companies and graduated to  creating such video game favorites as Froggy and Home Alone.

Some of the books that have inspired him are A Bridge To Terabithia, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Enders Game, and Matilda.

“The secret to writing,” he told his young readers,  “is revising, because it makes everything better.”

The Place he gets his best ideas for books, “in the Shower.”

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According to Val

I am the cultural reporter for the Highland Park Mirror and I am also the Coordinator of Circulation and Public Relations for the Highland Park Public Library. I am responsible for adult programming for the library and for the past seven years have founded and organized The Friends of the Library Poetry Night Series. My poetry will appear in the Fall 2012 Patterson Literary Review.

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