CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) – It sounded like an excuse from a politician who had been caught doing something wrong: When New Jersey Assemblyman Paul Moriarty was accused of driving drunk last year, he said he had been set up by a rogue police officer.
A Gloucester County grand jury believed him, and now it’s the officer who’s facing charges.
The Washington Township officer, Joseph DiBuonaventura, was indicted Wednesday on 14 counts, all accusing him of making a bogus arrest of Moriarty on July 31 and lying to support his claims.
If the officer is convicted on all charges, including false swearing and falsifying evidence, he could be sentenced to decades in prison.
DiBuonaventura’s lawyer, James Lynch, declined to comment after the indictment was made public Thursday.
The officer was suspended without pay last year after Moriarty took the unusual step of filing charges against him as a citizen. But Moriarty, a Democrat, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that it’s the indictment that validates him, even though it doesn’t close the case.
“When something like that happens and your character, integrity and honesty are called into question and you live a public life, it’s pretty difficult,” he said, saying he knew people in restaurants were whispering and joking about the charges he faced.
But even in a state with a reputation for politicians engaging in crime, he said that people who knew him supported him and he has been able to carry out his duties as a lawmaker.
Moriarty says he did not have anything to drink the day he was arrested. Last year, he showed reporters a squad-car video of his arrest that he said showed he had done nothing wrong and that he was completely sober during a sobriety test. He refused to take a blood-alcohol test, he said, largely out of fear that an officer who had been lying about other things could manipulate the results.
Before he entered politics, Moriarty was a Philadelphia television personality known for a consumer-affairs segment called “Can You Believe It?” He later became mayor of Washington Township.
He said he did not know DiBuonaventura personally when he was in that job but knew that the officer was vocally and publicly opposed to his positions during contentious police union negotiations.
His drunken-driving case has been put on hold while the case against DiBuonaventura moves ahead. Moriarty’s lawyer, John Eastlack, said he hopes prosecutors will drop those charges in light of the indictment.
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