Mercer Sheriff’s Officer Pleads Guilty to Providing Paper with Juvenile Pics

Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy announced that a Mercer County sheriff’s officer pleaded guilty today to a charge that he unlawfully provided a newspaper with three arrest photos of a juvenile.  The newspaper published the photos and named the juvenile.

Christopher J. McKenna, 37, of Hamilton, N.J., a suspended Mercer County sheriff’s officer who previously was assigned to the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse, pleaded guilty today to a charge of third-degree wrongful access and disclosure of information before Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert in Burlington County.  Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that McKenna be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of probation.  He must forfeit his job as a sheriff’s officer and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.

Judge Covert scheduled sentencing for McKenna for July 29.

In pleading guilty, McKenna admitted that he accessed a restricted law enforcement database to obtain three arrest photos of a juvenile.  He further admitted that he provided the photos to a newspaper reporter for The Trentonian on or about Aug. 21, 2015 in violation of New Jersey law, which prohibits public disclosure of juvenile court records.  The newspaper published the three photos along with an article that named the juvenile in the photos and included details of the three arrests of the juvenile.

Under state law, court and law enforcement records pertaining to juveniles charged as delinquent are strictly safeguarded from public disclosure.  Such records are made available only to individuals specifically authorized by statute.  McKenna obtained the three arrest photos from a restricted photo database that is used by county and local law enforcement agencies.  Before an individual can gain access to the database, he or she must accept the website’s terms of use, which includes a statement that reads, “Information contained on this Website may only be used for law enforcement purposes.  Except law enforcement agencies, information contained on this Website shall not be disseminated to any other individual or entity….  Unauthorized use of the Website may result in criminal prosecution.”  McKenna was suspended after being charged by complaint in this case on Oct. 29, 2015.

Deputy Attorney General Mallory Shanahan of the Corruption Bureau took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice.  She prosecuted the case with Deputy Attorney General Veronica Allende, Deputy Chief of the Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.