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TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced that a New Jersey state trooper has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge related to an incident in which he stalked a female motorist in his patrol vehicle while on duty.
Trooper Michael Patterson, 30, of Bayonne, N.J., pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of fourth-degree tampering with public records before Superior Court Judge Andrea Carter in Middlesex County. In pleading guilty, Patterson admitted that he purposely disabled the Digital In-Vehicle Recorder (DIVR) in his troop car to prevent it from capturing a motor vehicle stop he conducted so that he could make advances on the female motorist during the incident in question.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Patterson be sentenced to 12 months in state prison without possibility of parole. Patterson must forfeit his position as a state trooper and will be permanently barred from public employment. Sentencing is scheduled for October 18.
Deputy Attorneys General Adam Gerken and Jonathan Gilmore represented the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) at the plea hearing. The New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards initially investigated the case and referred it to the OPIA Corruption Bureau.
On Jan. 28, 2020, Trooper Patterson conducted a motor vehicle stop of a female motorist on the New Jersey Turnpike at approximately 9:30 p.m. Patterson let the woman go with a warning, but he conducted a second, unwarranted stop of her vehicle a few minutes later when she exited the Turnpike at Exit 11 in order to make advances on her. Patterson disabled the DIVR in his vehicle to prevent his conduct from being recorded during this stop. The investigation revealed that Patterson subsequently put the victim in fear by following her to her home in his patrol vehicle.
“We are committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable when they abuse their positions of trust,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “The New Jersey State Police expect the highest standards of conduct from their troopers, and the vast majority meet those standards each and every day. We owe it to the troopers, and to the public at large, to take strong action when individual officers betray those standards and engage in criminal conduct.”
“One of the primary missions of OPIA is to root out official misconduct that undermines faith in law enforcement and government,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “This is not the first time we have encountered this type of conduct involving a law enforcement officer, but we hope that our criminal prosecutions will deter such conduct going forward.”
“The New Jersey State Police holds its troopers to the highest level of professional standards of any law enforcement agency in the country through a robust system of checks and balances that is designed to not only hold its members accountable, but to serve as a tool to provide training and counseling through early intervention,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The conduct revealed in this investigation stands in stark contrast to the core values of the New Jersey State Police and is a betrayal to the public and to the entire law enforcement community.”
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
Defense Attorney: Joseph Surman, Esq., New Brunswick, N.J.