Moriarty suit against Washington Twp. police dismissed

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Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty sued the Washington Township Police Department.

A federal judge has rejected Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty's contention that certain failures by his hometown police department played a role in the violation of his civil rights when he was arrested in 2012 on drunken driving charges that were later dropped.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle ruled in favor of the Washington Township Police Department's motion to dismiss the claims against it - including the suggestion that the Gloucester County department had failed to adequately train, supervise, and discipline Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura.

"There are no facts to suggest that the [department's] training on probable cause during traffic stops was inadequate," Simandle's March 30 memorandum reads in part. "Nor are there any facts to suggest that DiBuonaventura's unlawful traffic stop in this case was the result of a lack of training, as opposed to DiBuonaventura's individual actions."

The judge also dismissed claims against DiBuonaventura in his official capacity, but he did not opine on the "viability of the claims" against DiBuonaventura in his "individual capacity."

William C. Popjoy III, Moriarty's attorney, said he expected the partial dismissal, noting, "Certainly, the federal court is recognizing our ability to go after Officer DiBuonaventura directly."

Moriarty (D., Gloucester) sued DiBuonaventura and the department last year over his traffic stop and arrest in the township on the afternoon of July 31, 2012.

DiBuonaventura - after hearing a rumor from a colleague that Moriarty, a former township mayor, may have been drunk at a Nissan dealership - stopped the assemblyman shortly after Moriarty left the auto mall on the Black Horse Pike, according to police records and court testimony.

The officer conducted field sobriety tests before arresting Moriarty. After declining to submit to a breath test because of what he later said was a lack of trust in the system, Moriarty was charged with refusal to submit to the test, DUI, and failure to maintain a lane.

After video footage from the police cruiser appeared to counter the officer's narrative, prosecutors dropped the charges against Moriarty, who has maintained he was not drinking. DiBuonaventura, however, was charged with falsifying reports, official misconduct, and other offenses. A jury in early March found DiBuonaventura not guilty on all 14 counts.

Moriarty's civil suit claimed that DiBuonaventura had a "pattern and practice" of stopping vehicles without probable cause and that the police department knew it.

Popjoy said it would be difficult to prove officials knew the "kind of police officer" DiBuonaventura was. He said he did not believe "Washington Township had a lot of police officers doing this."

"Sometimes you don't know the full facts . . . until you can take some discovery," he added.

Vanessa E. James, a lawyer with the firm Barker, Gelfand & James, which represented the police department, confirmed the dismissal of the complaint against her client but did not offer further comment.

The department still is considering administrative charges against DiBuonaventura.

The traffic stop nearly three years ago prompted Moriarty to call for legislation requiring new police cars in the state to be equipped with video-recording devices - a measure signed into law in 2014.


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