A parent leader who criticized the “One Newark” plan pushed by state school superintendent Cami Anderson was arrested yesterday on charges he assaulted a central office administrator. Daryn Martin, president of the Parent Teacher Organization at the Ivy Hill School, was charged with “aggravated assault” but released on his own recognizance. If convicted, he faces three to five years in jail.
Martin, a deacon for he New Hope Baptist Church in Jersey City, said he was called by a Newark police detective and asked to come to headquarters to sign a formal complaint. He had earlier filed a criminal complaint against Tiffany Hardrick, an assistant school superintendent, but the detective said he did not have the right address on the form. It apparently was a ruse to get Martin to come to police headquarters so he could be arrested. When he arrived shortly before 2:30 pm, he was confronted by a detective who told him:
“Here’s the deal, Mr. Martin. The simple assault charge against you has been elevated to aggravated assault because she is a public official.”
Martin said, “What charge? There’s no charge against me.” Despite his protests, he was handcuffed and fingerprinted. The police took a mug shot and swabbed his cheek for DNA samples. Then he was placed in a cell with two other inmates.
Robert Pickett of West Orange, Martin’s lawyer, said his client’s arrest amounted to “intimidation.” Martin was a vocal critic of plans by state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson to close, transfer to charters or otherwise “repurpose” nearly half of the city’s public schools.
Martin had appeared at a Trenton press conference called by state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) when Rice introduced legislation aimed at blocking the closing of neighborhood schools in Newark and other cities.
“We intend to fight these charges aggressively,” Pickett said. “Mr. Martin will not be intimidated.”
Simple assault charges are automatically elevated to a much more serious crime if the victim is a public official, including a school employee.
Martin’s troubles with Anderson began Jan. 15 when he posted notices of a PTO meeting at the Ivy Hill School. Later, he witnessed Hardrick and another central office administrator, Gary Beidleman, tearing down the notices, which had been approved by school principal Lisa Brown.
Martin said that, when he demanded they stop, Hardrick pushed him twice. He later filed a police complaint against Hardrick but, two days later, he was banned from entering the school his two children attend. The letter notifying him of the ban accused him of pushing Hardrick and Beidleman although a report filed by a school security officer about the incident mentioned no pushing. At the time, neither Newark police nor the school administration would say whether any charges had been pressed against Martin.
Martin then joined a federal law suit filed by five school principals against Anderson, charging she violated their First Amendment rights. The principals were suspended after speaking about the “One Newark” plan at a community forum. After widespread community outrage, the five were taken off suspension. Brown did not speak at the forum but was apparently suspended for supporting Martin.
“This takes the fight against Anderson to a whole new level,” Martin said after his release from jail last night. “I am not going to stop speaking out against what she is doing to the children of Newark.”
Pickett said he believed the school district was “trying to paint my client as a bad guy to help their defense against the federal suit.” The attorney said their action “just increased the potential damages against them.”
Martin insisted he had no idea he would be arrested when he was lured to police headquarters. He said detectives spoke to him but did not read him his Miranda rights that direct him to remain silent if he faced arrest. He also said he was never brought before a judge to give his side of what happened.
“It was a set up,” he said. Martin accused the police of working with the school board to created a “massive cover-up” of the circumstances of his arrest.
Martin said he had never been arrested before.
Martin, a union organizer for 1199J, National Union of Hosital and Health Care Workers, said he was “sorry” he had cost the taxpayers money because he was fed a prison meal of franks and beans, a bottle of water, and oatmeal cookies. Just as a bus came to take inmates to the county jail, he said, he was told he could go home.