A New Jersey state trooper from Bayonne pleaded guilty to a fourth degree crime related to stalking a woman while on duty after getting indicted on charges that included official misconduct in March, Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Michael Patterson, 30, pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of fourth-degree tampering with public records before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Andrea Carter.
“We are committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable when they abuse their positions of trust. The New Jersey State Police expect the highest standards of conduct from their troopers, and the vast majority meet those standards each and every day,” Bruck said in a statement.
“We owe it to the troopers, and to the public at large, to take strong action when individual officers betray those standards and engage in criminal conduct.”
In pleading guilty, Patterson admitted that he purposely disabled the Digital In-Vehicle Recorder (DIVR) in his troop car to prevent it from capturing a motor vehicle stop he conducted so that he could make advances on the female motorist during the incident in question.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Patterson be sentenced to 12 months in state prison without possibility of parole.
Additionally, he must forfeit his position as a state trooper and will be permanently barred from public employment and his sentencing is scheduled for October 18th.
Deputy Attorneys General Adam Gerken and Jonathan Gilmore represented the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) at the plea hearing.
The New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards initially investigated the case and referred it to the OPIA Corruption Bureau.
“One of the primary missions of OPIA is to root out official misconduct that undermines faith in law enforcement and government,” added OPIA Director Thomas Eicher.
“This is not the first time we have encountered this type of conduct involving a law enforcement officer, but we hope that our criminal prosecutions will deter such conduct going forward.”
On January 28th, 2020, Trooper Patterson conducted a motor vehicle stop of a female motorist on the New Jersey Turnpike at approximately 9:30 p.m. Patterson let the woman go with a warning, but he conducted a second, unwarranted stop of her vehicle a few minutes later when she exited the Turnpike at Exit 11 in order to make advances on her.
Patterson disabled the DIVR in his vehicle to prevent his conduct from being recorded during this stop. The investigation revealed that Patterson subsequently put the victim in fear by following her to her home in his patrol vehicle.
“The New Jersey State Police holds its troopers to the highest level of professional standards of any law enforcement agency in the country through a robust system of checks and balances that is designed to not only hold its members accountable, but to serve as a tool to provide training and counseling through early intervention,” noted NJSP Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan.
“The conduct revealed in this investigation stands in stark contrast to the core values of the New Jersey State Police and is a betrayal to the public and to the entire law enforcement community.”
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption.