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
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
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
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