Council members in Penns Grove, New Jersey denied a request from the Mayor to have the borough cover the cost of his legal fees in connection to a recent incident that was captured on video.
Penns Grove Mayor John Washington was charged earlier this month with aggravated assault for his alleged role in an attack on a police officer at Penns Grove Middle School.
Witnesses say Penns Grove School Board member Walter Hudson, 33, assaulted a police officer during a youth basketball game at the school back on July 10. NBC10 obtained surveillance video showing a man, who police identified as Hudson, tossing the officer to the ground as children ran to the opposite end of the school gym.
Witnesses told NBC10 that the ordeal began as several youth basketball teams were being dismissed. A large group of teens had gathered on school grounds, prompting officials to call police to break up the crowd. As officers tried to manage the crowd, Hudson allegedly interfered. When police warned Hudson to back off, he allegedly shoved an officer to the ground and punched him.
"The officer advised him he was going to be arrested and that's when the altercation happened," said Penns Grove Police Chief Gary Doubledee, who added the assault victim was hospitalized with a torn labrum and had to be sedated.
During the incident, Mayor Washington allegedly grabbed the officer’s left arm while he was trying to arrest Hudson. Washington was accused of obstructing the administration of law and was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer. Penns Grove councilwoman Jeanette Jackson was also charged for allegedly interfering in Hudson’s arrest.
Both Washington and Jackson held a meeting on Tuesday around 5 p.m. at the Penns Grove Borough Hall in which they tried to convince the Penns Grove Council to make the Borough cover their legal fees in connection to the incident. The council voted to deny the request however. Both Mayor Washington and Councilwoman Jackson were recused and did not vote.
Many residents who attended the meeting were glad the request was not approved. Angry residents also pushed for Hudson to be removed from the school board during a meeting earlier this month. School board members claimed their hands were tied however.
"File a complaint,' said Solicitor Mark Toscano of the Penns Grove Board of Education. "Press charges if you feel that way because this board doesn't have the legal ability to give you the redress that you seek."
According to Toscano, under the law the board can't discipline one of its members. Instead it's up to the school ethics commission. Parents say they filed complaints but were told that officials were investigating.
"I'm very disappointed in the whole thing," said Penns Grove Borough Councilman Carl Washington. "But again, my main concern is the youth."