On certification to Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 264 N.J. Super. 419 (1993)
Pollock, Wilentz, Clifford, Handler, O'Hern, Garibaldi, Stein
The opinion of the Court was delivered by POLLOCK, J.
Does a suspended state trooper remain a public servant for the purposes of a criminal prosecution for official misconduct? The
Appellate Division thought not and reversed the conviction of defendant, Emmanuel Bullock. 264 N.J. Super. 419, 624 A.2d 1036 (1993). We granted the State's petition for certification, 134 N.J. 484 (1993), and now reverse.
Defendant became a state trooper on November 23, 1987, and was suspended on October 4, 1988, for reasons that the record does not disclose. As required by the terms of the suspension, defendant turned in all of his State Police equipment except his police identification card, which he said he had lost.
Two incidents, which occurred during defendant's suspension, give rise to this case. First, on January 9, 1989, defendant approached an alleged drug dealer outside a bar in Hackensack. According to the dealer, defendant told him that he wanted to buy some crack. The dealer left and returned shortly with the drugs. Defendant displayed a card, identified himself as a member of the "New Jersey Task Force," and told the dealer that he was under arrest.
The dealer fled, but defendant caught him and took him to a blue Ford Escort. According to the dealer, defendant placed a gun at his back and ordered him into the car, where two other men, Ronald Bullock (defendant's cousin) and Jerome Jiggets, were waiting. They told the dealer that they would drive him to the police station. Instead, they drove around for about ninety minutes while defendant repeatedly questioned the dealer about the location of his drugs and Jiggets threatened to kill or pistol-whip him. Eventually, defendant and his companions let the dealer out of the car without taking anything from him.
In a written statement given to the police, defendant claimed that the dealer had approached him, voluntarily had entered the car, and had said that he would take defendant to a "big drug dealer." Defendant admitted, however, that "he might have" told the dealer that he was a police officer and that "he could have" shown the dealer an identification card.
The second incident occurred on January 19, 1989. Hackensack Police Officer Thomas Staron received a report of three armed men in a blue Ford Escort. He stopped defendant, defendant's cousin, and Jiggets in a car meeting that description. Staron testified that defendant left the car from the passenger seat and stood before Staron with his hand inside his jacket. Not until Staron drew his gun did defendant remove his hand from the jacket. Defendant then showed Staron a State Police identification card and stated that he was a state trooper. After discovering an unlicensed BB gun in defendant's shoulder holster, Staron handcuffed defendant, and placed him under arrest. A search incident to that arrest revealed a pocket knife in defendant's jacket pocket. A search of the car revealed a starter pistol under the front seat.
In his written statement, defendant admitted that he had been carrying a BB gun when arrested and that he had shown Staron an identification card, but claimed he had informed ...