Grand jury declines to indict Newark teachers union president

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on April 11, 2016

Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon, shown here in a 2008 file photo.

 

NEWARK – A grand jury has declined to indict the president of the city's teachers union on a trespassing charge filed by the school district last year.

The Essex County jury handed down the no bill decision after being presented with evidence accusing John Abeigon of illegally entering Oliver Street School on March 9, 2015, shortly after a student died of suspected meningitis. The decision came in February, according to court records, though Abeigon provided notice to NJ Advance Media and other media outlets last week.

District officials filed the defiant trespass complaint three days after the incident at the East Ward elementary school, claiming he repeatedly ignored a security guard's commands to avoid classrooms when students were taking a standardized test.

Abeigon denied the accusations, saying he was simply checking that the school had been properly disinfected after receiving news the recently deceased student may have been in class while carrying the bacterial disease.

Weeks later, he accused then-superintendent Cami Anderson and Gov. Chris Christie of filing the complaint to "nail a union thug."

In a statement, Superintendent of School Christopher Cerf said he had contacted the Essex County Prosecutor's Office after arriving in Newark in July to advise officials the district did not wish to pursue the charge, and had informed Abeigon of his decision shortly thereafter.

Abeigon – who has called for Cerf's resignation as recently as last month - acknowledged that conversation, but said he found it suspicious that the case had not been dismissed over the summer.

"They didn't drop it, so I don't know if it was the prosecutor's office that wanted to save face or it was the district to save face," he said. "Ultimately they let the grand jury decide."

Cerf fired back, saying the prosecutor's office was under no obligation to honor his request in July, and that "anything that has happened with this case since that time is between Mr. Abeigon and the county prosecutor."

"Mr. Abeigon's statement is one more example of his long history of lying to the public," he said.

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