TRENTON - Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. has withdrawn from the probe into allegations that New Jersey state troopers sexually assaulted a college student.
The decision, announced last night by state Attorney General Anne Milgram, came after statements Bocchini made about the case in an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger published yesterday.
In the interview, Bocchini described the case as "a nightmare," involving multiple accounts of what happened, the presence of alcohol, no photos or tapes, and medical evidence that might show only that people had sex.
Milgram, who said she agreed with Bocchini that his comments were "inappropriate," said the case had been assigned to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. Middlesex County is adjacent to Mercer County, and Milgram noted that the prosecutor's office there has "an experienced sex crimes unit to take over the investigation."
In a letter sent to Milgram yesterday, Bocchini said his comments "could very well create a public perception that my office should not handle this investigation."
He added that while he believed his staff could handle the probe fairly, "I believe that in the best interest of this ongoing investigation that supersession is appropriate. Consequently, I am requesting that this investigation be superseded and assigned to another prosecuting authority."
Seven state troopers have been suspended with pay in connection with a woman's claim that she was sexually assaulted on Dec. 7.
The woman, a 25-year-old college student whose name has not been released, alleged she was assaulted by a group of men that included one or more off-duty troopers at the home of one of the troopers in Ewing Township.
She had met the men at a bar in Trenton.
A lawyer for one of the troopers has called the woman's claim "absurd" and said that any activities that took place at the home were consensual.
No charges have been filed.