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Corzine asks for seat-belt fine, gets it

The state police commander issued it during a visit to Princeton. Corzine immediately sent off a $46 check.

Gov. Corzine
Gov. CorzineRead more

Gov. Corzine officially requested a citation yesterday for not wearing a seat belt in the crash that left him critically injured, and state police complied, with Superintendent Col. Joseph "Rick" Fuentes personally issuing the $46 ticket.

A Corzine spokesman said that Fuentes, Attorney General Stuart Rabner, and two state police investigators went to Drumthwacket, the governor's official residence in Princeton, to interview him yesterday afternoon about the accident.

At the end of the roughly half-hour meeting, Corzine - who on Monday made a teary public apology as he was released from Cooper University Hospital in Camden for not buckling up - asked Fuentes for the summons.

"The colonel gave him one," Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said.

Coley said Corzine had written a $46 check and sent it overnight to the municipal court in Galloway Township, Atlantic County, where the high-speed crash happened April 12 on the Garden State Parkway.

That was where Larry Angel, a self-described gadfly from Mullica Township, lodged a complaint last week against the governor for not buckling up. But after hearing Corzine's emotional apology on Monday, Angel withdrew the complaint yesterday, saying the governor "seemed to own his mistake."

When Angel learned the governor later asked to be ticketed, he said he was "sincerely pleased."

"It's the right thing to do politically, if not morally and ethically, to demonstrate that in the eyes of the law, we're all treated the same," Angel said.

Aides have said the governor, who vowed to set a good example after setting such a bad one, also planned to launch some sort of campaign to promote seat-belt use, likely involving public service announcements.

The accident has made him an unwitting poster child for the importance of driving safely.

Corzine's SUV was going 91 m.p.h., emergency lights flashing, when it was clipped by another truck and slammed into a guardrail.

The SUV driver, Trooper Robert Rasinski, was wearing his seat belt and suffered minor injuries. So did Corzine's personal assistant, who was also unbelted, but who did not break any law because only front-seat passengers are required to wear seat belts in New Jersey.

Corzine, who was in the front passenger seat, was thrown around inside the vehicle and ended up snapping his left thighbone and fracturing 11 ribs, his breastbone, collarbone and a vertebra.

He was taken by helicopter to Cooper, where he stayed 18 days, including more than a week on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Senate President Richard J. Codey has been serving as acting governor, which he will do until Corzine is ready to go back to work, Coley said.

Yesterday was Corzine's first full day out of the hospital, and he spent about three hours doing physical therapy at Drumthwacket, which is being outfitted to help him with his rehabilitation.

About 3 p.m., he met with Fuentes, Rabner, and the two state police investigators, who asked the governor about the crash for the first time.

Coley said Corzine "answered their questions to the best of his abilities. He remembered some details, not all of them."

Coley would not discuss what Corzine could remember, saying "all that will be a part of the final report by state police, I would imagine."

A state police board that reviews all accidents involving troopers at the wheel will examine the circumstances of the crash to determine whether Rasinski was driving appropriately. If it is determined he wasn't, he could be disciplined.

Rabner has also convened a separate independent advisory group to review the practices of the Executive Protection Unit, the elite corps Rasinski belongs to that protects and transports the governor.