New Jersey trooper suspended in "joyride" scandal

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 23, 2012 7:33 PM
New Jersey trooper suspended in "joyride" scandal

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New Jersey state troopers have been suspended without pay in connection with accusations that police escorted a high-speed caravan of unmarked sports cars down the state's Garden State Parkway, the state attorney general said on Monday.

Witnesses reported seeing two State Police cars escorting dozens of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour on March 30, and weaving across the highway's three lanes, according to a report published on Sunday by the Star-Ledger newspaper.

"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," New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a statement. "We are thoroughly investigating this incident, and those responsible will face serious discipline."

State police Superintendent Joseph Fuentes said the alleged actions are "squarely against the principles of the New Jersey State Police."

Nadir Nassry, 47, who has been with the force for 25 years, and Joseph Ventrella, 28, a six-year veteran, have both been suspended without pay, the statement said.

No charges have been filed.

A lawyer representing Nassry, Charles Sciarra, confirmed his client's suspension and said allegations of "recklessness and speeds in the triple digits will not bear out."

He added 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," saying the practice has continued "for years."

A lawyer for Ventrella could not immediately be reached.

This is not the first time state police have been accused of misusing resources. Last June, following reports Governor Chris Christie had used state police helicopters to travel to his son's baseball games, the governor and the Republican Party refunded more than $3,000 for trips.

A Christie spokesman said at the time the trips had not cost taxpayers extra money. The head of the state police said the flights were used for training purposes and the hours would have been logged regardless.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; editing by Mohammad Zargham)