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Jail warden is ousted in badge incident

Source: The Star-Ledger
Date: June 28, 2003

Stop Internet Crime Michael Abode was forced to retire as warden of the Middlesex County jail yesterday after officials revealed "unacceptable" actions he took involving Alan Haag, the former county road supervisor arrested on illicit sex charges in Pennsylvania. County officials said Abode gave Haag a badge that was found in the county-owned car Haag drove to Pennsylvania a month ago when he allegedly arranged to pay a woman $300 to have sex with her and her daughters, ages 7 and 10. The woman turned out to be an undercover agent with a special task force formed to crack down on Internet crime.

The freeholders said the badge was inscribed with the title: "Superintendent, County of Middlesex, N.J. Department of Corrections." When Abode was questioned about it, officials said he initially covered up his involvement, but later admitted giving Haag the badge, at his request, even though the road supervisor was not a law enforcement official. Haag resigned a week ago. "Warden Abode recognized that his lapses in judgment have undermined and compromised his ability to continue as warden," County Counsel Thomas Kelso read from a statement released by the freeholders. The board met in closed session with Abode's attorney, Robert Dato, before announcing Abode's retirement last night.

Dato said, "It has been a difficult time for Mike and his family and he prefers not to comment at this time." The attorney said the incident would not jeopardize Abode's pension. Abode, 54, of South Brunswick, has held the $103,879 warden post since 1999. He was hired at the county jail in 1974 as a corrections officer. Two years later he became the facility's social worker and he rose through the ranks to deputy warden in 1995. Last night the freeholders put Deputy Warden Edward Cicchi in charge of the 1,200-inmate jail in North Brunswick.

County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said his office is continuing its investigation of Haag's use of county computers and the circumstances surrounding the badge. Freeholder Director David Crabiel described Abode as a personal friend. While Crabiel said he could not condone Abode's actions, "he has been an excellent warden and one of the most conscientious department heads and he will be missed." Ed Cruz, executive vice president of PBA Local 152, representing the 200 corrections officers at the jail in North Brunswick, said Abode was fair and liked by the officers. "It was a stupid mistake on his part," Cruz said.

Original article: http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-9/105678074383470.xml

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