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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Andrew Carey is out as Middlesex County’s top cop, and until Governor Phil Murphy chooses a permanent replacement, former First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher L. C. Kuberiet is now at the helm.
But the Governor is exercising his right to remain silent on the matter, and he declined to answer this reporter’s question about the recent personnel change on September 5.
“I have nothing to say on that, thank you,” Murphy responded.
Kuberiet, a Rutgers Law School alumnus who is a member of the bar in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, also declined to comment about the promotion.
New Brunswick Today pressed him to confirm who it was that appointed him. He would only say that “a call came in from Trenton.”
“It is the routine succession for the First Assistant Prosecutor to fill a vacancy left by the county prosecutor,” confirmed Sharon Lauchaire of the Attorney General’s Office.
Throughout his tenure, Kuberiet has prosecuted cases ranging from juvenile delinquency to serious violent crimes such as homicides, sexual assaults and kidnappings.
For the past six years, he served under outgoing prosecutor Andrew Carey, who had been elevated to power by then-Governor Chris Christie, Carey’s former colleague.
As First Assistant under Carey, Kuberiet earned a $186,869 annual salary as of July 1, a bit higher than Carey’s $181,002 salary. Middlesex County’s public information officer has not yet answered questions about Kuberiet’s new salary.
Kuberiet has been with the county since 1990. Shortly after Carey took over the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO), Kuberiet was elevated to First Assistant Prosecutor in November 2013, a position where he supervised over 200 staffers.
At that time, Kuberiet was the Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor and oversaw both the Major Crimes Unit and Trial Teams Section.
For now, it’s a matter of playing the waiting game while Kuberiet steers the ship. The next Prosecutor will not only require Governor Murphy’s seal of approval, but also the confirmation of the New Jersey State Senate.
When we first asked Murphy’s team about the soon-to-be-vacant prosecutor post a month ago, they declined to give any clues about what the future holds.
“Apologies for the slow response,” wrote spokesperson Alyana Alfaro in a text message on August 8. “The Governor’s Office doesn’t comment on appointments that have not yet been made.”
Public corruption may have been running rampant in Middlesex County for decades, but the vacancy in the prominent position of County Prosecutor didn’t seem to bother Murphy during his remarks on September 5.
The Governor even went so far as to praise a convicted felon, the former Mayor of New Brunswick John Lynch, Jr., who Murphy called a “great Mayor” during his introduction of Lynch’s successor, eight-term Mayor Jim Cahill.
While rumors swirled about who Murphy might attempt to nominate to the important position, his administration has kept quiet about the whole matter, leaving an uncertain future for those who end up on the right or the wrong side of the criminal justice system here in New Jersey’s second-largest county.
The MCPO ended up giving the public about one month’s notice that Carey would be leaving the job after accepting an assignment to return to the ranks of federal prosecutors.
“It is expected that in the early fall, he will be sworn in as an Assistant United States Attorney and will be assigned as the Attorney-in-Charge for the Camden Branch of the US Attorney’s Office.,” read the MCPO’s glowing MCPO August 1 release about Carey.
“It has been my absolute honor to serve as the Middlesex County Prosecutor, and my privilege to work alongside so many dedicated prosecutors and police officers who work tirelessly each day to protect and serve our community,” said Carey, whose five-year term expired in June.
Of course, fall doesn’t start until September 23, but on September 3, Assignment Judge Alberto Rivas officially swore in Kuberiet as the “Acting” County Prosecutor, according to a September 4 statement.
“Thereafter, all prosecutors, investigators and detectives were similarly sworn in as Acting Deputy Attorney Generals and Acting Investigators,” reads the statement that was released only after this reporter started asking questions.
It’s not clear if the premature departure of Carey has anything to do with Murphy’s lack of transparency about the position.
During a chance meeting in the lobby of the Civic Square building, Kuberiet told New Brunswick Today that, after almost 29 years on the job working under five different prosecutors, he wasn’t sure if he would be asked to stick around by the next boss.
“It’s all politics… It depends. It depends on who has the influence,” admitted Kuberiet, hours before mounting up for the annual tradition of National Night Out on August 6.
“As you [will] see, out tonight, there’s nobody that’s been a prosecutor… that’s been received by the community like I am,” said Kuberiet.
True to his word, Kuberiet was the sole representative of the MCPO to show up that night for a series of anti-crime gatherings in New Brunswick, along with a caravan of cops and other city officials.
A 1985 graduate of Albright College, Kuberiet served as a Legal Intern for Judge Elliot G. Heard, Jr. in Gloucester County and worked as a Law Clerk at the Camden-based law firm of Ballen, Keiser, Gertel and Feldman, P.C.
“Kuberiet began his legal career at the Office in 1990, after completing a judicial clerkship with the Honorable David G. Lucas,” according to the county website.
Prior to his 2011 promotion, Kuberiet served as a Zone Prosecutor and Trial Team Leader where he “provided legal advice to all law enforcement agencies in Middlesex County while supervising a team of assistant prosecutors and investigators.”
It was during this time, in 2003, that Kuberiet suffered a tragic loss when his 23-month-old daughter Abigail was killed by a school bus in South Plainfield. The bus operator was reportedly unable to see the child from the driver’s seat.
The fatal accident would lead to the adoption of “Abigail’s Law” in 2017.
When the bill was signed by Acting Governor Kim Guadagno, Kuberiet was quoted as saying, “Today is a very, very bittersweet day. Bitter to the extent that we are here in light of a tragedy but it is a sweet day to recognize that hopefully through this legislation a child will be saved in Abigail’s memory. That is very, very important.”
The law requires that all school buses manufactured today be equipped with front and rear motion sensors that detect persons or objects passing in front of or behind a bus.
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.