NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—An investigation sparked by this newspaper's discovery of official New Brunswick police ticket books in a public garbage can has led to punishment for two city police officers, officials confirmed.
"The tickets that Mr. Kratovil brought in were disposed in a garbage can and that was wrong, and those officers were disciplined for their actions," said New Brunswick Police Captain J.T. Miller, at the October 15 City Council meeting.
The author of this article testified as a witness in an internal affairs investigation launched by Miller, after New Brunswick Today brought the ticket books to the July 2 City Council meeting.
Miller confirmed that two officers were reprimanded in the investigation, and the case was quietly closed in July. Miller would not confirm which officers were reprimanded, citing Attorney General guidelines.
New Brunswick officers Gary Yurkovic and Kevin Conway had each written tickets in the books.
"On Thursday June 26... I witnessed a uniformed New Brunswick police officer cleaning out the trunk of an unmarked vehicle," the author of this article said in a recorded statement to internal affairs on July 11, identifying the officer who threw the books in the garbage as Yurkovic.
"I want to thank you for your cooperation during this investigation," Miller wrote in an October 3 letter to the author of this article.
But that wasn't the only message the New Brunswick Police sent this reporter, who was also arrested in an elaborate sting operation, just six days after raising the issue of the improperly disposed tickets.
On July 8, shortly after 2pm, the author of this article made an appointment to speak with Sgt. Amish Shah, the head of NBPD's internal affairs unit about the found ticket books.
Just seven hours later, New Brunswick Judge Philip Borow telephonically approved the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of this reporter, on false charges of violating a temporary restraining order.
Officers executed the arrest at 11pm, after placing a strange anonymous phone call to arrange an after-hours meeting with this reporter.
The mystery caller posed as a person with a news tip about the ticket books found in the garbage.
"Can I meet up with you today? I have-- I want to tell you who [badge number] 7252--the officer that you wrote about on the website--I want to tell you who he is," said the anonymous caller, referencing Yurkovic's badge number, which had been printed in our original July 4 article.
The mystery caller suggested meeting in a park. This reporter suggested the Starbuck's on George Street, where he was arrested by two detectives.
At the police station, officers also charged the author of this article with "refusing to be fingerprinted and photographed" and threatened to call Judge Borow to obtain an additional charge of "obstruction."
The author of this article spent approximately 36 hours in the Middlesex County Jail, and provided his formal statement to internal affairs less than 24 hours after being sprung on $25,000 bail.
It was far from the first clash between the local police and this reporter.
Earlier this year, the author of this article successfully sued the city government after officials refused to turn over police jurisdiction maps, in violation of the Open Public Records Act.
During the lawsuit, the city's public information officer and police director released public statements attacking the author of this article, saying that New Brunswick Today's articles were based on false information.
"Mr. Kratovil’s assertions in his political blog that the information withheld is somehow indicative of an adversarial relationship between the NBPD and RUPD are totally false," said Police Director Anthony Caputo.
A former spokesperson for Mayor James Cahill was removed from the public information officer job shortly after the attacks backfired.
Russell Marchetta now serves as the Assistant Business Administrator, and Jennifer Bradshaw, a former journalist, was hired to replace him.
Bradshaw defended the NBPD sting operation, insisting NBToday's coverage of the city government and its police force, "has absolutely no bearing on the situation surrounding [Kratovil's] arrest."
"All law enforcement agencies use different tactics when there is a need to carry out an arrest warrant," she told NJ.com's Brian Amaral.
More than three months later, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey's office continues to press the false charges, which stem from a temporary restraining order that was later dismissed, after video evidence of the incident in question came to light.
On October 2, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO) was furnished with the potentially exonerating video evidence in the case, FO-12-92-15G.
But, nearly three weeks later, prosecutors have not responded to requests to confirm they have viewed the evidence.
Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Helen Zanetakos did not respond to questions about the evidence, which contradicts both a police report and "victim statement" provided by her office.
The MCPO removed New Brunswick Today from its press email list in June, after an article published by the newspaper pointed out an error in one of their press releases.
Repeated requests to re-join the list have been ignored, as was an August 4 Open Public Records Act request filed with the prosecutor's office.