Jamie Amato, who was arrested on charges of theft from the Robert Gordon PTA, had her first appearance before Judge Joan Robinson Gross this morning at the Union County Courthouse Annex Building. A first appearance occurs after a defendant is formally arrested and charged with a crime. At this hearing, the defendant is informed of the charges against him/her and advised of the following rights:
- The right to make a statement concerning those charges
- The right to apply to the Pretrial Intervention and/or Drug Court Programs
- The right to a probable cause hearing on any indictable offense
- The right to a formal indictment by a grand jury
In Union County, defendants and members of the public stand outside the Courthouse Annex – regardless of the weather – until they are called in to court because although the time for the first appearance was set for 9 a.m., the court would not open to the public for, at least, another hour. A few Robert Gordon School parents showed up in the cold weather and waited outside to have the opportunity to witness the process where the charges against Ms. Amato would formally be read into the record. Unfortunately, that would not happen since Ms. Amato, her husband, and her attorney were allowed to see the judge before the other defendants without private lawyers – as well as the public – could enter the court. This is due what what is termed as ‘professional courtesy’ afforded to defendants who can afford a private attorney.
At around 10:45 a.m., Jamie Amato, along with her attorney and husband, walked out of the Courthouse Annex. Without even acknowledging any of the parents who took time out of their day to be part of the process, Ms. Amato left them ‘in the cold’, as one parent put it, without saying a word. They had to find out on their own 15 minutes later that they would not see Ms. Amato’s first appearance since it already occurred.
Roselle Park News found out that Ms. Amato’s next court date was set for March 22, 2012 before Judge John Triarsi and it would be a Plea-Dispositional Conference or PDC. At the PDC event, the defendant is given the opportunity to work out a plea to the charges. If the defendant pleads guilty, the State draws up an Accusation of the charges, as well as a plea agreement signed by the prosecutor, defense attorney and the judge. A sentence date is given. According to the Union County Vicinage, if the defendant does not plead guilty, the case will proceed in any of the following directions:
- Case may be administratively dismissed by the prosecutor;
- Case may be remanded/downgraded to Municipal Court;
- Case may be sent to the Grand Jury for consideration of Indictment;
- Case may be recommended for the Pretrial Intervention and/or Drug Court Programs;
More information will be reported on this case as it becomes available.