NJ court stifles right to know who purchased bogus memorabilia

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In November 2014 PIX11’s Howard Thompson broke the story of suspected sports memorabilia being sold at auction by then Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.

The material had been seized from a drug store owner who ran afoul of the law. Molinelli’s office made false statements in an official document to get the services of his hand-picked memorabilia “authenticator” so he could auction off the items.

But after PIX11 reported that many of the “authenticated” signed pieces previously had been assessed as bogus forgeries Molinelli offered refunds to any purchaser who wanted one.

Law school graduate and self-styled New Jersey legal system gadfly Bill Brennan asked for the identities of the people who purchased the items at Molinelli’s two memorabilia auctions in 2014. He won a lawsuit to get the information. But now the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court has reversed Brennan’s victory. It ruled that the auction bidders’ “reasonable expectation of privacy” outweighed the public’s right to know.

Brennan calls the decision “terrible” and notes that now “a county auction involving counterfeit (items) placed in the stream of commerce by the prosecutor, refunds issued, money placed in treasury…is untraceable” because of the court’s decision.

The decision is “per curiam” meaning that no judge took responsibility for authoring it. The three judge panel that heard the appeal consists of Mitchel Ostrer of Mercer County, Michael Haas of Burlington County and Thomas Manahan of Morris County.