N.j. Report Admits Errors On 'Mudman' It Said Parole Workers Knew Robert Simon Was Involved With The Warlocks, But Didn't Act.

Posted: June 01, 1995

TRENTON — New Jersey parole officials knew that convicted killer Robert "Mudman" Simon had embraced the Warlock subculture in South Jersey after his release

from prison in February but did nothing about it, according to a state report released yesterday.

The report acknowledged numerous blunders by New Jersey officials supervising Simon's parole before his May 6 arrest in the killing of a police officer in Franklin Township, Gloucester County.

The New Jersey report also heaped blame on Pennsylvania officials for failing to tell New Jersey that Simon had been released from prison only on condition that he sever all contact with the Warlocks motorcycle gang, of which he was a member.

Pennsylvania's parole of Simon, 43, after he served 12 1/2 years of a 10- to 20-year sentence for killing a Drexel Hill woman is under review by the Ridge administration. State parole officials declined yesterday to respond to New Jersey's report.

The New Jersey report recommended seven mostly administrative changes to the state's parole system, and says disciplinary action should be considered against those involved. The governor must still sign off on the changes.

"It is clear that substantive changes must be made to the parole system in New Jersey," Gov. Whitman said in a statement.

"We're not happy with the way this was handled," Attorney General Deborah T. Poritz said in releasing the results of an investigation conducted by the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Corrections.

"We're not standing here saying the system is working properly," Poritz said. "There were mistakes in both states."

Early on, there were signs that Simon was headed for a run-in with police. The report said that a few weeks after his release, Simon was a passenger in a car whose driver, Edward Manoff, was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in Clayton. Manoff, who was charged with driving under the influence, was wearing Warlock regalia.

Simon told the police that he had just been released from prison after serving time for murder, the report said. He seemed to be trying to intimidate the police with the comment, the report said. He also kept moving about, trying to get behind the officers, according to a police report on the incident.

Two months later, Simon was charged with the murder of Franklin Township Police Sgt. Ippolito "Lee" Gonzalez. Gonzalez was shot after pulling over a car in which Simon was, again, a passenger. The arrest prompted calls from the governors of both states for investigations into Simon's release Feb. 18.

Simon had been held in the Gloucester County Jail since the shooting, but he was transferred Tuesday night to Trenton State Prison because county officials were suspicious that he was plotting an escape, William H. Fauver, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, said yesterday.

After New Jersey officials learned that Simon's release from prison in Pennsylvania hinged on his promise not to associate with the Warlocks, they failed to act, the report said, even though they knew he had contact with Warlocks and lived in an area of Warlock activity.

According to the report, it was not until Feb. 21, when Simon first reported to his parole officer and handed him his parole papers, that the parole officer, Victor Battiata, learned that Simon's parole had special conditions: that he could not consume alcohol and that he could not associate with the Warlocks.

By then, the report said, Battiata knew that Simon's new home - a rented trailer in Williamstown - had been secured for him by a member of the Warlocks. He also knew the trailer park was only 500 yards from the Sundance Tavern, a Friday night Warlock hangout, the report said. It said that three members of the Warlocks motorcycle gang live in Williamstown, and as many as 30 live in the surrounding area.

The New Jersey report chastises Pennsylvania parole officials for failing to tell New Jersey officials about Simon's parole conditions months earlier, when New Jersey first reviewed the plan for Simon's parole and made the decision to accept him.

Pennsylvania's Board of Probation and Parole first contacted New Jersey about Simon's parole request on Nov. 15. Pennsylvania officials noted that Simon had been a Warlock but claimed to have "quit."

According to New Jersey, the request did not mention any ban on contact with Warlocks as a condition for his parole. It also did not mention that Simon had been denied parole previously, or that Simon had fatally knifed an inmate while in prison. (He claimed self-defense and was acquitted.)

Darlene Zelazny, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania's parole office, said she could not comment on New Jersey's report until officials reviewed it.

Once Battiata knew about the ban on contact with Warlocks, he could have started the process to have Simon returned to prison for violation of parole, the report said, but he did not do so.

Battiata told his superior, Assistant Parole District Supervisor Steve Atkinson, about the Warlock role in relocating Simon. But neither "thought this unusual as it seemed reasonable to them that these (Warlocks) would be the only people willing to assist Simon," the report said.

Upon learning of the restrictions on Feb. 21, Battiata and Atkinson decided to emphasize to Simon that he was to have no contact with the Warlocks. But they took no further action, and did not notify their superiors.

Although Simon was a convicted murderer, Battiata listed Simon's supervision requirements as only once a month.

Turning to the interstate compact regulating the transfer of parolees across state lines, the report said that many parole workers appeared to misunderstand it and their own powers to monitor parolees.

For example, it said, Battiata told investigators he thought that if special parole conditions that can't be enforced by a parole officer are required of a parolee released under the interstate compact, the parole officer doesn't have the power to change the parolee's place of residence.

In addition, state parole officers thought they had no discretion to reject a parolee from another state, which is not the case.

The investigation report recommends seven changes to the parole system, including creating a checklist of information required from another state before New Jersey accepts a parolee; explaining to parole workers their powers under the interstate compact; obtaining objections and comment from local police and county prosecutors before a parolee is accepted from another state; and accepting out-of-state parolees convicted of such crimes as murder and sex offenses only with the consent of a higher level official, such as the corrections commissioner.

|
|
|
|
|