Two state troopers have been suspended over allegations they provided an “unauthorized escort” to a group of sports cars -- including one driven by football star Brandon Jacobs -- driving at high speeds in New Jersey.
The convoy of cars, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and others, traveled at speeds in excess of 100 mph down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City last month, according to The Star-Ledger newspaper. They also traveled on the New Jersey Turnpike and Atlantic City Expressway.
The paper said witnesses had made complaints to police about the caravan -- which one witness dubbed "Death Race 2012" -- saying they saw patrol cars with emergency lights flashing at the front and rear of the sports cars.
The Star-Ledger also obtained amateur video footage of a caravan of luxury cars allegedly being escorted by state police at high speed on the Garden State Parkway in 2010. It is not known which officers were involved in this convoy.
Watch video of a 2010 convoy obtained by The Star-Ledger (video contains offensive language):
A statement released late Monday by the attorney general’s office said Sgt. First Class Nadir Nassry, 47, a trooper for 25 years, and Trooper Joseph Ventrella, 28, who has six years’ service, had been suspended without pay in relation to the incident last month.
An unnamed station commander was also transferred “until any potential involvement on his part has been determined,” the statement said.
“We will not tolerate any conduct by a member of the State Police that puts the public in jeopardy, as this unauthorized caravan had the potential to do,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said, according to the statement. “We are thoroughly investigating this incident, and those responsible will face serious discipline."
Lt. Stephen Jones, a spokesman for the state police, said investigators would be looking to see if there were any incidents in addition to the one last month and the one in 2010.
“You better believe they are looking hard to see if there are any more; they are certainly checking that,” he told msnbc.com.
Charles Sciarra, an attorney representing Nassry, said in an email that state police officials had canceled a scheduled interview with his client and "simply suspended him without pay."
"This change of course was taken only after tabloid-like headlines appeared on the cover of Star Ledger over the last two days. The headlines scream 'Death Race 2012' when in fact these charitable organizations routinely ask and receive escorts from the State Police to and from the various charitable functions they attend with their exotic vehicles," Sciarra said. "This practice has been in effect for years."
He added that "allegations of recklessness and speeds in the triple digits will not bear out" regarding the escort in question.
"We hope that the powers that be will take a breath, exhale and engage in a fair investigative process with which we will continue to cooperate. Either way, we will not permit Sgt. Nassry to be sacrificed to satisfy a public-relations agenda," Sciarra said.
Jacobs’ agent, Justin Schulman, confirmed that his client, who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, went to Atlantic City on the day in question, March 30.
But, he said, "Brandon wasn't aware the escort was authorized or unauthorized."
The Star-Ledger reported that Michael Breen, a founding member of an elite New York City group of sports car enthusiasts called Driving Force Club, wrote on Facebook about a “very fun” run with Jacobs. He appeared in a photo with Jacobs, who was wearing a blue vest with a New Jersey State Police emblem, The Star-Ledger found.
The paper quoted Gov. Chris Christie as saying he “just shook my head” when he heard about the allegations.
"What are you going to do? It’s a completely ridiculous story. Shouldn’t have happened. Dumb thing to do, but let me assure you it’s not the last dumb thing we’ll see happen," Christie told a crowd at a bill-signing event in Newark.
"People are human beings," he added. "They make mistakes. Those people who made this mistake should be held accountable, and I’m sure they will. And I’m glad nobody got hurt."
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