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Patch Sues Washington Twp. for Access to Moriarty Arrest Video

Gloucester Township Patch's parent company wants to force Washington Township Police to turn over the footage of the assemblyman's July 31 arrest.

Patch Media Corporation has filed suit in state Superior Court to force Washington Township to release police dashboard camera footage of state Assemblyman Paul Moriarty’s arrest.

The complaint, filed Friday in Woodbury, accuses Washington Township (Gloucester County), its police records custodian and its solicitor of violating New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, which makes official documents and materials open for public inspection. Moriarty, a Democratic 4th District state assemblyman, was arrested in Washington Township on July 31 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Patch Media filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gloucester Township Patch, whose editors have attempted to access the footage since shortly after Moriarty’s arrest. The suit names as defendants Washington Township; Capt. Richard Leonard, records custodian for the Washington Township Police Department; and John Armano, Washington Township solicitor. (Click on the PDF, right, to read the complaint.)

Moriarty’s high-profile arrest quickly became a case of he said, he said. Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura said Moriarty cut him off on the Black Horse Pike, displaying signs of intoxicated driving. Moriarty submitted to a field sobriety test, but refused to provide a breath sample at the police station.

The assemblyman said he hadn’t consumed alcohol that day and insisted “… this entire episode was an abuse of power.”

Given the divergent accounts, Gloucester Township Patch attempted to access DiBuonaventura’s dashboard camera footage immediately after the arrest. Sean McCullen, Gloucester Township Patch’s editor, first filed an open public records request with the police department on July 31. Police records custodian Leonard rejected the request one week later “because the records you seek are of an investigation in progress and therefore exempt,” the denial letter to McCullen states.

In follow-up requests, Tim Zatzariny Jr., Patch regional editor, argued that the tape’s release was in the public’s interest. Those requests were also denied, with solicitor Armano citing an ongoing investigation and maintaining that “any release could compromise that investigation.”

None of the denials received by Gloucester Township Patch denied the existence of the dashboard footage.

Patch’s complaint asks a judge to compel Washington Township to release any video and to declare that record request denials violated New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act and the laws of right access.

Armano had not received the complaint as of Monday and declined to comment.

Moriarty is awaiting trial on the driving while intoxicated charge. The case was moved to Cumberland County and has been delayed twice. He is scheduled to appear in Bridgeton Municipal Court Nov. 8.

Kimberly Post-Wagner September 26, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Kudos!! To the "Patch" for pursuing all parties involved & holding them accountable. After all, underneath the suits & the badges they are just like you & me. I hope this all plays out with "the truth and nothing but the truth......". You definitely have my support. Keep us posted!!
jazzman September 30, 2012 at 01:46 PM
So why do people refuse the breathlizer,6months loss of license just for that, then we have the 3-6 months for driving while impaired,ok we need to see the video to educate the public as to who`s on our roadways driving right at us either returning home from the movies or just stepping out to get a gallon of milk,"Suspicion while driving intoxicated"? not taking the breathlizer was a good move but I`m sure that video will remove all doult...its funny.... if he had killed someone they would have then taken his blood for the results...there really should be no refusal option!
Paul J. DiBartolo September 30, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Whoa, so anytime you're stopped and required to submit to an unlawful search or accused of drunk driving, you believe that the impetus is on you to prove your innocence? Law enforcement is above reproach, right? They would never break the law, only we peons would participate in such lowly activities. Why would anyone refuse a breathalyzer test? Gee, why would anyone refuse to be virtually strip-searched to fly on an airplane? If you don't know the answer I don't think I can help you. I was stopped by an officer who saw me adjusting my seat-belt and was informed that I was not wearing a seat-belt and that he had observed me just putting it on. Sez who? Maybe this officer should be less concerned about whether I wear my seat-belt and spend more of his time apprehending some real criminals. Frankly, I'm very interested in the outcome of this case and would like to know what actually transpired not what 'he said' or 'she said.' I wonder if the truth will ever be forthcoming?
jazzman October 01, 2012 at 02:01 PM
my guess after reading yours comments is that the officer pulled you over because he ran your plate,that includes driver history and it came back with a few DUI`s,So he pulled you over with the probable cause seat belt violation,its the new thing!
Paul J. DiBartolo October 01, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Nice try, jazzman. So, how many DUI's do you have?

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