NJ mayor suing his own town claiming DWI arrest conspiracy
SPARTA — The township's new mayor is also a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against his own police department.
Jerard “Jerry” Murphy, a councilman who was selected by the governing body this month to be this year's mayor, has been suing the township over his 2016 DWI bust.
Murphy claims the the DWI arrest, which he beat in Municipal Court by pleading it down to a license plate violation, was part of a police conspiracy to pay him back for a police department furlough years earlier.
A Superior Court judge last month dismissed the lawsuit but his attorney this month filed a motion for reconsideration. The latest development was first reported by Tap into Sparta.
Murphy was pulled over Feb. 13, 2016, after having dinner and three beers at a township restaurant.
While he was at the restaurant, a retired sergeant sent a text message to an on-duty police officer letting him know that Murphy was under the influence.
The officer relayed the message to the squad and the sergeant on duty informed his officers to make sure that any action they took "was validated with sight or independent motor vehicle violation," according to testimony and filings in the lawsuit.
Murphy left the restaurant after midnight and Officer Daniel Elig eventually pulled him over after seeing him swerve and clocking him on a radar gun going 34 mph in a 25 mph zone, records show.
Elig said Murphy failed a field sobriety test and at the station he blew a 0.13% blood-alcohol level, above the 0.08% legal limit for driving.
Murphy's lawsuit, filed February 2018, argued that police should have stopped him from leaving the restaurant if they believed he was drunk. His lawyer insists that the arrest was a conspiracy and that officers lied under oath. His lawsuit claimed violations of his civil rights, malicious prosecution and false arrest.
Last month, Superior Court Judge David J. Weaver pooh-poohed Murphy's theories.
“It is irrelevant whether officer Elig harbored ill-will towards plaintiff, which is doubtful based upon the record, because there was other objectively reasonable evidence to justify the stop," the judge wrote.
“No reasonable jury could conclude officer Elig lacked probable cause to stop plaintiff. It is clear from the MVR footage that plaintiff crossed over the right white fog line on two occasions.”
Murphy was initially charged with DWI, speeding, careless driving, failure to maintain lane, not having a valid insurance card, and having an unclear license plate before municipal prosecutors in January 2018 allowed all the offenses but the license plate charge to be dismissed. The police chief at the time issued a statement saying that his department was "not in agreement with the plea disposition of these charges."
Sparta is township of less than 20,000 people in Sussex County.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.