Mercer County Sheriff’s Officer Sentenced for Unlawfully Providing Arrest Photos of Juvenile to Newspaper

Christopher J. McKenna, 37, of Hamilton, N.J., a former Mercer County sheriff’s officer who previously was assigned to the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse, was sentenced today to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of two years of probation by Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert in Burlington County. The jail term is to be served following the term of probation and may be suspended if he properly completes probation. McKenna pleaded guilty on May 31 to a charge of third-degree wrongful access and disclosure of information. He forfeited his job as a sheriff’s officer and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.

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.


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