Crooked judge who enriched NJ towns with fixed tickets gets record expunged
A former Municipal Court judge who admitted to scamming Monmouth County out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines by fixing tickets will get his criminal record expunged.
Richard Thompson, a Middletown resident who worked as the municipal court judge for eight municipalities, pleaded guilty two years ago to converting traffic fines into contempt-of-court fines, which allowed the municipalities to keep 100% of the proceeds instead of sharing it with the county.
Thompson, who agreed to forfeit future public employment, was accepted into the court’s pre-trial intervention program, which allows first-time and nonviolent offenders the opportunity to avoid prison and have their charges dropped after staying out of trouble for a number of years.
As a result of Thompson’s successful completion of PTI, which prosecutors had not objected to, Thompson requested to have his record expunged.
Prosecutors, however, objected to the expungement, arguing that the record would be needed in order to "help clarify" individual municipal court cases that Thompson had "mishandled." Prosecutors also argued that the public had a right to know about Thompson’s case.
A Superior Court judge, however, rejected those arguments and ruled in favor of Thompson.
Prosecutors this week lost their appeal, but the decision by a three-judge panel asks that Superior Court Judge Jill O’Malley hold a new hearing to determine which records exactly the court will have expunged.
Expunged records typically include complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards and "rap sheets.” Expungements, however, don't mean that the record of a public official's case gets erased from published news accounts. And the appellate decision this week points out that the prosecutors' "right to know" argument was persuasive because of the widespread media coverage of Thompson's prosecution.
Thompson, who presided over the municipal courts of Union Beach, Oceanport, Colts Neck, Tinton Falls, Rumson, Neptune City, Bradley Beach and Eatontown, was accused of issuing contempt of court fines for disobeying prior court orders without confirming whether those orders existed; converting fines to contempt of court fines after defendants had left court; accepting affidavits from attorneys but then converting fines to contempt of court fines after attorneys had let the room; and in one case threatening to jail a defendant who had asked for a lawyer after questioning the judge's contempt of court assessment against him.
Prosecutors said Thompson fixed 4,000 tickets worth $1.2 million, resulting in $600,000 being diverted to the municipalities.
Prosecutors said Thompson had hatched his scheme in order to justify his employment. He earned a combined salary of nearly $218,000.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.