For affirmance -- Chief Justices Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Proctor, J.
[44 NJ Page 213] The defendants, Helen Naglee, Edward J. Garrity, and Edward Virtue, were tried before a jury in Camden County and convicted for conspiracy to obstruct the due administration of the Motor Vehicle Traffic Laws.*fn1 After the
trial judge denied their motion for a new trial, they appealed. We certified the matter on our own motion before argument in the Appellate Division.*fn2
The indictment charged that between 1959 and June 29, 1961, Helen Naglee was the Violations Clerk and the Municipal Court Clerk, Edward J. Garrity was the Chief of Police, and Edward Virtue was a police officer, all in the Borough of Bellmawr. The indictment further charged that between those dates the defendants had agreed to dispose of eight drunken driving cases (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) by altering to a lesser charge the tickets issued by the defendant Virtue; that in furtherance of the conspiracy entries were made in the municipal court dockets showing that the traffic offenders appeared in open court and were fined by the magistrate, when in fact no hearings were held. It was further alleged that Chief Garrity required some of the offenders to post bail and then arbitrarily fixed the fines; in some instances Chief Garrity diverted the difference between the amount of the bail and the amount of the fines to unauthorized uses.
The State in its case in chief offered in evidence several traffic tickets issued by the defendant Virtue. One of these had been altered from drunken driving to improper passing, and the others from drunken driving to careless driving. The State also introduced receipts given to the offenders signed by Helen Naglee or Chief Garrity. Several of the receipts indicated that the traffic offender had also been fined for disorderly conduct. The municipal magistrate testified that his purported signature on several of the traffic tickets was a forgery. Eight alleged traffic offenders testified that they were originally charged by Virtue with drunken driving, that they had paid a fine for offenses other than drunken driving, but that they had never appeared before the municipal magistrate. Several testified that they had posted cash bail for their appearance, and after talking to Virtue and Garrity, had paid
Garrity a "fine" for careless driving and a "fine" for disorderly conduct. In several instances where the amount of the bail posted was greater than the fine assessed, the difference was not returned to the traffic offender.
Dr. Cooperman testified that he had examined, on behalf of the borough, several of the alleged offenders for intoxication; that he had made records of his findings and turned them over to the police department, but he had not retained written copies and could not recall the results of the tests. Deputy Attorney General Budd M. Rigg and Detective John F. Corbin of the New Jersey State Police Department, who had been assigned pursuant to an order of this court, to investigate the altering of tickets in the borough, both testified that Chief Garrity had told them that he had disposed of Dr. Cooperman's medical reports because the tickets had been downgraded.
The State introduced in evidence two statements made by each defendant. The first statement was given to Deputy Attorney General Rigg on November 10, 1961, and the second was given to Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Sidney Kaplan in December 1962.
Defendant Virtue in his statement of November 10, 1961 to Mr. Rigg, admitted that he had participated in the practice of altering tickets. Defendant Naglee in her statement to Mr. Rigg admitted that she had altered tickets at Chief Garrity's request and that she had made notations indicating that the alleged traffic offenders had appeared in court, had pleaded guilty and were fined by the magistrate, when in fact they had never appeared. She also admitted that she had signed the magistrate's signature on several traffic tickets. In his statement to Mr. Rigg, Chief Garrity said that no tickets could be altered without his consent. With reference to one alleged offender who had posted bail of $225, Garrity said that he had come to an understanding with the offender, that the offender could pay a total fine of $140 and not appear in court; that the $85 balance was placed in an envelope and kept in a safe in the police station.
In defendant Virtue's statement to Mr. Kaplan, he admitted that one of the eight alleged traffic offenders was examined and found to be under the influence of alcohol, but the charge had been downgraded to careless driving because a hardship was involved. He also admitted that the change on the face of another of the eight tickets was in his handwriting and that he had consented to a change in a third case. Mrs. Naglee, in her statement to Mr. Kaplan, stated that she had made the changes in the cases of five of the eight alleged traffic offenders. She admitted signing the magistrate's name below an entry which indicated a court hearing, a plea of guilty and the imposition of a fine in two cases. She stated that where tickets were altered, the arrested person, if he had a hardship, would go to the arresting officer and that the officer would refer the case to Chief Garrity. Garrity, in his statement to Mr. Kaplan, stated that before he would direct Mrs. Naglee to alter a ticket he would obtain the arresting officer's consent. He admitted changing a number of drunken driving charges to careless driving and disorderly conduct.
All of the defendants testified in their own defense. All said that they did not receive any money for their personal gain.
Helen Naglee testified there was no express agreement between Garrity, Virtue and herself to alter tickets. However, she admitted that she had altered tickets at Chief Garrity's request. She said that she did not know it was wrong to alter the tickets although she did know persons charged with disorderly conduct were supposed to appear in court. She said that the excess money paid by the alleged traffic offenders was kept in a locked drawer in her desk.
Defendant Virtue testified that there was no agreement between Garrity, Naglee and himself to alter tickets. However, he admitted that one of the eight cases had been altered because of hardship. He also admitted downgrading another ticket because it was a "borderline case." In the other cases the doctor's examination had revealed insufficient intoxication to press the charge, and therefore the charge was altered.
He said that the tickets for drunken driving were given on the highway and that the alterations took place after the doctor's examination. He said that he had destroyed the drunkometer reports with Chief ...