CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, N.J. - New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee - acquitted on the most serious charges involving a 2006 collision that killed two teenage sisters - was ordered this morning to pay $728 in fines after pleading guilty other motor vehicle vioaltions in the case.
Higbee, 37, of Somers Point, was charged in the Sept. 2, 2006 deaths of Jacqueline Becker, 17, and Christina Becker 19, after he ran a stop sign at the intersection of Stagecoach and Tuckahoe Roads in the Marmora section of Upper Township while chasing a speeder.
A jury on Monday found Higbee not guilty on the most serious charges he faced oin the case: a double count of vehicular homicide, for which he could have spent 20 years in prison.
He had also been charged with careless driving and failing to stop or yield at the stop sign. The court agreed yesterday to downgrade the careless driving charge down to a charge of unsafe driving for which Higbee was ordered by Judge Raymond Batten a $150 fine, a $250 insurance surcharge and court costs of $39. On the failure to stop charge, Higbee was ordered to pay a $250 fine and $39 in court costs.
Batten indicated that while it had been at his discretion whether to impose a county jail sentence of up to 30 days and a requirement for Higbee to perform community service, he said he saw no "public utility" in imposing such punishment.
"That verdict speaks powerfully to this court," Batten saud, referring to Higbee's acquittal on the double homicide counts. "This court finds itself in the position to arcticulate that any term of incarceration in the county jail would yield no additional public utility in this matter."
Batten called Higbee a "good person engaged in a lifetime of usefulness and doing good deeds" and deciding on jail time or imposing a requirement for community service would have "violated the spirit" of the sentencing guidelines and of the jury verdict.
Cape May County First Assistant Prosecutor David Meyer said he did not object to Batten's finding.
It is unclear whether Higbee's guilty plea on the two motor violations will have any bearing on his attempt to get his job back as a state trooper. Higbee must undergo an internal investigation and review, as well as complete a series of retraining requirements, before he can be reinstated, a state police spokesman said.