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New Jersey Needle Exchange Founders Convicted of Syringe Distribution


August 1997

On August 11, Diana McCague and Thomas Scozzare, founders of the New Brunswick (NJ) needle exchange program, The Chai Project, were convicted of violating the state's ban on syringe distribution. Municipal Court Judge Terrill Brenner fined the two defendants $500 plus court costs and suspended their driver's licenses for six months, according to Sarah Foster, the associate director of the needle exchange program. They faced a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. The penalties are on hold pending appeal. Syringe exchange advocates say New Jersey's anti-syringe law is one of the toughest in the nation, because it allows no exceptions (Anthony A. Gallotto, "Two found guilty in needle sting," Star-Ledger (Newark), August 12, 1997, p. 21; Associated Press, "Needle Exchange Founders Convicted," August 12, 1997).

McCague and Scozzare were arrested in April 1996 for giving clean syringes and other drug paraphernalia to an undercover officer posing as a heroin addict. At their trial, the defendants argued that New Jersey has one of the highest rates of HIV transmission through contaminated needles in the country, and that exchange programs help reduce the spread of HIV by removing contaminated syringes. However, Assistant Prosecutor Ronald Kercado said the defendants' motive is irrelevant to the law.

Chai Project - P.O. Box 1470, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, Tel: (908) 246-8884.