April 26, 2001 (TRENTON, N.J.) – Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Verniero, now a justice on the state Supreme Court, will be spared impeachment for his testimony to a legislative committee investigating racial profiling.
Assembly Speaker Jack Collins announced his decision today. But he also suggested that the case against Verniero could be dealt with by criminal prosecution for perjury and said he was returning the matter to the Senate Judidiciary Committee for possible referral to the Mercer County prosecutor’s office.
“The criminal justice system is well suited to decide this very serious matter,” Collins said. “It is particularly equipped to carefully and legally consider the allegations made against Justice Verniero.”
Collins called on Verniero to resign, something the justice has resisted so far. If Verniero was convicted of perjury, he would be removed from the court automatically.
The Senate Judiciary Committee called for Verniero’s impeachment after he spent 13 hours being grilled during a hearing on racial profiling. Committee members, after reviewing hundreds of pages of documents submitted by the Attorney General’s Office for the hearings, found five instances where he had given false or misleading answers in April and May 1999 during an earlier hearing on profiling and his confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court.
As attorney general, Verniero was the state’s top law enforcement officer while the outcry over racial profiling was growing. Critics say that he and Gov. Christie Whitman ignored evidence that state troopers targeted black and Hispanic drivers for traffic stops and consent searches. The Whitman administration changed its stance after two troopers wounded three young unarmed men during a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.