Did NJ Police Charge Dead Man with Heroin Possession?

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(Credit: Matt H. Wade via Wikipedia)

The New Jersey Asbury Park Press wrongly reported that Jackson, New Jersey police charged a man with heroin possession AFTER the man died.

Not only did the article wrongly accuse the police department of pressing charges against a dead man, but the article was accused of poor taste by making light of the fact the man is dead.

The Asbury Park Press is a Gannett-owned newspaper, according to Mondo Times.

The original March 18 Asbury Park Press story, by Stephanie Loder and Margaret F. Bonafide, was titled “Jackson cops charge dead man with heroin possession.” The first two paragraphs read:

“Township police on Monday charged Michael Madalone with drug possession following a car crash last week. But the township man won’t make his court date. He died Sunday.

“Police unknowingly charged the 57-year-old Madalone on Monday with possession of a controlled dangerous substance thinking he still was recovering from his injuries at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton.”

The story also said that it tried to contact the police about the incident. “A police sergeant on Monday night refused to comment on how the mistake happened and referred all questions to Laskiewicz, the public information officer for the department. Police said Laskiewicz could not be reached for comment Monday night,” the article stated.

However, according to online law enforcement magazine NJLawman.com, the charges were actually filed days before the man died. The police department just had posted a news release about the charges on Facebook on March 17, the day after the man died.

It seems like the error occurred because the newspaper assumed the date of the press release was the date of the charges.

The correct timeline, according to NJ website Ocean County Signal, is

  • March 13, the man is in a car crash, transported to the hospital, and is charged that night or the next morning with possession
  • March 16, the man dies
  • March 17, the police post a news release about the possession charges on its Facebook page
  • March 18, the Asbury Park Press report that the police charged the man after his death

The police chief even called out the Asbury Park Press for the error. In the online comments of the article, Jackson PD chief Matthew D. Kunz wrote (in all caps)

The Asbury Park Press has again deliberately ignored the facts.  The complaints were issued immediately following the crash.  That was Thursday night into Friday morning.  Unfortunately, [the victim] passed away since then.  It is unfortunate that the press would use the tragedy of a man passing away to take a cheap shot at a police department.”

See below a screenshot of his comment:

The Asbury Park Press rewrote the online article and admitted error, although they didn’t appear to post a formal correction. The story, “Michael Madalone of Jackson dies after Route 571 accident; charged with drug offense before death,” read in part:

“A story in Tuesday’s Asbury Park Press incorrectly said the charges were not filed until Monday, the day after Madalone died at the hospital. While the news release announcing Madalone’s arrest was issued the day after he died, and the department subsequently announced his death on its Facebook page, the charges were filed when he was still alive, Kunz said.”


Bad Tone?

Outside of the error, NJ Lawman questioned the tone of the article and its comment about how the man wouldn’t “make his court date.”

“How utterly disrespectful to this man and his family is it to print such an opening,” NJ Lawman wrote.

“He won’t make his court date?  How could such a sentence be printed?  Was this a serious line or was it meant to elicit a chuckle from readers?”

iMediaEthics has left a voicemail for Kunz asking for further comment. We’ve also written to Asbury Park Press metro editor Lisa Kruse for more information about how the error occurred and if the newspaper published formal corrections. We’ll update with any additional information.

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Did NJ Police Charge Dead Man with Heroin Possession?

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