Tuckerton Cpl. Cherry’s Attorney Calls to Dismiss All Charges in Disciplinary Hearing

Sep 11, 2019

In a surprise to most of the people in Tuckerton’s municipal courtroom, the third day of Tuckerton Police Cpl. Justin Cherry’s disciplinary hearing, scheduled for Sept. 6, ended in the first few minutes as Cherry’s attorney, Tracey Riley, verbally sparred with hearing officer Bonnie Peterson.

Cherry has been suspended without pay since April 2014. On the first day of the hearing, Aug. 21, Tuckerton Police Chief Brian Olsen brought 15 charges of official misconduct against Cherry stemming from a Jan. 29, 2014, incident involving a pursuit of Wendy Tucker from Tuckerton through other police jurisdictions to end in Barnegat, where he released his K-9 officer Gunner on the suspect.

Cherry is still a police officer in Tuckerton and wants his suspension lifted and back pay that may have accumulated to an estimated $400,000. He was exonerated of all criminal charges on May 2 of this year, when the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office failed to make its case of assault stemming from the incident. On the second day of testimony in the hearing, over 50 members of the Police Benevolent Association showed up in support of Cherry. This third day started an hour late after Tuckerton’s attorney, Ian Goldman, was held up in another court matter.

But it started with a fight and ended on the same contentious note. First, Riley wanted email discussions between herself and Goldman entered as exhibits. According to Riley, the emails were concerning Tuckerton’s decision not to have Cherry testify. Earlier that morning, Goldman said Cherry could testify, but he was not going to call him.

Peterson said none of the email communications between lawyers were part of the record and she was not going to start admitting them as neither lawyer was a witness in the case.

Riley then asked Goldman if he had served subpoenas to three people she had requested at the end of the last session, Friday, Aug. 30. These were for Tuckerton Administrator Jenny Gleghorn, Tuckerton Police Sgt. Chris Anderson and Cpl. John Sanzari.

Riley said his office had neglected to serve subpoenas and he apologized, but said Gleghorn and Sanzari were in the building, and he knew Anderson could not appear as he had a conflict.

“This is the first time I am being told that Anderson will not appear, and I understand Sanzari has his own issues with Tuckerton,” said Riley. Riley stated that Sanzari should have had time to talk with his own lawyer before testifying in Cherry’s hearing.

Sanzari was the officer of the day on the night of the incident and suggested that Cherry call off his pursuit when Tucker and Cherry left borough jurisdiction and Tucker was only facing a ticket for driving with a suspended license. Cherry contends that Tucker was driving in a manner dangerous to the public and was eluding an officer.

Peterson said Sanzari’s testimony could be carried to another date so he could talk to his attorney if he wanted. Peterson added that she had no knowledge of Sanzari’s issue (a lawsuit) with Tuckerton.

Riley then said, “It’s crystal clear that this is going to proceed to Superior Court,” and she announced, “I’m not prepared to proceed today as I am making a formal motion to dismiss these charges.”

Riley then claimed Peterson had received a secret message of some sort from Gleghorn during the last session of the hearing. “A cell phone was handed to you by Gleghorn, and we need to know what that was about.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Peterson.

“It’s an ex parte communication,” Riley charged.

“It never happened,” said Peterson.

“I’m an officer of the court, and I saw what I saw,” said Riley. “Some of the officers (PBA members who are in support of Cherry) who were there remember it, Let’s ask them.”

“I’m not going to ask members of the audience, and it’s not relevant,” said an increasingly irritated Peterson.

“I will not be moving forward today,” said Riley. “I intend to file a formal written motion to dismiss the charges.”

“I wish you would have let us know before we called this hearing,” said Peterson.

“I didn’t know until this morning that the state was resting (not calling any more witnesses),” said Riley.

Editor’s note: At the end of the Aug. 30 hearing, Goldman had stated that he was finished calling witnesses and had rested his case, as the SandPaper reported.

“You know at some point you could have had your motion to dismiss prepared,” said Peterson. “You’re a defense attorney; you should have known that at some point he was going to rest his case.”

“Don’t you tell me I’m not prepared, I’ve had 4½ years to prepare,” retorted Riley, referring to Cherry’s criminal case.

As Peterson attempted to adjourn the hearing and instructed the court reporter to “go off the record,” Riley argued that the court reporter should be recording her motion.

Peterson said the attorney should prepare her formal written motion. Peterson would then read it and determine the next course of action. Future dates in Tuckerton municipal court were canceled until further notice.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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