A former New Jersey state trooper from Bayonne has been sentenced to one year in prison for unlawfully stopping and then stalking a woman in his vehicle while on duty, Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew Bruck announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Michael Patterson, 30, of Bayonne, was sentenced yesterday to 12 months in state prison without possibility of parole by Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Andrea Carter, Bruck said in a statement.
Patterson pleaded guilty to a charge of fourth-degree tampering with public records on August 17th. As a result of his guilty plea, Patterson forfeited his position as a state trooper and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
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.
“We are committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable when they abuse their positions of trust,” Bruck said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
Deputy Attorneys General Adam Gerken and Jonathan Gilmore represented the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) at the sentencing hearing.
The New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards initially investigated the case and referred it to the OPIA Corruption Bureau.
On January 2th8, 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.
“One of the primary missions of OPIA is to root out official misconduct that undermines faith in law enforcement and government,” said OPIA Executive 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.”
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The Attorney General’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. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
“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,” said 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.”