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Senators Urge Trial for N.J. Supreme Court Justice

April 12, 2001|From Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — A state Supreme Court justice should be impeached for lying to a state Senate committee, routinely misleading lawmakers and withholding information about racial profiling by state police, senators said Wednesday.

In a letter to Assembly Speaker Jack Collins, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the lower house to present the Senate with articles of impeachment against Justice Peter G. Verniero.

Echoing language used by federal civil rights investigators, the letter says Verniero "engaged in a pattern and practice of withholding and concealing information."

Verniero's attorney did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon. The justice has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has said he will not resign.

In April 1999, Verniero became the first attorney general to admit that state police had been targeting minorities.

The admission came one year after two white troopers fired at four unarmed minority men, wounding three, during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.

But the Senate committee contends Verniero had crucial information about racial profiling for years before that, and offered intentionally vague answers during his Senate confirmation hearings in 1999.

"The letter speaks for itself," said Republican Sen. William L. Gormley, the committee's chairman.

Collins was reviewing the letter but will not discuss it publicly until next week, a spokesman said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Verniero's lawyer made public a statement from two retired Supreme Court justices who said questions about the former attorney general's integrity are unfounded.

Under a two-year statute of limitations deadline, the Assembly has until before June to impeach Verniero unless his Senate confirmation testimony is considered part of his judicial conduct.

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