A New Jersey state trooper was indicted on Thursday for allegedly conducting improper stops of two female drivers for the purpose of pressuring them to begin a personal relationship with him. The trooper allegedly then falsified records to cover up his actions, according to state officials.
The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained a six-count state grand jury indictment charging Trooper Eric Richardson, 32, of Camden with official misconduct in the second degree, criminal coercion in the third degree, tampering with public records or information, falsifying or tampering with records, the wrongful access or disclosure of information, and obtaining information from a motor vehicle record.
Richardson was investigated by the New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards, which uncovered incidents involving two women whom Richardson allegedly pulled over and harassed about initiating an intimate relationship. He allegedly stopped each woman repeatedly and deactivated the dashboard camera in his car during some of the stops.
Richardson initially pulled over the first woman on Nov. 22 of 2016, warning her that her windows were illegally tinted. Although her registration was expired, Richardson allegedly attempted to win favor with her by not towing the vehicle and letting her drive away. He allegedly followed her and activated his lights to stop her a second time. He then allegedly pressured her to give him a phone number, persisting even after she said she was in a relationship. Later, Richardson sent numerous texts to the woman using the number he obtained. On Jan. 3 of 2017, Richardson allegedly pulled the woman over again in Atlantic City. He allegedly falsely reported in the official computer dispatch log that he stopped to aid a motorist, when in fact he allegedly stopped the woman to ask if she still had the same number and was receiving his texts.
On Dec. 23 of 2016, Richardson allegedly pulled over the second woman in Gloucester Township and threatened to arrest her if she did not give him her phone number. He allegedly pulled out his handcuffs and threatened to handcuff her. The woman’s license and registration were suspended, and there was a warrant for her arrest. After obtaining her phone number, Richardson released her, despite the active warrant. He allegedly told dispatchers and reported in the dispatch log that the driver he stopped on that occasion was a man. He allegedly communicated with the second woman via texts using the phone number he obtained.
The charges of wrongful access and disclosure of information and obtaining information from a motor vehicle record relate to an incident on May 8 of 2017, when Richardson allegedly illegally accessed the FBI—Criminal Justice Information Services database on behalf of a male friend to do a “driver inquiry” on a woman the friend employed to determine if her driver history reflected any warrants or drug activity. Richardson allegedly photographed her driver history and texted it to his friend.
“We allege that the defendant used his authority as a police officer to harass two women and he then falsified official records to cover up his misconduct,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These are serious charges.”
Richardson was suspended by the New Jersey State Police after being charged in the case on May 31 of 2017. He remains suspended.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Camden County, where Richardson will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment on the charges.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
“Police are given great authority and are rightly held to the highest standards of integrity,” said Attorney General Grewal. “When officers abuse their authority, as alleged in this case, they must be held accountable. Public trust and public safety demand it.”