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Attorney: Heart Attack In Fight Killed ZZ Top Fan In Elmwood Park

Defense attorney Brian Neary, Jared Clackner, in court in Hackensack.
Defense attorney Brian Neary, Jared Clackner, in court in Hackensack. Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
Defense attorney Brian Neary
Defense attorney Brian Neary Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
Jared Clackner
Jared Clackner Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. -- A Morris County man who police said was beaten to death by his friend after their car crashed on Route 80 in Elmwood Park following a ZZ Top concert in Englewood died of a heart attack, his attorney contended today.

Jared P. Clackner, 54, of Denville, was arraigned in Hackensack on charges of aggravated manslaughter in the March 10 death of 61-year-old William K. Henning.

Defense attorney Brian Neary entered a not-guilty plea for Clackner and accused the prosecutor's office of misconduct.

“There are mistakes of law, and the prosecutor’s push for an indictment of aggravated manslaughter is improper,” Neary told Superior Court Judge Frances McGrogan, as more than two dozen of Henning's loved ones and friends looked on -- all wearing large buttons with his portrait on them.

Neary, without going into detail, told Daily Voice that he was missing evidence -- although he said he has a grand jury transcript of 64 pages and “two autopsy reports, including one from a hospital up in Rhode Island” that confirmed the cause of death as a heart attack.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer didn't address Neary's comments. She said she expected to make him a plea offer by Dec. 7.

Clackner was a passenger in a blue 1996 Oldmobile Sierra driven by Henning, that New Jersey State Police said crashed into a guardrail at milepost 61.6 during an argument between the two Denville men following a BergenPAC concert.

Defense attorney Timothy Smith previously contended that authorities over-charged his client and that both threw punches.

Grootenboer countered that Clackner — a self-employed painter and father of two — beat his friend to death with his fists.

Sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that when police arrived, Henning was partially out of the car, which was still in drive up against the guardrail. They picked up Clackner further down the highway, they said.

Clackner has remained free on $300,000 bail, posted eight days after his arrest.

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