2 NJ troopers charged in 'Death Race'
Troopers allegedly involved in an unauthorized high-speed escort of luxury cars
By Samantha Henry
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey's attorney general says two state troopers have been charged criminally and four others face disciplinary charges for their involvement in an unauthorized high-speed escort of luxury cars. Another trooper also faces a charge in a third incident.
Attorney General Jeff Chiesa (kee-AY'-sah) and State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes say Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry, who allegedly lead a March 30 caravan and enlisted another trooper, faces two charges related to tampering with records or information. His lawyer said Thursday he denies the charges.
A second trooper, Joseph Ventrella, is charged with fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records in connection with that spring incident.
The criminal charges are related to the two troopers allegedly condoning the taping over of license plates to conceal the identities of the vehicle owners.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
New Jersey state troopers face criminal charges and disciplinary action for their roles in the high-speed escort of caravans of luxury cars, including a 100 mph trip down the Garden State Parkway in March that alarmed other motorists, state officials said.
Attorney General Jeff Chiesa and State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes planned to detail the charges and a new policy for police escorts at a news conference Friday.
Their investigation focused on the spring incident and a high-speed escort in 2010 that was captured in an amateur video.
Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry, an assistant station commander and 25-year-veteran, on Thursday took full responsibility for the March escort and submitted his retirement papers. He also asked for leniency for the second trooper involved, Joseph Ventrella, who he said was simply following orders and has been on the force only six years.
Nassry's attorney said he expected the criminal charges to be related to statements made about whether the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other high-performance cars had their license plates taped over. Nassry has denied knowing anything about plates being taped over.
The sergeant agreed to participate in the escort because of his friendship with Brandon Jacobs, a former member of the New York Giants, now with the San Francisco 49ers, who was part of the caravan, said Nassry's attorney, Charles Sciarra.
The motorists who received the police escorts have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Witnesses who emailed the state Turnipike Authority reported seeing the caravan, escorted by two state police vehicles, traveling down the parkway at speeds over 100 mph, weaving in traffic and forcing some motorists to speed up to get out of the way. Its participants included members of a New York driving club.
Nassry, 47, and Ventrella, 28, were suspended in April.
The investigation into the escorts also led to a major shake-up of state police brass, with the reassignment of 10 state police commanders.
State police refused requests from news organizations to provide a copy of their policy on escorts.
Police officials said the department fairly regularly provides escorts to visiting dignitaries, funerals and other special occasions. But they would not detail what the guidelines are and who must approve the escorts.
Gov. Chris Christie at first called the incidents "dumb," and then later said they "would have graduated much beyond dumb if someone had gotten hurt."
Copyright 2012 Associated Press