HIGHTSTOWN: Teen charged in turban burning enters pre-trial program

By Matt Chiappardi, Staff Writer
   TRENTON — Garrett Green, the Hightstown teen who allegedly set a fellow Hightstown High School student’s Sikh turban on fire this past year, entered a pre-trial intervention program Thursday.
   If Mr. Green, 19, successfully completes the two-year program, charges against him would be dropped, said Assistant County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.
   According to the terms of the program, Mr. Green must complete 100 hours of community service, and part of that must include performing volunteer work with an organization like the national Sikh Coalition, Mr. Onofri said.
   He also must enter into a diversity training program and undergo a psychological evaluation, the assistant prosecutor added.
   As part of the deal he struck with prosecutors at his pre-indictment conference Thursday, Mr. Green’s charges were reduced to third-degree arson to which he pleaded not guilty, according to Mr. Onofri.
   Mr. Green was initially charged by Hightstown police in May 2008 with arson, aggravated assault, bias intimidation and criminal mischief.
   The charges stemmed from an incident where police say he burned the head wrapping of a fellow student with a cigarette lighter during a fire drill at Hightstown High School.
   At the time, the victim was 16 years old.
   The turban, called a patka by Sikhs, is a mandatory headpiece in most sects of the Sikh faith.
   The incident incited anger from the Sikh Coalition, but many teachers and district Superintendent Ron Bolandi said at the time they did not believe it was a bias-based crime.
   Mr. Green is the son of John Green, head of Peddie School, a private coeducational boarding school in Hightstown.
   The elder Mr. Green could not be reached for comment Thursday.