Negotiations between the Carns Family and Medford Township Officials broke down last month when the family refused to agree to two very strange conditions that the Township’s team of attorneys, Tim Prime and Chris Koutsouris, wanted to include in an agreement that was set to be signed where the Carns were agreeing to not keep their commercial tree trucks overnight on their Medford property.
The first strange condition was that the Carns, who own a tree farm, a tree service, and sell firewood, could not split firewood on their own 30 acre tree farm that the family has owned for nearly a century. Second, the Township’s dream team wanted the Carns to agree to inform the city of all of the locations where they were storing their trucks, and equipment, which the Carns refused to sign.
The case is being held in Pemberton’s municipal court due to a conflict of interest that the Carns have with Medford’s municipal judge, Peter Lange, yet Medford is still sending their prosecutor to Pemberton instead of allowing for Pemberton’s Prosecutor to handle it, as would normally be the case. If the Carns were to sign that agreement, they’d only have had to pay minimal fines and court costs, but since they refused to agree to what they felt to be unconstitutional and uncalled for conditions, the Dream Team of Tim Prime and Chris Koutsouris, are now seeking $10,000 in fines from Pemberton’s Municipal Court Judge, Charles Shimberg.
Information gathered from a recent OPRA request shows that for the last five years the most any person who had been found guilty, or pleaded guilty, of any civil violation in Medford, has never paid more than $500 in fines, and that’s even for a second offense. So why is it that Medford officials are asking for 20 times the amount that has ever been fined from the Carns family for an alleged violation that was abated months ago? The commercial trucks have not been stored on the farm for months, yet they are still being vigorously prosecuted for alleged violations that no longer even exist, but why?
The point of civil penalties for local ordinances are meant to compel compliance in people who refuse to be compliant, but since the Carns have already abated the “issue” of storing the commercial trucks on the farm, what then is the purpose of the Township requesting massive fines? Is this about compelling good behavior, or compelling the Carns to accept some sort of guilt and avoid a malicious prosecution suit?
You see, if the violations against the Carns are thrown out by the Judge this Monday after he learns that the alleged violations have already been abated, the Township can be sued for malicious prosecution by the Carns, which is something the Medford dream team knows all too well. The fact that Medford officials are threatening the Carns with jail time and $10,000 fines, for what has never garnered more than a $500 fine, can only be seen as a type of extortion in order for the Carns to accept some guilt, which in turn, would make a malicious prosecution claim unattainable.
This Monday Medford’s legal Dream Team claims that they will be stepping up and asking Judge Shimberg to fine the Carns $10,000 for issues that no longer even exist, but we are predicting that the bluff they played on the Carns never happens, and that if they do, we also predict the Judge will rip them a new one.
It is clear to anyone who knows the facts surrounding this situation that the prosecution of the Carns has nothing to do with commercial trucks being parked on the farm, and instead, only began after David Carns had a reporter call Mayor Chuck Watson to ask him why he stiffed David on $450 of firewood. This is not about compelling good behavior, this is about how an elected official, and his associates, can use their official powers to punish private citizens who they feel crossed them.