The Office of Media Relations in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office manages external communications for the largest and busiest Prosecutor’s Office in the State of New Jersey in the largest media market in the country.
The responsibilities of the Office include:
The Media Relations Office attempts to strike a balance between three competing interests: the public’s right to know and the need to protect the rights of victims and the integrity of investigations. Transparency is critical to maintaining public confidence in the work done by the Assistant Prosecutors, Detectives and support staff. Yet, confidentiality is often crucial to the successful investigation of cases. Our aim is to be as transparent as possible without compromising the investigative work.
The assistant prosecutors, detectives and support staff that work in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office do extraordinary work. Prosecutors are encouraged to speak to reporters about the fine work that is being done by this Office. Doing so helps to maintain public confidence in the Office and provides an opportunity to educate the public about the challenges prosecutors face.
In 2016, the Media Relations Office continued to provide timely and accurate information to members of the press who are dealing with a 24-hour news cycle which requires them to gather and publish news at a breakneck speed. During the year, hundreds of press releases were issued by the ECPO regarding homicides, arrests and convictions. Some of the more high-profile cases that garnered significant media attention include:
State v. Ali Muhammad Brown — In January 2016, Ali Muhammad Brown, 31, of Seattle, Washington was sentenced to 36 years and six months in New Jersey State Prison for the armed robbery of a West Orange man on July 10, 2014. Brown was sentenced to 35 years for the first-degree robbery and two weapons offenses. The judge also imposed a consecutive 18-month sentence for possession of hollow point bullets. Under the No Early Release Act, Brown must serve 33 years before becoming eligible for parole.
The victim was opening the passenger side door of his car in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 200 block of Mount Pleasant Avenue in West Orange when he was approached by Brown. Wearing a mask and dressed in camouflage, Brown confronted the victim at 6:00 a.m. He stole the victim’s wallet and other personal items and then ordered the victim into the trunk of his car.
Law enforcement linked Brown to the robbery prior to his capture on July 18, when officers located Brown in a makeshift campsite near the apartment complex. Upon arresting Brown, officers seized a loaded firearm that was linked to several homicides that Brown has been charged with committing. Brown is currently awaiting trial for the murder of Brendan Tevlin in West Orange. He is also charged with two murders in Seattle.
State v. Marjorie Anna Stubblefield — In January 2016, the former chairwoman of the Rutgers University Philosophy Department was sentenced to 12 years in New Jersey State Prison for sexually assaulting a developmentally-disabled man in her school office.
On October 2, 2015, an Essex County jury convicted Stubblefield, 46, of West Orange of two counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault for repeatedly engaging in sexual acts with a man suffering from cerebral palsy who was unable to speak or communicate. The victim wears a diaper and requires assistance with basic needs such as eating, walking and bathing and has the mental capacity of a toddler.
Much of the media attention on the case revolved around the defense’s argument that Stubblefield could communicate with the victim through something known as facilitated communication, a controversial and discredited method of communicating.
State v. Krisla Rezireksyon – In July 2016, Rezireksyon, also known as Venette Ovilde, was sentenced to 45 years in New Jersey State Prison for starving her three children, causing the death of one in May 2011.
In March 2016, an Essex County jury convicted Rezireksyon of aggravated manslaughter for killing her eight-year-old daughter, Christiana Glenn. The child died of starvation and the mother’s failure to seek medical treatment for a broken femur bone, the largest bone in the leg. Instead of getting help, she poured salt and gasoline in the wound and covered it with cornmeal. In addition to causing the one’s death, she was found guilty of starving her six-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. They too suffered broken bones from beatings.
State v. Jeremy Arrington –In November 2016, Jeremy Arrington, 26, of Newark, was charged in a triple homicide in which a young college student, who was visiting the family, and two children were fatally stabbed. Arrington went to a home in the 100 block of Hedden Terrace in Newark and fatally stabbed three individuals. There was a total of nine people in the home at the time – four adults and five children. Arrington was known to the family. After the attack, Arrington fled.
Shortly before 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, Arrington was discovered barricaded in a residence in the 200 block of Pomona Avenue. After about an hour, Arrington was arrested without incident. Arrington was charged with three counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, criminal restraint, unlawful possession of a handgun, unlawful possession of a knife, and possession of a handgun and a knife for an unlawful purpose.
The three people killed were identified as: Aerial Little Whitehurst, female, age 8, of Newark; Al-Jahon Whitehurst, male, age 11, of Newark; and Syasia McBurroughs, female, age 23, of Cedar Knolls. Three other victims, a 29-year-old female, a 13-year-old male and a 13-year-old female, who are twins, remain hospitalized in critical, but stable condition. Arrington is awaiting trial.