Two New Jersey state troopers face criminal charges and disciplinary action for their roles in the high-speed escort of caravans of luxury cars, including a 100 mph trip down the Garden State Parkway in March that alarmed other motorists, state officials said.
Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry, a 25-year-veteran of the State Police, and trooper Joseph Ventrella, 28, were suspended in April without pay after the incident in March. Nassry allegedly ordered Ventrella to help with the caravan.
The escort down the Garden State Parkway at speeds believed at times to be in excess of 100 mph made national headlines after one motorist who was passed by the Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other expensive, exotic cars described it as "Death Race 2012."
No one was hurt, and there were no accidents as the convoy drove from north Jersey to Atlantic City. Video of the incident by a construction worker appeared to show that some of the vehicles had tape over their license plates.
On Friday, Nassry was charged with tampering with public records or information and falsifying or tampering with records. Ventrella was charged with a single count of falsifying or tampering with records. The charges stem from allegations the officers altered their license plates by using black electrical tape to change the numbers.
Nassry also allegedly instructed the other drivers in the caravan to conceal or partially conceal their plates using tapes or other means.
Nassry, an assistant station commander, on Thursday took full responsibility for the March escort and submitted his retirement papers. He also asked for leniency for Ventrella, who he said was simply following orders and has been on the force only six years.
Nassry's attorney said Thursday he expected the criminal charges to be related to statements made about the alleged taped-over license plates.
The sergeant agreed to participate in the escort because of his friendship with Brandon Jacobs, a former member of the New York Giants, now with the San Francisco 49ers, who was part of the caravan, said Nassry's attorney, Charles Sciarra.
The motorists who received the police escorts have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The investigation into the escorts also led to a major shake-up of state police brass, with the reassignment of 10 state police commanders.
State police refused requests from news organizations to provide a copy of their policy on escorts.
Police officials said the department fairly regularly provides escorts to visiting dignitaries, funerals and other special occasions. But they would not detail what the guidelines are and who must approve the escorts.
Gov. Chris Christie at first called the incidents "dumb," and then later said they "would have graduated much beyond dumb if someone had gotten hurt."
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