A love affair between a New Jersey judge and her boyfriend potentially turned criminal when she allowed the drug-addicted beau to pick up his clothes at her house after learning he was wanted in the crowbar-aided robbery of a pharmacist, the Appellate Division of Superior Court decided this week.
Her action did not amount to official misconduct, the panel of three judges concluded in dismissing that more serious charge. It did, however, uphold two counts of hindering apprehension, saying a state grand jury reasonably rejected Superior Court Judge Carlia Brady’s defense that she did the right thing by calling police when Jason Prontnicki returned her car, which she had reported stolen. Brady has been suspended from her judicial position in Middlesex County.
“In affirming dismissal of the official misconduct count, we do not condone in any way defendant’s alleged conduct, nor does it relieve defendant of the potential serious consequences if convicted of the crime of hindering. The court has repeatedly exercised its power to discipline judges for their conduct, criminal or unethical, official or otherwise,” according to the appellate decision.
Brady and Prontnicki started dating in late 2012 and Prontnicki moved into her Woodbridge home in March 2013. On April 5, she was sworn in as a Superior Court judge.
Unknown to Brady was that later that month, a warrant was issued for Prontnicki’s arrest. He was charged with robbery and unlawful possession of a weapon.
On June 10, 2013, while Brady was on vacation, her car disappeared, and she thought it might have been stolen. Her boyfriend first told her he had lent it to his brother and later said it was actually lent to a friend, according to court records. She told him he had until 10 a.m. to get the car back or she would report it stolen. And that’s what she did, but that’s also when she found out Prontnicki was wanted in the robbery of an Old Bridge pharmacy.
According to court records, police told her she had an obligation, as an officer of the court, to let them know Prontnicki’s whereabouts or whether he had returned to their home. While at the police station, she suggested that Prontnicki could be at her house, offered officers her house keys, and suggested that they use surveillance to catch him because she was concerned for her safety, records show.
That day, about 12:30 p.m., Brady sent text messages to friends that said police told her about the robbery. “I can’t have [Prontnicki] in my house [because] I [would] now be harboring a criminal,” she texted. “I would have to report him.”
Then Prontnicki called her. He had her car.
At 1:37 p.m., she texted a friend, “I told him he can’t stay with me [because] he has a warrant out for his arrest and I am required to notify authorities when I know someone has a warrant. So I told him he must leave after he drops the car off as I must go to the police.”
It’s unclear in court records what time Prontnicki dropped off the car. The two talked for about an hour while he was there, as was Brady’s father, records show. He was offered cab money to get back to his brother’s house, but he declined, records show. About 4:30 p.m., Brady called Woodbridge police and left a voicemail for an officer she had spoken to earlier, saying that her boyfriend “just” returned her car, and that he was still in Woodbridge. She asked the officer to call her back. She claims in court documents that she told the officer that Prontnicki was staying with his brother, and gave them the location.
At 9:30 p.m., police saw the car in Brady’s driveway and knocked on the door. No one answered, according to court records.
The next day, Prontnicki, who at the time denied he was involved with the robbery, made arrangements to pick up his clothing from Brady at a time she would be home. He told her, according to court records, that he would surrender to police with an attorney. Brady called police again at 3:30 p.m. and left another voicemail, but did not disclose that Prontnicki was coming to the house.
Police were watching when Prontnicki arrived with his brother about 3:40 p.m., staying about an hour before he and his brother left. He was then arrested, as was the judge.
Prosecutors alleged that Brady did not call police when Prontnicki was at her home because she would have been embarrassed to have him arrested there.
The decision clears the way to prosecute her for hindering apprehension.
Last year, Prontnicki pleaded guilty to robbery and told the judge he was addicted to drugs at the time. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to NJ.com.