Troopers suspended over caravan ‘escort’ reports

New Jersey’s attorney general suspended two state troopers

without pay Monday, one of them a 25-year veteran, amid reports

they served as escorts last month for a group of high-performance

luxury cars on a 100-mph trip down the Garden State Parkway,

alarming other motorists.

An attorney for one of the troopers, meanwhile, called the

suspension of his client a public relations move made in the heat

of a media spotlight that had intensified by Monday afternoon.

Suspended were Sgt. First Class Nadir Nassry and Trooper Joseph

Ventrella. Nassry has been with the state police for 25 years and

Ventrella for six years.

The alleged incident occurred March 30. Witnesses who emailed

the state Turnpike Authority to report the incident said they saw

two state police cruisers escorting the speeding cars, one in front

and one in back.

According to Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney, one

witness said he saw flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and had

to speed up to get over to the right and out of the way. Once

there, he said, the cars ”raced by” at speeds upward of 100 mph.

Their license plates allegedly were taped over.

Another witness said he saw the cars weaving in and out of

traffic at high speed.

”We will not tolerate any conduct by a member of the State

Police that puts the public in jeopardy, as this unauthorized

caravan had the potential to do,” Attorney General Jeffrey S.

Chiesa said. ”We are thoroughly investigating this incident, and

those responsible will face serious discipline.”

When asked about the incident at an unrelated news conference,

Gov. Chris Christie, at one time the state’s top federal

prosecutor, called it ”a dumb thing to do” and said he was

confident leaving the investigation in the hands of Chiesa and

Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes.

”I hated it when politicians behind podiums would lecture law

enforcement people about what to do in law enforcement,” he said.

”So far be it from me to be a hypocrite on this one. I trust the

attorney general, he’s a smart guy, and I trust Superintendent

Fuentes.”

Nassry’s attorney, Charles Sciarra, said in a statement emailed

Monday evening that his client had been scheduled for an interview

about the incident earlier in the day but was suspended before the

interview took place. He implied that the attorney general’s office

was swayed by news coverage that started with The Star-Ledger of

Newark’s first reporting the alleged incident on Sunday.

”We hope that the powers that be will take a breath, exhale and

engage in a fair investigative process with which we will continue

to cooperate,” Sciarra said. ”Either way, we will not permit Sgt.

Nassry to be sacrificed to satisfy a public-relations agenda.”

It was not immediately known if Ventrella had retained an

attorney.

Sciarra added that the incident had been blown out of proportion

and that charitable organizations ”routinely ask and receive

escorts from the State Police to and from the various charitable

functions they attend with their exotic vehicles.” It was not

immediately clear whether the March 30 trip was connected to a

charitable event.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper reported that former New

York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was among those driving the

sports cars. Jacobs’ agent, Justin Schulman, confirmed Monday that

Jacobs drove to Atlantic City that day, but he wouldn’t say whether

he was part of the caravan.

Jacobs, who was released by the Giants last month and later

signed with the San Francisco 49ers, is known to be a fan of

high-performance cars. Rides Magazine featured him in its October

edition, where he discussed a collection that includes a

700-horsepower Nissan GT-R and a Mercedes S63.

Associated Press Writer Samantha Henry contributed to this

report.