FLEMINGTON, NJ – A judge has ordered the arrest of four people charged with trespassing at the Union Hotel.
A soft-spoken Judge Eric Perkins issued the order in Flemington Municipal Court this afternoon to George Eckelman, Richard Giffen, Steve Romanowski and Gary Schotland, who have come to be known as the “Flemington Four.”
The judge noted that the arrest records - which would include a photograph and fingerprinting - “can be subsequently destroyed” if the outcome of the case is in their favor.
The four were charged with trespassing after a video of the inside of the hotel surfaced on Facebook. Police said that through an investigation and statements provided, they determined the group was inside the building on Dec. 7.
Their purpose was to “inspect” the interior of the building, police said, however no one was properly hired to perform the inspection. While inside the hotel, the group discussed posting the video to social media as a way to inform the public on its condition, according to police.
The hotel is owned by Flemington Union Hotel, LLC, and Romanowski had loaned the group $605,000 to develop the property. When it defaulted on the loan, Romanowski filed to foreclose. That led to a Superior Court order, directing that the sale proceeds go towards reimbursing Romanowski the $715,000 it says he’s now owed in principal and interest, and other costs.
Romanowski used a key to get into the building, sources say, and police said he told them he was allowed access to the building, “which proved to be false.”
But that may be a matter for a judge to decide. According to a copy of the mortgage document obtained by TAPinto, if the lender declares default, he has the right to “take possession of and manage the property.”
Those sitting in the courtroom to watch the proceedings today included Flemington Councilpersons Betsy Driver and Susan Peterson.
Perkins said the case will be transferred out of his courtroom, but didn’t specify where or when.
Susan Rubright, an attorney from the Roseland-based Brach Eichle law firm who is representing Romanowski, asked the judge to dismiss the case. Perkins declined.
Attorney Lee Roth is representing Schotland and Giffen is represented by Frank Whittlesey of Scholl Whittlesey & Gruenberg. Both attorneys are based here.
Eckelman is a general contractor noted for his authentic historic renovations, but is also an attorney. He is now representing himself, and said after the hearing today that those charged with the trespass are “not convictable ... I think the whole thing is outrageous.”
It isn’t clear how long it will take to determine the details of transferring the case. Roth, who opened his Main Street practice here in 1965, said he’s only had one other court case subject to transfer during his entire career here.
Stay with TAPinto Flemington for more on this developing story.