Mercer County’s Angelo Onofri: ‘Lunch pail guy’ or cowardly cop protector?

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Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri (courtesy of MCPO)

Angelo Onofri gives off good first impressions of being a nice guy.

In February 2015, when he was sworn in as acting Mercer County prosecutor on the fourth floor of the criminal courthouse, he told a story about how he and former prosecutor, friend and accused sexual harasser Joseph Bocchini became conjoined at the hip early in life.

Bocchini was running for state general assembly and asked Onofri, a Hamiltonian, to work for him as a legislative assistant, handing him a pair of “Go Jo Bo” shirts the young, enamored Onofri wore every day to work.

That sowed the seeds for Onofri’s successful legal career as a cheerleader who ingratiated himself with the right people – in politics and with the police – and has been elevated to a position of leadership he is uncomfortable in and perhaps doesn’t belong. Continue reading

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Remembering journalist Steve Buttry, digital word minimalist

Any time.

Those words stuck with me when I heard the heartbreaking news about the passing of a journalism legend from a disease that afflicts millions and has touched my life.

Steve Buttry, journalist, teacher, human extraordinaire, told me that Dec. 20, when he reached out to me after reading a blog post about my second bout with testicular cancer.

Time is all he had for everyone even though his was marked. Steve succumbed to pancreatic cancer Feb. 19.

That two-word opening in this post is what Steve would have called a “string-bikini lede.” He taught me that when he spoke to our newsroom in 2013, while I was a sports reporter at the North Adams Transcript in Massachusetts.

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Steve Buttry

Steve and my interactions were few, but never fleeting. I recounted our first encounter here.

After I got fired from The Transcript after 18 days, and landed at a Digital First Media sister paper in Torrington, Connecticut, Buttry visited a second time and spoke to our newspaper crew there, as part of his rounds with Thunderdome, what was then DFM’s national think tank.

More recently, Buttry reached out to me after my second diagnosis with testicular cancer to pass along words of encouragement.

Those words remain with me while I undergo chemotherapy at the University of Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. Continue reading

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Critiquing ‘The Slaveship’: Journalism, individualism and our institutions

When you put your byline on the top of an article, the teamwork that encompassed the process of journalism becomes an afterthought to readers.

You are responsible for errors, typos, omissions of fact and everything good or bad about the piece. As every reporter knows, that includes the headline.

Look, I’ll take responsibility for it all. But not the headline.

Having been a part of a newsroom, and having come up with clanking headlines, I can tell you firsthand a collection of idiots wrote it, thinking it was brilliant.

It’s groupthink and bystander effect, mixed into a horrible six-word attention-grabber. I saw that manifest itself while watching a college basketball game on “The Mothership,” ESPN.

For a full accounting of my diatribe, you can check Twitter.

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Continue reading

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New Mexico’s Krebs loves bully pulpit

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University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs (courtesy of NBC News)

In his 10 years leading the University of New Mexico’s athletic department, Paul Krebs has shown himself to be a bully and a shameless survivalist who will do anything in his power to escape trouble when controversy hits.

 

He should step down as athletic director, in light of his latest act of treason.

He is just like President Donald Trump, targeting talented dissenter reporters who have written truthful – and unflattering – stories about him and the UNM athletics department.

The latest: NMFishBowl.com chieftain Daniel Libit has written a number of critical stories in recent weeks that have exposed the underbelly of UNM athletics, much to Krebs’ displeasure. Continue reading

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‘No chemo, no case’

Paul Bergrin, a former federal prosecutor who went rogue and was dubbed by New York Magazine as the “baddest lawyer in the history of Jersey,” got a life sentence, when in a full-throated delivery on a federal wiretap, he offered the following nutso advice to a Newark drug kingpin who was willing to shell out in order to snuff out someone who had ratted on an associate: “No Kemo. No case.”

The attorney ordered up a hit on Kemo Deshawn McCray, a federal informant, like others order up pizzas.

McCray was shot in the head three times in Newark on March 2, 2004, according to New York Magazine.

Paul Bergrin is seen at the U.S. Army Taylor barracks in Mannheim

Convicted NJ attorney Paul Bergrin (Reuters)

His death became the cornerstone of the massive murder-racketeering case against Bergrin, the likes of which gripped the ever-notorious Garden State, even with all the low-slung garden-variety dipshittery that goes on here. (Yes, I’m talking about the First Amendment case.)

I remember uttering similar words as Bergrin while I was in the hospital, although in a different context and not on federal wiretap: “No chemo. No case.”

Of course, I wasn’t talking about snuffing out a federal informant, but chemotherapy. Continue reading

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Fighting cancer and for freedom of the press

Whirlwind week. I wanted to give everyone an update, and hopefully, some relief after I was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Hamilton last week.

I’m sure some of you heard the news in an article via The Daily Beast that touched on the prior restraint fight I’ve been involved with in New Jersey regarding my reporting on a 5-year-old kindergarten student in Trenton who was found with drugs twice at school in two months.

It had been shaping into a whopper of a fight featuring the state Attorney General, The Trentonian and me, and had attracted the glare of the national and local media and the Society of Professional Journalists.

My focus had been squarely on that until last week, when I got sucker-punched with another cancer diagnosis. photo illustration.PNG

Since then, I have been put on a cocktail of drugs and have been run through a battery of tests – blood scans, CAT scans, MRIs, endoscopy and colonoscopy – to figure out exactly what is wrong with me. Continue reading

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UNM’s Craig Neal is an impasta

In 2013, Athletic director Paul Krebs announced Neal’s hiring with a one-word tweet. “Noodles.” “Noodles’” tenure  could also be summed up in one word: “Impasta.”

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Salt Lake City Practice Day

The Craig Neal love affair is over in New Mexico.

That much is clear after Cullen Neal, the now-former Lobo point guard who created his own weather while at UNM, has decided to transfer schools.

This followed, predictably, after his father, New Mexico head men’s basketball coach Craig Neal, told media gathered at his Feb. 11 news conference his son had received death threats.

“The only change that would help him is if he’s not playing here,” Craig Neal said. “He’s wound tight. He doesn’t look well.”

Similarly, the only change that would help UNM is if Craig Neal joins his son on the way out the door.

Really, it’s for his own good.

Albuquerque, a high desert surrounded by the Sandias, is known for having a moderate climate. The media glare isn’t quite as intense as places like New York or Los Angeles.

But even in the mild-mannered Duke City, the temperature following the Lobos’ 17-15 season has become too hot for a thin-skinned Midwesterner like Craig Neal.

The dynamic daddy-and-son duo has been burned to a crisp by criticism from a downright Neal-istic fan base which doesn’t like the direction the program is headed following the Lobos missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.

The most that can be said for Craig Neal in his time at New Mexico is that he has been father of the year when fans want him to be coach of the year.

He has been overprotective of his son and overly critical of just about everyone else on the team.

Neal scoffed at a reporter during the same February news conference when he was asked whether he would bring his son off the bench.

“For what?” Neal said. “I’m not going to bring him off the bench. He’s my best point guard. I’m not going to do that. I would bring him off the bench to take more confidence away from him?”

Neal has been prone to fits ever since he took over as head coach in a basketball-crazed state. At his introductory news conference, he promised to finish the Lobos’ “unfinished business.”

Now New Mexico fans, deflated like an old, raggedy basketball, are just finished with the lip service.

Neal has only himself to blame. Whether it was real love or just a rebound, jilted New Mexico fans clamored for Neal when Steve Alford left for UCLA in 2013.

Neal had all the intangibles to succeed as a head coach. He spent nine seasons as an assistant under Alford. The local media sung his praises as a recruiter who helped New Mexico land Los Alamos’ Alex Kirk.

(Similar things were said about a certain football coach.)

And for a while, Neal had plenty of goodwill stockpiled. Kirk’s allegiance to Neal was so strong he threatened to transfer if the Lobos did not elevate Neal to head coach.

Athletic director Paul Krebs, cajoled and coerced by Lobo nation, announced Neal’s hiring with a one-word tweet.

These days, “Noodles’” tenure with the Lobos could also be summed up in one word: “Impasta.”

His missteps have been plenty and public.

On Senior Day, he blamed sparingly used senior walk-ons for a double-digit home loss to league-leading San Diego State.

He played the sympathy card by blaming Cullen’s pedestrian play on polemic fans’ alleged death threats.

It backfired when The Albuquerque Journal’s Mark Smith reported Craig Neal never mentioned anything about death threats against his son when interviewed by UNM police.

Some parents use their kids as meal tickets. In this case, Neal apparently had no qualms about using his son as a human shield for criticism so he could continue putting food on the family table.

It almost worked.

New Mexico fans, boisterous, boastful and brainless, are an easy scapegoat. They’re unrealistic arm-chair coaches and pathetic apologists.

There’s no middle ground with fanaticism, a horrific evil that has underpinned some of the worst events in human history.

The omnipresence of social media makes it worse. In the Twitter era, there’s a troll under every bridge, from Montano to the Rio Grande Gorge.

But love them or loath them, Lobo fans have always packed The Pit even before it became WisePies Arena.

Now, even the diehards have wised up.

Attendance is down. Morale is down. Neal’s stock, which soared after his first year, is down.

The would-be suitors, Tulsa, South Florida and Virginia Tech, have moved on and found better brides.

Krebs has been left holding a $950,000 bouquet.

The honeymoon has been overcome by harsh realities of marriage.

And the reality is despite Krebs’ pronouncement on Twitter that Neal is here to stay, this rocky marriage appears headed for divorce. UNM and Craig Neal were staying together for the kid.

And now that he’s headed for another college, they can parts ways.

File this one under irreconcilable differences between Craig Neal and the fans.

The gravest sin any coach in Albuquerque can commit is to fuck up the basketball program, the quasi-professional crown jewel.

The program is one of the few at the university that makes money, in a time of diminishing returns for college athletics across the country.

The university has poured endless resources into making University Arena a paragon of pride for a state that does not have a professional sports franchise.

More and more, the university is getting less and less bang for its buck.

Neal is a prime example.

Forget that he hired Cody Hopkins, the suspended New Mexico’s director of basketball operations who is being investigated for shady ATM withdrawals worth more than $50,000.

White-collar crime or cherry-and-silver larceny, it’s criminal that Neal, the MWC’s highest-paid coach, has contractually bilked the university out of $950,000 a year – $55,882.35 per win.

The buck stops with the head coach. UNM can’t pay Neal another buck otherwise it risks mutiny from the fans.

The only thing holding up this divorce is finances. There’s that sticky buyout clause in Neal’s contract forcing UNM to eat $1 million unless it finds cause to fire Noodles.

Krebs fell in love with Neal after one season, inking him to a multi-year contract extension after the Lobos went 27-7 and made the NCAA tournament in his maiden voyage.

Krebs needs to admit he made a mistake when he arranged this marriage.

First it was the coach-beater, Mike Locksley.

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Now the AD hired a basketball coach who can’t beat anyone.

Fans forgave Krebs for Locksley. The bedraggled football program is the perpetual bridesmaid in Albuquerque.

When Krebs raced to the altar to give away New Mexico to a man who vowed to be more faithful than Alford, he didn’t realize Craig Neal was just a great father.

And an unchaste has-been.

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