Lakewood Briefs — February 28, 2021

COVID Numbers Continue to Trend Downward

The number of COVID cases in Lakewood continued to read down with a total last week of 381, according to the Ocean County Health Department. The week prior saw a total of 428 reported cases.

The total represents a lower level of cases per week than the town has seen since the first week of January.

COVID infections have been steadily decreasing throughout New Jersey in recent weeks. At the end of last week, 1,849 were hospitalized with the virus, the lowest number since early November.

Amid a recession of the virus, Governor Phil Murphy eased restrictions on gatherings like religious services and sporting events.

Suspect Charged in Coventry Square Murder

A suspect was arrested and charged for the shooting death of a man that took place in Coventry Square last week.

According to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office, last Sunday at around 7:40 p.m., Lakewood Police were called to Tudor Court in the Coventry Square housing development. Dajour Randolph, 20, of Little Egg Harbor, was found at the scene with a gunshot wound. He was transported to Monmouth Medical Center — Southern Campus (formerly Kimball Hospital), where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

On Tuesday, Jahvontae Debose, 24, of Lakewood, was charged with several drug and weapons-possession-related crimes. After an investigation, on Thursday, he was charged with Mr. Randolph’s murder.

Debose is being held in the Ocean County Jail pending a hearing.

“Law enforcement officers at the local, county, state, and federal levels demonstrated outstanding teamwork in connection with this very deliberative and comprehensive investigation. I am extremely grateful for their hard work and perseverance in expeditiously solving this horrendous and senseless crime,” county Prosecutor Bradly Billhimer said in a statement.

Rep. Kim Co-Sponsors Controversial Legislation

Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) has signed on as a co-sponsor of a controversial piece of legislation that would likely erode protections for religious traditionalists and advance a key priority for social progressives. The legislation passed the House of Representatives last week.

The most concerning aspect of the bill to advocates of religious liberty is its stripping away of legal protections that have shielded traditional practitioners whose faith is in conflict with certain progressive social trends.

The bill titled, the “Equality Act,” was first introduced in 2015. The House of Representatives passed it two years ago, but was never brought for a vote in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. President Joe Biden promised on the campaign trail to pass the bill into law, but whether it has a path forward in the evenly split, Democrat-controlled Senate is yet unknown.

One of its provisions is a clause that says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) will no longer protect citizens from a broad swath of “discrimination” claims.

Asked in an interview with Hamodia before his recent re-election whether he would endorse adding protections for religious liberties to the bill, Rep. Kim did not answer directly, but intimated that he would not.

“I believe this legislation is important to help ensure that every American, including those in [the community the Equality Act is focused on protecting], should be protected against discrimination in all its forms.”

Advocates for Orthodox Community Welcome Governor Murphy’s Budget Proposal

Governor Phil Murphy’s budget proposal released last week won high praise from advocates for the Orthodox community chiefly for maintaining existing funding levels for items that benefit private schools.

Amid decreased tax revenue and tremendous expenses brought about by the COVID pandemic, New Jersey finds itself in an increasingly difficult financial situation. As such, many private-school advocates feared that items their institutions benefit from, such as transportation, nursing, technology, security, special education, and funding for textbooks would see significant cuts.

The Governor’s proposed budget maintained funding levels and included a small increase for reimbursement for special education.

“In a year of multibillion dollar deficits, this is an incredible budget for our nonpublic schools,” said Rabbi Avi Schnall, Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey Director. “We will continue to work with our legislature to ensure these funds remain through the budget process.”

The Orthodox Union also released a statement welcoming the Governor’s proposal.

The budget has a way to go, as it must be approved by the Legislature and will undergo significant changes as negotiations get underway. A final budget must be approved by July 1.

Driver Involved in Car Accident That killed Yechiel Feingold z”l Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

Mashon Wilson, 30, will spend six years in state prison after pleading guilty to charges connected to the death of Yechiel Feingold, z”l, and to an unrelated burglary.

Yechiel Feingold and a friend were driving on West County Line Road near Cedar Road on November 25, 2018 when the accident occurred. Later in the day, authorities went to Mashon’s home where two other individuals, Shana Lee and Iyanna Hall, claimed falsely that Lee had operated the vehicle that was involved in the accident.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Wilson was the actual driver.

Last week, Judge Steven F. Nemeth, sentenced Wilson to a total of six years in prison for knowingly leaving the scene of a fatal motor accident and driving with a suspended license and for a burglary charge, which accounts for four years of the sentence.