Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa made the right call last week when he filed criminal charges against two State Police troopers involved in turning the Garden State Parkway into a racetrack in March.
The troopers allegedly escorted a caravan of 25 to 30 luxury sports cars on a drive from New York to Atlantic City that reached speeds of 100 mph. Witnesses said the sports cars, bookended by State Police cars with emergency lights flashing, were weaving in and out of traffic. At least one driver complained that he was nearly run off the road trying to get out of the way.
Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry, 47, and Trooper Joseph Ventrella, 28, were charged with fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records, a charge that stems from allegations that they covered their license plates with black tape and advised the drivers of the sports cars to do likewise.
Nassry, a 26-year veteran, put in his retirement papers a day before the charges were announced. He was also charged with third-degree tampering with public records or information.
Four other troopers involved in a similar caravan in 2010 face administrative charges.
Nassry and Ventrella, who face possible prison terms, are entitled to their day in court. Like everyone else in our judicial system, they are innocent until proven guilty. But it's good that the Attorney General moved quickly in this case, since it is important to show that troopers and other law-enforcement personnel are not above the law.
Just as important as the charges was Chiesa's announcement that he is issuing new guidelines on State Police escorts, intended to clarify the approval process and ensure the safety of other motorists.
When the March road rally to Atlantic City first came to light, State Police offered inconsistent explanations of the force's escort policy. Obviously some clarification is required.
If we were writing those guidelines, we'd start by pointing out that if you're taping over your license plate, that's an admission that what you're doing is wrong. And we'd throw in a reminder that we now live in a digital age, where misbehavior on any public roadway is liable to be caught by traffic cameras or the cellphone cameras of people in other cars.
In fact, a video of a previous high-speed run on the parkway helped stoke public outrage about the March incident.
Chiesa said Friday that he did not anticipate charging any of the sports car owners, members of the Driving Force Club, a group based in New York City. That's a shame. These two troopers aren't the only ones who need to learn that our traffic laws apply to everyone, regardless of the contents of your wallet or your garage.