Washington Township last week released to Patch Media Corp. police dashboard-camera videos that include the July 31, 2012, arrest of state Assemblyman Paul Moriarty on drunken-driving charges.
The Gloucester County municipality also released documents that reveal it was a call from a Washington Township police officer's cousin to the officer's personal cell phone that apparently set in motion the events that led to Moriarty's arrest.
Police documents also show the officer's relative indicated during a follow-up interview conducted nearly two months after Moriarty's arrest that he could not recall telling his cousin the assemblyman appeared to be drunk when he saw him.
Washington Township Police Det. Martin Calvello received information from his cousin, Ernie Calvello, the afternoon of July 31 indicating Moriarty was possibly drunk at the Turnersville Nissan dealership. Ernie Calvello is identified in police reports as a sales manager at the Black Horse Pike auto dealership.
"Ernest Calvello informed me Mr. Moriarty was inside the dealership causing a problem with a salesperson and was possibly under the influence of alcohol," Det. Calvello wrote in his supplementary report of Sept. 18.
Det. Calvello's report notes his cousin called him back a short time later to inform him Moriarty—the Democratic Fourth District assemblyman and former Washington Township mayor—had left the dealership "without further incident."
Det. Lisa Frattali's supplementary report indicates she overheard Calvello's phone conversation and "jokingly" relayed to Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura, whom she says she contacted to discuss another investigation, that she heard her colleague "talking to someone on the phone about Moriarty being drunk at Nissan."
It was DiBuonaventura who pulled over Moriarty's blue 2009 Nissan Murano in the Black Horse Pike Chick-fil-A parking lot on July 31. The officer claims he was "cut off" by Moriarty while traveling in the right lane of northbound Route 42 at approximately 3:53 p.m.
"After a minute or two I went back outside and contacted Ofc. DiBuonaventura again and advised him that I had limited information and only overheard that one thing from Det. Calvello and that I didn't know what was going on," Frattali's report states. "At no time did I instruct Ofc. DiBuonaventura to go to Nissan to investigate anything."
DiBuonaventura apparently took the conversation as instruction to find Moriarty, according to Fratalli's report.
"On 08/07/12 I received a phone call from Ofc. DiBuonaventura asking me to complete a supplemental report regarding our phone conversation of 07/31/12 and that I had sent him up to Nissan to investigate Mr. Moriarty being under the influence," the report states.
According to Det. Timothy Breen's synopsis of his Sept. 20 interview of Ernie Calvello, the Nissan sales manager's repeated response to questions about whether he had told his cousin Moriarty was drunk or had been drinking and about whether his boss had told him Moriarty was drunk or had been drinking was, "not to my recollection."
Det. Calvello's Sept. 18 supplementary report notes he contacted his cousin at DiBuonaventura's request the night of July 31 and was informed that "his superiors (at Turnersville Nissan) informed him and his co-workers not to provide any statements at this time."
DiBuonaventura claims in a supplementary investigation report that Ernie Calvello told him on Aug. 13 that his boss indicated to him that Moriarty was "smashed."
Calvello's boss, John Lasala, had left to take a job at a Nissan dealership in Exton, PA, by mid-August. Lasala told Breen on Sept. 19 "he could not ascertain whether or not Moriarty was intoxicated but repeated that there was alcohol on his breath."
Investigation turns to the arresting officer
On Aug. 15, superior officers told DiBuonaventura to stop investigating the Moriarty case, as he had become the focus of an internal affairs probe.
Moriarty signed 27 complaints against DiBuonaventura on Oct. 16, 2012. A municipal court judge ruled the next week there was probable cause on 13 of those complaints, including allegations of official misconduct and multiple counts of filing false reports, falsifying reports, and false swearing.
"I feel like you're out to get me or something," the assemblyman told DiBuonaventura as he was being put through field sobriety tests in the Chick-fil-A parking lot.
"Why would I be out to get you?" DiBuonaventura responded.
While at the police station, Moriarty told police on at least two occasions he did not want to take the blood-alcohol test because he had used an antiseptic throat spray earlier in the day, according to Cpl. Nick Myers' supplementary investigation report.
The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office is currently reviewing both the complaints signed by Moriarty against DiBuonavetura, who is suspended without pay, and Moriarty's DWI case.
Moriarty shared a portion of the dashboard camera video with media on Oct. 19 shortly after he and his attorney, John Eastlack Jr., received copies from Washington Township. Gloucester Township Patch was not invited to the press conference at which Moriarty disclosed the video.
The media outlet initially filed an Open Public Records Act request for video from Moriarty's arrest on July 31, hours after the legislator was taken into police custody in the Black Horse Pike Chick-fil-A parking lot. The township denied the request, prompting Patch to sue for the release of the video and other records sought in the initial OPRA request.
On Dec. 14, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Georgia M. Curio ruled in favor of Patch.
“This is a situation of public concern. The individual who was stopped and is the subject of the dashboard video and the reports is an elected official currently,” said Curio, the assignment judge for the court district covering Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. “Obviously, the conduct of a public employee, a police officer, is of concern and interest to the public. When we view that against the backdrop of the stated purpose of OPRA and furthering an informed public, clearly the public interest would be served by granting access."