Tags: N.J. | Troopers | Plead | Guilty | Shootings

N.J. Troopers Plead Guilty to Shootings

Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM

John Hogan and James Kenna admitted to official misconduct for filing false reports about traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike and to giving false information in the shooting investigation. They were sentenced to immediately pay the mandatory penalties required of all felons. They are barred for life from government employment. The U.S. Justice Department has agreed not to pursue criminal charges.

Hogan and Kenna were originally charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault for the shooting. They fired into a van carrying four New York men to a basketball clinic in North Carolina. The three passengers were wounded. The troopers said that the van rolled toward them, and they believed that the driver was trying to run them down.

"On April 23, 1998, the lives of six young men came together on the New Jersey Turnpike, or, I might say, they collided," said Special Prosecutor James Gerrow Jr.

While racial profiling, targeting people for stops or searches based on race or ethnicity, had long been an issue in New Jersey, the shooting, on April 23, 1998, created an uproar. The state Senate held hearings that included a 13-hour grilling of former Attorney General Peter Verniero, by then a chief justice.

There were allegations of similar practices by police in other states, especially on the East Coast highway corridor that serves couriers bringing illegal drugs from Florida to the Northeast.

The state signed a consent agreement with the Justice Department that includes monitoring of the state police. Then Gov. Christie Whitman also appointed Carson Dunbar, a former state trooper who had been with the FBI for years, as the first black to head the agency.

At Monday's hearing, Gerrow said the state took responsibility for the shootings by ignoring a pattern of the state police that encouraged racial profiling. Kenna, who had been involved in another shooting about a month earlier when he fired at a suspect who was attempting to flee in a police car, was allowed to return to work without counseling. Under questioning by the prosecutor, the troopers described an informal training in which drug arrests were the goal and traffic stops targeting certain racial and ethnic groups the means.

Gerrow said prosecutors have concluded that Hogan and Kenna have no criminal responsibility for the shooting. Judge Charles Delehey was also sympathetic, calling their actions the result of "misguided zeal."

But the Rev. Reginald Jackson, head of Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, was angry about the plea bargain and called it political.

Speaking to reporters outside the Mercer County Courthouse, he asked, "If it was just misguided zeal, why has it taken more than three years, an 18-month investigation and more than a million dollars just to say to the state of New Jersey that it was just misguided zeal?"

Kenna spoke briefly after the hearing, apologizing to the families of the victims. His lawyer, Jack Arsenault, said that he had been working as a laborer and had a "bleak" future.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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John Hogan and James Kenna admitted to official misconduct for filing false reports about traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike and to giving false information in the shooting investigation. They were sentenced to immediately pay the mandatory penalties required of all...
N.J.,Troopers,Plead,Guilty,Shootings
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2002-00-14
Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM
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