7/1/2008New Jersey Appellate Court Protects Corzine Crash Cops
New Jersey appellate court blocks charges against speeding state trooper who nearly killed the governor in a crash.
The speeding New Jersey state trooper responsible for last year's crash that nearly took the life of Governor Jon S. Corzine (D) will not receive any penalty against his driver's license. An appellate court last week blocked an attempt by private attorney Seth Grossman to bring reckless driving and speeding charges after a state prosecutor refused to do so. Grossman suggested it was a double-standard to allow the driver who caused the accident -- or the governor who gave the driver his orders -- to escape penalty.
"One or both of those men committed a crime that put lives in danger, and the law should hold one or both of them accountable," Grossman wrote.
The appellate division of the state superior court disagreed by rejecting Grossman's move without discussion of the merits of the case. The court claimed Grossman lacked the court certification required for him to act in place of the municipal prosecutor.
Corzine's accident in question happened on the Garden State Parkway on April 12, 2007. State Trooper Robert Rasinski, 34, had been rushing the governor in a state-owned Chevy Suburban to a media event with radio show host Don Imus. While hurtling at more than 90 MPH -- possibly as fast as 100, Rasinski lost control and struck a guardrail. According to state police Superintendent Rick Fuentes, "Trooper Rasinski did not possess the appropriate level of situational awareness in the moments leading up to the accident." Fuentes also admitted that Rasinski violated departmental policy regarding speed and the use of police lights in a non-emergency situation.
In the crash aftermath, Corzine, who had not been wearing a seatbelt, spent days in critical condition able to breathe only through a ventilator machine.
"It took a remarkable team of doctors and a series of miracles to save my life," Corzine said in a public service announcement he made after the crash to emphasize the importance of seat belt use.
Grossman filed his suit against Rasinski as a private citizen because he was outraged at what he called a cover-up by the state police.
"For five days, state police officials denied that the governor's speed was a factor," Grossman wrote. "They falsely blamed the accident on 'swerving' by the driver of a red pick-up truck, and spent lots of time and money looking for him. But they found that driver, and four days later, the state police came up with a new story that was closer to the truth... The governor's driver simply lost control and ran off the road."
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY, APPELLATE DIVISION
DOCKET NO. A-5732-06T45732-06T4
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
ROBERT RASINSKI and ERIN SMITH, Defendants,
SETH GROSSMAN, Appellant.
Submitted June 4, 2008 - Decided June 25, 2008
Before Judges Lisa and King.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Summons Nos. 0111-SC-007863 to 0111-SC-007868.
Seth Grossman, appellant pro se.
Anne Milgram, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Joie Piderit, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).
This is an appeal from an order entered by Judge Garofolo of May 25, 2007 dismissing this attempt to appeal an order of a municipal court dismissing several complaints for lack of probable cause. In his opinion of May 25, 2007 Judge Garofolo stated:
Pursuant to R. 3:24, a prosecuting attorney may appeal to the Superior Court, as of right, an order from a municipal court dismissing a complaint. Additionally, pursuant to R. 3:23-9, an attorney for a complaining witness or other interested party may be permitted to act for the municipal prosecutor. However, in order to do so, an interested party must submit a certification that conforms to the requirements of R. 7:8-7, and a court must review this certification and allow a private prosecution for "good cause shown."
A review of your application to This Court reveals that you have failed to file the requisite certification and motion to act for the municipal prosecutor. Thus, you lack standing to pursue this appeal and your application is denied.
See also Rule 3:23-9(d); see generally Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment on R. 7:8-7(b)(6.1); and State v. Storm, 141 N.J. 245 (1995).
We affirm for the reasons given by Judge Garofolo in his written opinion of May 25, 2007.