TOMS RIVER-To the victor go the spoils. That’s how politics works in New Jersey and for Ocean County, the unfortunate end result of partisan warfare means that one of the state’s most accomplished prosecutors could soon be without a job.
Phil Murphy is reportedly ready to sack Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, a ritual of passage for New Jersey Governors each time the office switches parties. Murphy, a Democrat defeated Kim Guadagno, a Republican in the 2017 New Jersey Gubernatorial election.
Hired in 2013 by former Governor Chris Christie, Coronato replaced former Democrat Marlene Lynch Ford. Christie then appointed the lifelong Democrat as a judge with New Jersey’s Superior Court.
In a report by David Wildstein, of the New Jersey Globe, insiders are saying Bradley Billhimer, a former intern who worked for the late Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg has been named as Coronato’s successor.
Since taking office, Coronato took a hard stance against crime in Ocean County, paving the way to prosecutions against drug dealers who caused overdose deaths.
Coronato’s office has been at odds with local judges and the State of New Jersey over bail reform after several high profile defendants in Ocean County were released back on the streets without bail after bail form pretrial hearings.
In several instances, including the case of Christopher Wilson, a repeat child sex offender who was released back onto the streets by Ocean County Judge Wendel Daniels, Coronato fought to overturn the decisions of judges who let dangerous criminals out of jail under bail reform.
Coronato’s office, according to sources, was silenced by the State of New Jersey to not publicly criticize New Jersey’s failed bail reform, but he often filed court appeals to keep dangerous criminals behind bars until trial.
According to Billhimer’s biography on his private lawfirm’s website, he is a graduate of Toms River North and Ocean County College.
He served as a scheduling intern for former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. He served as a law clerk in Ocean County’s Superior Court. He specializes as a criminal defense attorney and lists defending DWI charges as his practice’s two most notable services.
Prior to opening his own firm, Billhimer was partner in the law firm of S. Karl Mohel, known for representing high profile criminal defendants over the years.