U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

NJ journalist files lawsuit following cease-and-desist notice from police director

Incident Details


A portion of the cease-and-desist notice sent to New Brunswick Today editor Charlie Kratovil after he raised questions during a public meeting about where a civilian police official lives.

May 4, 2023

Charlie Kratovil, founder and editor of New Jersey newspaper New Brunswick Today, received a cease-and-desist notice after he raised questions during a city council meeting on May 3, 2023, about where a city official lives. Kratovil subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and the official seeking protections from possible criminal or civil penalties.

Kratovil told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Anthony Caputo, who serves as the civilian director of police and sits on the board of commissioners for the Parking Authority, has been “extraordinarily absent.”

“Our police director has been really elusive. He has not attended a council meeting in 15 years,” Kratovil said. “I’ve had important questions to ask him over the years, and he typically doesn’t engage, certainly doesn’t have press conferences or anything like that.”

Kratovil told the Tracker he had learned through a public records request that in 2022 Caputo changed the residence on his voter registration to Cape May. The small town at the southernmost tip of New Jersey is more than two hours drive from New Brunswick.

After Kratovil attempted to reach Caputo for comment about his residence — including during a Parking Authority board meeting — the journalist said he raised the issue at a public meeting attended by the New Brunswick City Council.

Kratovil stated the name of the street listed on Caputo’s voter profile and handed copies — which contained the full address — to the council members, asking whether there are residency requirements for the positions Caputo fills. According to the lawsuit filed on Kratovil’s behalf by the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, the council members did not provide an answer and said they would have to look into it.

Caputo wrote Kratovil on official city letterhead the following day, copying a Middlesex County prosecutor and the New Brunswick city attorney, to assert that he is protected from disclosure of his home address or telephone number under Daniel’s Law. The state statute makes it a crime to post addresses or phone numbers of judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, and their families on public websites.

“I do hereby request that you cease the disclosure of such information and remove the protected information from the internet or where otherwise made available,” Caputo’s letter states. “I trust you will be guided accordingly.”

A recording of the public meeting subsequently released by the city was edited to mute the audio not only of Kratovil stating the street of Caputo’s home but his entire line of questioning about the police director’s residency.

ACLU of New Jersey, in its lawsuit filed July 12, argued that the city of New Brunswick and Caputo have attempted to chill Kratovil’s journalism after he reported lawfully obtained information that is in the public interest.

“Government should not threaten news reporters with prosecution or civil liability if they write a news story or share information about something questionable going on with a public servant’s address,” the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks an injunction against the city to protect Kratovil from any attempts to pursue civil or criminal penalties against him for alleged violations of Daniel’s Law.

In a court filing reviewed by the Tracker, attorneys for the city confirmed that Caputo is indeed registered to vote in Cape May, but asserted that he rents an apartment in East Brunswick where he stays during the week.

Caputo did not respond to a voicemail requesting comment as of press time.

An initial hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 23.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].