Pubdate:  Tue, 12 Aug 1997

.c The Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP)  The founders of a needle exchange program were
convicted late Monday of violating one of the harshest laws in the nation
banning syringe distribution. 

Municipal Court Judge Terrill Brenner was not swayed by the defendants'
argument that handing out clean needles in exchange for used ones help stop
the spread of AIDS without promoting drug use. 

Brenner fined Diana McCague and Thomas Scozzare $500 plus court costs and
suspended their driver's licenses for six months, said Sarah Foster, the
associate director of the New Brunswick needle exchange program. 

They faced a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and six months in

Brenner put the penalties on hold pending appeal. 

The case was closely watched by needle exchange advocates, who say New
Jersey's antisyringe law is among the toughest in the nation because, unlike
other states, it allows no exemptions. 

McCague and Scozzare were arrested in April 1996 after they gave clean
needles and other drug paraphernalia including heroin cookers to an
undercover officer posing as the relative of an addict. 

At trial, defense experts testified that the rate of HIV transmission through
needles in New Jersey is among the highest in the country and said that
needle exchange programs help reduce the spread of HIV by removing
contaminated syringes from circulation. 

But Assistant Prosecutor Ronald Kercado said the motive behind the project is
irrelevant because state law prohibits possession and distribution of

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