UPDATE: Fire Director Robert Rawls’ traffic court case, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed until August 19 at 1pm.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Court officials confirmed this week that the State of New Jersey vs. Robert Rawls, a traffic court case involving a crash that injured three children on their way home from school on May 6, has been transferred out of the city.
The case is now scheduled for 1pm on August 19 at South Brunswick Municipal Complex located at 540 Ridge Road in Monmouth Junction, NJ. The proceedings will be open to the public.
In the incident, Fire Director Robert Rawls was driving a city-owned 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe when he struck three children crossing Livingston Avenue in the crosswalk located at the intersection with Delavan Street.
Kimberly Milligan, the administrator of New Brunswick Municipal Court, told New Brunswick Today that the case is scheduled to be heard in South Brunswick’s municipal court due to the conflict of interest posed by Rawls’ employment with the city.
As we reported earlier this year, Rawls’ $155,053 salary makes him the city employee with the second-highest salary in New Brunswick.
Rawls also serves as the city’s Office of Emergency Management Director and heads the Emergency Management Council.
Sources say that Rawls has not been driving since the crash, which sparked a massive protest the following day and an investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which recommended the state re-evaluate his driving priveleges.
“Rawls is currently not driving a City vehicle or any vehicle in the course of his duties as Fire Director,” said city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw.
Instead, Rawls has been chaeuffered around by his subordinates. It is not clear whether the Chevrolet Tahoe, which had a large dent in its hood, has been returned to the city after the prosecutor’s office took possession of it.
The crash sent three young children to the hospital, including a girl whose leg was broken. The families of the children have also filed civil lawsuits against Rawls and the city government.
The incident also sparked controversy over the lack of a crossing guard at the busy intersection, and why Rawls had been permitted to drive a city vehicle in the first place after NBC New York revealed he had been in 18 previous crashes, including one six weeks before the crash.
The prosecutor’s office cleared Rawls of criminal charges in the May 6, but New Brunswick Police Department pre-emptively issued the Fire Director two summonses during the course of the investigation.
Those two tickets, one for careless driving and the other for failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, said that Rawls would have to appear in court on a federal holiday when the court was not open.
After a lengthy back-and-forth between the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and local authorities, it was determined the case would be moved out of the city.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.