MORRIS COUNTY — The Randolph Township prosecutor dropped charges against Jennifer Rogers, owner of the Randolph Tennis Center, who had been unfairly targeted under Gov. Murphy’s shutdown order for holding a peaceful “Re-Open Business and Restore Livelihoods” outdoor rally in May. (See related article by clicking here)
Despite the constitutionally protected right of all Americans to peaceably assemble, Murphy had authorized local prosecutors to charge New Jersey residents who were exercising their rights. On June 1, Rogers was issued two summonses that carried up to $2,000 in fines along with up to one year in jail for holding the rally.
“For 111 days, my business—and countless other businesses across New Jersey—were forced to shut down by Gov. Murphy’s orders,” Rogers stated. “Not only did he force us to close our doors, but he also tried to silence our voices. He did not succeed. I’m grateful these baseless charges were dropped, but it’s outrageous that Gov. Murphy tried to suspend New Jerseyans’ constitutional right to peaceably assembly, to begin with and that the prosecutor refused to drop charges immediately when Gov. Murphy backed down.”
The prosecutor had been prepared to drop charges last week following updated guidance from Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal noting all outdoor political and religious activities are permitted and directing prosecutors to dismiss previously filed charges against organizers of outdoor political or religious activities. Yet the prosecutor in Rogers’ case wanted her first to stipulate to probable cause, which she was unwilling to do as she was well within her rights.
Attorney for Jennifer Rogers John Mccann made it very clear to the court that these charges should have been dismissed one month ago. McCann said, “this order was issued on June 17. This should have been taken care of then.”
“I will never agree with Governor Murphy that exercising my constitutional rights merited these charges,” Rogers continued. “Let’s not forget that two days after my rally, more than 800 Black Lives Matter protestors exercised this same constitutional right and received zero summonses. Similarly, Gov. Murphy—while he was targeting me—also joined a protest and received zero summonses.”
At her first court appearance last week, the prosecutor asked for two weeks to decide his next steps after Rogers refused to agree that the charges against her were merited. Today, the prosecutor dropped all charges.
“Hardworking New Jerseyans who are fighting to survive during Gov. Murphy’s shutdown should not have to face the added battle of fighting a governor who believes our rights exist at his pleasure or prosecutors that wield the legal system to threaten law-abiding citizens,” Rogers added. “I’m grateful to all who joined me at our rally in May and for the outpouring of support I’ve received from friends, neighbors, and strangers—they are the true fabric of New Jersey. While I’m thankful I no longer have to fight these outrageous charges in court, It’s important. to remember the only true violation that occurred here is a violation of our constitutional rights by those who took an oath to uphold them. I will continue to fight for these rights on behalf of all New Jerseyans.”