March 25, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a New Jersey state trooper was indicted today for allegedly stalking a female motorist in his patrol vehicle while on duty.
The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Trooper Michael Patterson, 29, of Bayonne, N.J., with the following offenses:
- Official Misconduct (2nd Degree)
- Stalking (4th degree)
- Tampering with Public Records (4th degree)
The New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards initially investigated this matter and referred it to the OPIA Corruption Bureau.
The investigation revealed that on January 28, 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 allegedly conducted a second, unwarranted stop of her vehicle a few minutes later when she exited the Turnpike at Exit 11.
Patterson allegedly conducted the second motor vehicle stop in order to make advances on the woman. Patterson allegedly disabled the Digital In-Vehicle Recorder (DIVR) in his vehicle to prevent his conduct from being recorded during this second stop. It is further alleged that Patterson subsequently put the victim in fear by following her to her home in his patrol vehicle.
“The New Jersey State Police maintain the highest standards of conduct for their state troopers, standards which the vast majority uphold as faithful and honorable guardians of the public,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Trooper Patterson allegedly violated those standards and the law, using his authority not to act as a guardian, but to put a female motorist in fear. This indictment reflects our resolve to hold officers accountable if they betray the public’s trust with this type of conduct.”
“One of the primary missions of OPIA is to root out official misconduct that undermines faith in law enforcement and government,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “This is not the first time we have encountered conduct of the type alleged in this indictment involving a law enforcement officer, but we hope that our criminal prosecutions will deter such conduct going forward.”
“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 Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The alleged 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.”
Second-degree official misconduct carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of five years parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $150,000. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The fourth-degree charge of tampering with public records carries a mandatory minimum term of one year of parole ineligibility.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Deputy Attorneys General Adam Gerken and Jonathan Gilmore are prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione. Attorney General Grewal thanked the New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards for their investigation and referral.
Defense Attorney: Jeffrey Ziegelheim, Esq., Dvorak & Associates LLC, Metuchen, N.J.