Former Brick schools superintendent Walter Uszenski will emerge from a years-long court battle without a criminal record.
The controversial case, in which indictments against Uszenski were thrown out multiple times, ended Monday in a Toms River courtroom, where a judge ruled the charges against the former schools chief will be dismissed under a diversionary program known as pre-trial intervention. Charges against Uszenski’s daughter were dismissed outright. Uszenski, his daughter, Jacqueline Halsey, and former school officials Andrew and Lorraine Morgan, all were charged in the case in May 2015.
The case centered around allegations that Uszenski offered special education services to his grandson that the child was not entitled to receive. The saga began after a recently-fired school bus driver went to Mayor John Ducey and told him a Brick school bus was transporting the child to a private school in Forked River. Ducey then scheduled a meeting with former Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato to tell him what he had heard. The bus driver’s story was later debunked – no Brick school buses took the child to Forked River – and Uszenski’s defense counsel stated that the child was approved for special education services by a state agency before his grandfather was ever hired in Brick. The child was actually attending an after-school program at Ocean Early Childhood Center on Princeton Avenue in Brick. Defense attorneys have said the child is now receiving similar services in Pennsylvania, where he and his mother have since moved.
Prosecutors withheld potentially exculpatory evidence in the case from a grand jury twice, a judge ruled, before a third and final indictment in the case was handed up. Uszenski is now pressing forward with a civil lawsuit that names the prosecutor’s office, the Brick school district, Ducey and Marcella Butterly, the bus driver, among the defendants. A theory has also been floated in the civil complaint that the prosecution may have been payback for Uszenski demoting a former school official whose office was discovered to have had a $750,000 shortfall after reimbursement forms were lost under a desk blotter.
Superior Court Judge Michael T. Collins on Monday approved Uszenski’s application for pretrial intervention. Uszenski, as part of the agreement, did not admit guilt nor was he ordered to pay any restitution or fines. Under the terms of the program, the charges will be fully dismissed as long as Uszenski does not commit a crime over the course of the next six months. He is also expected to petition the court for a full expungement of the case.
The prosecutor’s office and defense attorney Joseph Benedict, both contacted by Shorebeat, said they would be releasing statements shortly.
Two other former Brick school officials also had their cases resolved. A charge against Lorraine Morgan, a former central administrator, was dismissed last week. Andrew Morgan, Lorraine Morgan’s husband and former interim director of special services for the district, will pay $8,203 after admitting to lying on a job application regarding a drug conviction from the 1970s. Morgan, however, cleared background checks and had his teaching certification restored in 1997 under a prior amnesty program in New Jersey. Despite the amnesty program, Morgan’s past was used in attack ads during a vicious school board campaign that took place the next election cycle.