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NJ trooper loses job after charges of drunken hit-and-run, resisting arrest

New Jersey State Police cruiser
New Jersey State Police cruiser (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

A state trooper who lost her job after allegedly resisting arrest following a drunken hit-and-run crash has also lost an appeal of the termination.

Nicole Cusanelli lost her appeal on Wednesday, almost eight years after she was accused of crashing her Mustang into a car after running a red light in Philadelphia. Police say she fled the scene, lied to police and violently resisted arrest.

Although witnesses and the victim identified Cusanelli as the driver, and she blew a 0.14 blood-alcohol content, which is over the limit in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a Keystone State judge declined to convict her of drunk driving because her brother and another woman who had been in the car claimed Cusanelli had not been behind the wheel.

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She also was acquitted of resisting arrest despite testimony by several police officers who said she repeatedly banged on the windows of a police cruiser, “aggressively resisted arrest” and then slipped out of her handcuffs in order to bang on the windows again.

After an appeal on her disorderly conduct conviction, another judge in that state later reduced Cusanelli’s sentence of three months’ probation and 30 hours of community service because, officials said, she and her attorney misled the judge by claiming she had already been fired by the State Police.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office also declined to prosecute Cusanelli.

State Police brass, however, were not as sympathetic. The State Police superintendent said he found Cusanelli guilty of five violations of the State Police Rules and Regulations based on her lying, attempt to cover up the accident by calling her friend who owned a towing company, and obstructing a police investigation.

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In his final decision in 2015, the superintendent found that she behaved “in an unofficial capacity to her personal discredit and to the discredit of the NJSP.”

Her conduct was “destructive of the public trust and respect for the [NJSP]” and also “inexcusable,” adding that her behavior “cannot be tolerated in the para-military atmosphere of the [NJSP].”

In her appeal of the decision, Cusanelli argued that State Police officials failed to charge her within 45 days of her alleged violations. But in their Wednesday decision, a three-judge appellate panel said that the 45-day clock only starts after the superintendent receives the investigative report into the allegations.

Cusanelli was represented by John C. Eastwick Jr. of Weir & Partners, who did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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