A judge has charged Washington Township Police Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura with 13 of the 27 criminal complaints Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township) filed against him last week. DiBuonaventura arrested Moriarty on July 31 in Washington Township for driving while intoxicated and other traffic offenses, but Moriarty has insisted he was innocent and the officer had “hunted him down.”
According to an official letter sent by Carole Cummings, vicinage municipal division manager for the Superior Court of New Jersey, to Moriarty, Judge John Casarow issued 13 charges against DiBuonaventura. The charges included committing official misconduct, submitting a false report to law enforcement, harassment, tampering with public records and more. Fourteen of the criminal complaint charges, some of which were similar in wording and nature to the accepted complaints, were dismissed.
In the letter, it says that the charges, as well as Moriarty’s DWI case, will be sent to the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office for evaluation on how to proceed.
The complaints and Moriarty’s DWI charges were referred to the Municipal Division — which manages municipal court judges in Glocuester, Cumberland and Salem counties — and heard in Bridgeton to avoid a conflict of interest.
“I’ve said from day one that I did nothing wrong that day. I was minding my own business and I was hunted down by this police officer who fabricated this entire story,” Moriarty said Monday evening. “I think this latest action by the court supports the fact I’ve been telling the truth from day one. I would like this whole episode behind me so I can move on.”
Moriarty held a press conference last week, three days after filing the complaints, to screen the dashboard camera video from his arrest. Shown in his lawyer’s office in Cherry Hill, Moriarty and his lawyer, John Eastlack, said that the video clearly showed DiBuonaventura lied on his official police report about the arrest.
In the police report, DiBuonaventura wrote that he was patrolling on Route 42 northbound when Moriarty’s blue Nissan Murano cut him off when changing from the left to right lane before entering the Greentree Road jug handle. He said he smelled alcohol on Moriarty’s breath when he pulled him over, and then administered a field sobriety test before placing Moriarty under arrest for DWI. After being taken to the police station, Moriarty refused a breath test.
The dashboard camera video, however, shows that DiBuonaventura was parked on a grassy median on Route 42 facing south, and immediately pulled out when he saw Moriarty’s car — which has special legislative license plates— pass by. The video indicated the officer reached speeds of 80 miles per hour, going through a red light, to reach Moriarty. According to Eastlack, his lights and sirens were not yet activated.
The video also shows that by the time DiBuonaventura got within sight of his Nissan, Moriarty drove in the right lane the entire time, two cars ahead of DiBuonaventura. The officer caught up Moriarty in the jug handle, and pulled him over after they crossed over Route 42 and Moriarty turned left into the Chick-Fil-A parking lot.
In the video, Moriarty is shaken and insists he is nervous. He tells DiBuonaventura it feels like he’s “out to get him.”
While DiBuonaventura wrote in the report, dated July 31, that Moriarty cut him off on Route 42, in the video he tells Moriarty he cut him off “coming out of the jug handle.”
Moriarty has maintained he didn’t have a single drink that day, and noted he knew the officer was fired by the department for previously lying in an official internal affairs investigation. He said he was later reinstated by a court order.
“I knew he was lying about smelling alcohol on my breath because I hadn’t had anything to drink so I figured, ‘What am I getting myself into here?’” Moriarty said during the press conference.
“The law assumes the officer is operating legally and appropriately within the law and in this case I knew he wasn’t,” Moriarty said after the video was shown. “I was hunted down by this police officer who lied in the police report, lied in the summons he gave to me, lied to me, lied on tape and lied to his supervisors. I didn’t do anything wrong that day. I did nothing to be pulled over, I hadn’t had any alcohol and this officer lied.”
During the press conference, Eastlack claimed that DiBuonaventura was outside of the area he was scheduled to patrol because something “alerted him” and he was “lying in wait” for Moriarty. He wouldn’t elaborate on what or why.
According to one of the official misconduct complaints filed by Moriarty, DiBuonaventura wrote an additional police report dated Aug. 13 in which he said he “received information that [Moriarty] was ‘smashed’ when in the nissan [sic] dealership” located on Route 42. That complaint was dismissed, but another complaint stating DiBuonaventura falsely swore to “inconsistent” police reports for “initial report dated 7/31/12 & in supplementary report dated 8/13/12” was issued.
Eastlack said Moriarty did go for a private blood alcohol test after the incident, which showed no alcohol in his system. He didn’t specify the exact length of time or location of the test. While it was hours after the arrest, due to the lengthy arrest process and wait times, Eastlack claims if he had been drinking, at least a small amount would be registered by the blood test.
Washington Township Capt. Richard Leonard said that any criminal investigation against an officer is handled by the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, and since it’s a personnel issue, it would be inappropriate to comment.
A call to DiBuonaventura’s lawyer, Jacqueline Vigilante, after business hours on Monday evening was not immediately returned.