Motor vehicle summonses against Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty (D., Gloucester) have been dropped, the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office announced Tuesday, citing misconduct charges now leveled against the officer who stopped him.
Moriarty was pulled over July 31, 2012, by Washington Township Patrolman Joseph DiBuonaventura, allegedly after the officer saw Moriarty make an illegal lane change.
A review of the video from the recorder on DiBuonaventura's car showed no such change, Gloucester County First Assistant Prosecutor Michael S. Curwin told Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson, asking that the charges be dismissed.
The judge granted the motion to drop the three charges stemming from that traffic stop: driving while intoxicated, refusal to submit to a chemical test, and driving on marked lanes.
Under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine upheld by the state Supreme Court in its Nov. 10, 2005, State v. Badessa decision, Curwin said, evidence gathered during an illegal stop is inadmissible if it springs directly from the illegal conduct.
In Moriarty's case, Curwin said, no one disputed that the assemblyman refused a chemical breath test, though licensed driving in New Jersey implies consent to the test. However, Curwin said, the refusal to take the test, as well as the charges of drunken driving and driving on marked lanes, were due entirely to the allegedly unlawful traffic stop.
DiBuonaventura was indicted this month on charges of tampering with records, falsifying records, and official misconduct, stemming from his arrest of Moriarty. Earlier, on Nov. 26, he was suspended without pay following a disciplinary hearing.
Because the county is pursuing a case charging DiBuonaventura with illegal conduct in the traffic stop, Curwin said, the motor vehicle charges against Moriarty count as the "direct fruit" of the "poisonous tree."
Describing his reaction as "thankful and relieved," Moriarty said he hoped to put the case behind him.
"The sad part is, even though he's been indicted on 14 criminal charges, and even though all the charges have been dropped . . . there will still be a few people who wonder if something happened that day," Moriarty said Tuesday.
"This officer . . . at the end of the day, he violated my civil rights. So, today's a good day; I don't want to dwell on the past."
Neither DiBuonaventura nor the firm that represents him, Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, could be reached Tuesday evening.