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Charges announced against N.J. state troopers in 'Death Race 2012'

By Chris Boyette, CNN
updated 11:31 PM EDT, Fri July 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New Jersey AG announces criminal charges against state troopers
  • Troopers were involved in unauthorized high speed police escort of sports cars
  • Incident dubbed "Death Race 2012" by local media in March

(CNN) -- The New Jersey Attorney General announced criminal charges Friday against state troopers involved in the unauthorized high-speed State Police escort of a caravan of high-performance sports cars dubbed "Death Race 2012" by local media in March.

Authorities allege Sgt. First Class Nadir Nassry, 47, and Trooper Joseph Ventrella, 28, led the caravan of exotic, high-speed sports cars down a state highway to Atlantic City without proper authorization and drove at unsafe speeds, endangering other motorists on March 30, 2012.

According to the Attorney General's office, the drivers of the cars were part of a sports car club that included former New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.

Before the high-velocity trip, prosecutors say, the troopers altered their license plates by using black electrical tape to change the numbers. Nassry is said to have instructed the other drivers in the caravan to "conceal or partially conceal their plates using tape or other means," according to a press release from the office of Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa

"No one is above the law, and the public expects and deserves a higher level of conduct from our state troopers, most of whom deliver admirably and professionally in that regard," Chiesa said. "The conduct alleged here jeopardized public safety and undermined the trust the public places in law enforcement and the State Police. Serious misconduct by any state trooper must be met with serious discipline and, where warranted and appropriate, criminal charges."

Ventrella's attorney could not be reached Friday, but Nassry's attorney, Charles J Sciarra said his client acknowledges running the escort was a bad idea, but that he refutes allegations he altered his license plate. He points to Nassry's 25 year service record as proof.

"Sgt. Nassry denies the charges, admits the escort was a mistake and has moved to retire as a result, and will fight these charges and for his well earned pension after an otherwise unblemished career."

For their alleged part in the license plate changes, Nassry was charged with third-degree tampering with public records or information and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records. Ventrella was charged with fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.

"The alleged actions of these two troopers in altering the license plates of their troop cars were clearly intended to conceal their involvement in conduct that they knew was wrong," said Chiesa.

State Police officials revealed new Standing Operating Procedure addressing escorts Friday too. The new procedure outlines when escorts are authorized and places an emphasis on public safety a statement said.

Authorities also announced disciplinary charges against four other troopers in connection with a similar State Police escort involving similar vehicles in 2010, and disciplinary charges against a trooper who improperly handled a speeding ticket issued to a member of a driving club in his Lamborghini in 2010.

The Attorney General's office said that while their investigation remains open, it is "unlikely" any of the sports car drivers will be charged with any crimes.

"Here is the real issue," Sciarra said. "My client denies he told anyone to tape their plates while some unknown number of affluent exotic car owners explained their taped plates by saying the trooper said to do it. Why are affluent exotic car owners' words given any more credence by this administration than a decorated public servant? The administration may not want to ask tough questions of affluent exotic car owners with who knows what kinds of connections, but we will."

Nassry and Ventrella have been suspended without pay since April 23. If convicted of the criminal charges, both troopers would lose their jobs and pensions, face large fines and possible jail time. Nassry faces 3-5 years in prison and Ventrella faces 18 months.

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