N.J. assemblyman views video of his own disputed traffic stop

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty says a Washington Township officer lied about his traffic stop.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty says a Washington Township officer lied about his traffic stop. (RYAN S. GREENBERG/ Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 21, 2012

In the July 31 video, captured by a dash-mounted camera in the Washington Township police cruiser, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty's car is seen driving north on the Black Horse Pike.

The squad car, driven by Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura, pulls off the median strip where it has been parked. It makes a U-turn, hits a curb, and darts past traffic at speeds - recorded on the video - up to 80 miles an hour.

Moments later, DiBuonaventura catches up to Moriarty and pulls him over in a restaurant parking lot in Turnersville. He accuses him of a moving violation and drunken driving after Moriarty declines a breath test.

The video of that encounter - before and after the police stop - was shown Friday at the office of Moriarty's lawyer to support the Fourth District Democrat's version of events before his case is heard on Nov. 8.

On Tuesday, Moriarty also filed a 27-count criminal complaint against DiBuonaventura, accusing him of official misconduct, perjury, filing false reports, and falsifying and tampering with public records.

"What happened to me should happen to no one," the 56-year-old former Washington Township mayor said Friday. "I was targeted.

"I was hunted down by this police officer who lied in a police report, lied in the summons he gave to me, lied to me, lied on tape, and also lied to his supervisors," he said. "I didn't do anything wrong that day."

The Washington Township Police Department has referred all inquiries about the case to the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, which declined to comment Friday. DiBuonaventura and the head of the local police officers' union could not be reached.

In the video - obtained by Moriarty's lawyer, John Eastlack - the officer's mobile video recorder shows a sequence of events that appears to correspond with Moriarty's account of the police stop.

It begins with a windshield view of Watson Drive in Turnersville shortly before 4 p.m. The squad car heads to the Black Horse Pike, where DiBuonaventura stops on a median strip, facing south.

Soon, Moriarty's blue Nissan Murano, with its distinctive legislative license plates, is seen traveling in the righthand, northbound lane and DiBuonaventura takes off.

"He drives out of his sector, where he's actually assigned to patrol," Eastlack said.

"Something alerts him to get to this area, so he drives over there and then parks his car in the middle waiting for Mr. Moriarty to come up," he said. "It would be speculation to assume how he knew that Mr. Moriarty was coming there."

Moriarty, Eastlack said, "doesn't speed, swerve, doesn't even change lanes at all. That's all on the videotape."

The lawmaker, a former CBS3 reporter, drives onto a jug handle to get to Greentree Road and a fast-food restaurant, then spots the flashing lights of DiBuonaventura's squad car.

"I was on patrol traveling in the right northbound lane of State Highway 42 [Black Horse Pike] approximately 30 feet south of the Greentreee Road jug handle when I was cut off by a blue Nissan Murano," DiBuonaventura wrote in his report.

The conversation between the two men is audible on the video.

DiBuonaventura: "How are you doing today, sir?"

Moriarty, seeming surprised: "Tell me. What did I do wrong?"

DiBuonaventura: "Well, you cut me off back there."

Moriarty: "I didn't cut you off."

DiBuonaventura: "Have you been drinking?"

Moriarty: "No, I haven't."

DiBuonaventura: "I can smell some alcohol on your breath. Did you have any drinks today?"

Moriarty: "No."

DiBuonaventura: "It looks like you cut me off. That's why I'm stopping you."

Moriarty: "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to cut you off."

The officer orders the assemblyman out of the car and puts him through field sobriety tests.

After the tests, which Moriarty appears to pass easily, DiBuonaventura orders him to put his hands behind his back to be cuffed.

"You're under arrest," the officer says. "I'm bringing you in to put you on a Breathalyzer.

"I believe you have been drinking and that you're impaired," he says.

Moriarty said Friday that he recognized DiBuonaventura. The officer was fired in September 2009 on charges of lying during an investigation into whether he had made a racially tinged comment at a police briefing on Feb. 11, 2009.

DiBuonaventura successfully appealed the action to Superior Court, saying that his remark had been mischaracterized and that officers had made inappropriate and racist comments in the past and were not disciplined. He was reinstated last year with back pay.

Under New Jersey law, drivers who refuse to take a breath test face the same loss of driving privileges as a drunken-driving offender.

The officer's past was one reason Moriarty said he declined to submit to the Breathalyzer.

"I refused because I knew he was lying to me about cutting him off on the road. . . . I knew he had a history of lying because I knew the officer," he said Friday. "Also, I knew he was lying about smelling alcohol on my breath because I hadn't had anything to drink.

Moriarty said that after leaving the police station, he had a blood test administered and that it showed no evidence of alcohol consumption.

If a police officer "doesn't legally pull you over to begin with, then anything that flows from that original illegal or . . . unconstitutional act would then get suppressed," Eastlack said.


 


 

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