A New Jersey state trooper donned latex gloves and reached inside a young man's underwear as the two stood on the shoulder of a heavily traveled Burlington County highway after a motor vehicle stop last year, according to court documents and police dashboard and body cam video obtained through a recent open public records request.
In the videos, Trooper Joseph Drew is first shown stopping a motorist in rural Southampton for tailgating. When he approached the car, the trooper said he smelled marijuana and ordered the driver to hand it over. When the 23-year-old driver said he did not have any drugs, the trooper ordered him and his passenger out of the car, placed the two men in handcuffs, and searched the vehicle. The trooper also checked the driver's pockets and socks, and found no drugs. According to the video footage, he then says, "If you think this is the worst I'm going to do, you have another thing coming, my friend."
A few minutes later, he is seen putting his gloved hands down the man's pants. In the disturbing footage, the driver is seen and heard screaming that he is being raped as the trooper reaches into his underwear and touches his crotch and buttocks. At one point, the man tells the trooper, "You better hope this is legal."
During the search, which lasted nearly four minutes, trucks and cars passed by.
The man, whose name is being withheld by the Inquirer and Daily News because the newspapers do not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults without their permission, later said in an affidavit that the trooper "groped my genitalia and moved my private parts around," and touched the crack of his buttocks. "It was the most humiliating experience I've ever been through, also due to the fact that people were driving by very slowly," he said.
The videos were obtained by John Paff, who runs the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. He frequently requests court documents and police videos and posts them on his website, NJ Open Government Notes. The videos include footage from the dashboard and body cameras of the trooper and his backup, Trooper Andrew Whitmore.
Lt. Theodore Schafer, a state police spokesman, said the agency has launched an internal affairs investigation into the traffic stop, which occurred on March 8, 2017. The troopers are still on active patrol pending the results of the probe, Schafer said. He said the troopers have been with the state police about three years.
Schafer said the incident came to the attention of the state police in late January, when the motorist filed a tort claim – or notice of intent to sue – contending that his civil rights were violated during the roadside search.
Arthur Lang, a Lakewood attorney, filed the tort claim in Superior Court in Burlington County, asking a judge to waive governmental immunity and allow the motorist to sue the state police, the two troopers on the scene, and a desk sergeant who he said approved the roadside search against his client. Lang is seeking court permission to pursue the case even though the 90-day filing deadline has passed.
The tort claim says the state police delayed providing the dash-cam videos and other materials surrounding the motor vehicle stop. It also says the trooper "violated the attorney general's strip search and body cavity search requirements and procedures," which were put in place in 1993 and then updated in 1995.
Lang said he may later file a claim in federal court. He declined further comment.
The state Attorney General's Office did not respond immediately to requests for information on the state's policy on strip searches and body searches. The state police spokesman said his agency needed more time to get the information.
The motorist could not be reached. While in handcuffs, he told the trooper that he was on his way back to work that afternoon as a drywall installer and asked the trooper to hurry with the search of the vehicle so he could get there on time.
When the trooper said he planned to take him to the station for a body search, the man asked if he was being charged and whether such a search was legal. He said that if he had no choice about the search, he wanted it to be conducted in front of the dashboard camera.