Published: Sunday, July 03, 2011
By David Foster | The Express-Times
On the morning of Jan. 14, 2006, an off-duty Pohatcong Township police officer was traveling along Route 173 in Greenwich Township when a tractor-trailer turning from a ramp off Interstate 78 struck his pickup truck.
The officer, Alan Hill, was knocked unconscious but was not gravely injured, nor was the trucker. But the crash continues to spawn repercussions more than five years later.
Greenwich Township is the target of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed in June by Chris Tasiopoulos. Seeking his job back, he claims he was fired as a township police officer in April for taking copies of wreck-related documents, in which Hill admitted consuming alcohol.
“The reason for the termination is just ludicrous, and it is blatantly obvious a cover-up was done on this DUI,” Tasiopoulos said in a recent interview.
The New Jersey Attorney General's Office last year approved of the Greenwich Township Police Department's handling of the crash. Hill was not charged with any offenses.
The wreck and blood
Liaqat Chaudhary, the driver of the tractor-trailer, was attempting to make a left from I-78 about 2:20 a.m. when he pulled in front of Hill’s Ford F-250 driving east on Route 173.
Greenwich officer Sean McLaughlin arrived to find Chaudhary walking around and Hill, who graduated from the police academy a month earlier, unconscious and trapped inside his vehicle, according to the accident report.
Chaudhary was taken to Warren Hospital for a voluntary blood sample, while Hill was taken by ambulance to St. Luke's Hospital in Fountain Hill.
On the accident report, the “Alcohol/Drug Test” section for Chaudhary is marked "yes," and authorities say two vials of blood were drawn by a nurse. He came up clean and was charged with failure to yield.
For Hill, who later admitted he was drinking, the "Alcohol/Drug Test" box is checked "no."
“Hill was injured and we couldn’t request the blood,” Greenwich police Chief Rich Guzzo said in an interview in May.
Hill was conscious at the hospital and was questioned by members of the Warren County Serious Collision and Accident Reconstruction Team, according to the report.
Hill, who remains on the Pohatcong force, has declined to comment, deferring to township officials.
At Tasiopoulos' termination hearing in January, Guzzo asserted Hill "would not give" a blood sample.
“We were the ones who requested the blood sample from him (Hill),” Guzzo said at the hearing, according to a transcript.
Besides the "yes" and "no" boxes for alcohol tests, there is a "refused" box on the accident report that was not checked in Hill's case.
Subpoena for Hill’s blood
Hill was interviewed more than a week after the wreck on Jan. 23 by Greenwich Township police Sgt. David Voll about the crash.
“Driver 2 (Hill) advised he had consumed a few alcoholic beverages prior to the accident,” according to the report. “He also advised last thing he remembers was stopping at McDonald's.”
Greenwich police pursued allegations that Hill had been drinking.
“We were not (involved) as much (in) the accident, but the accusations of whether or not this individual driver had been drinking,” Guzzo said at Tasiopoulos’ hearing, according to a transcript. “We conducted an investigation regarding where he was that night.”
Authorities attempted, but failed, to obtain blood from St. Luke's, according to the transcript, even though hospitals routinely draw blood after serious crashes.
When obtaining blood from another state, a subpoena must go through the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, authorities said.
The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office sent a subpoena but did not get the blood because of a flaw, according to the transcript from Tasiopoulos' termination hearing.
“The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office sent a subpoena to the wrong Lehigh (Valley) hospital, resubmitted the subpoena to the right hospital and it was after the 90 days at that point, so the department could not support a charge,” Guzzo said at the hearing, the record states.
The 90 days refers to the amount of time after a crash that a person can be charged with drunken driving.
Warren County Prosecutor Thomas S. Ferguson would not comment on the Hill investigation.
Cleared of cover-up
The New Jersey Attorney General's Office on June 18, 2010, cleared Tasiopoulos of unauthorized distribution of a police report.
Chris Tasiopoulos, a former Greenwich Township police officer, is suing the township in an effort to get his job back.
The office states it received an anonymous letter alleging Tasiopoulos’ improper copying, but the Division of Criminal Justice declined to pursue criminal charges.
The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office then investigated the claim, and Tasiopoulos was fired.
On July 20, 2010, the Attorney General’s Office cleared the Greenwich Township police of covering up circumstances surrounding the neighboring township police officer's crash.
The office in a letter states it completed a criminal investigation and the matter had been closed for insufficient evidence.
Pohatcong Township police Chief Paul Hager confirmed his department conducted an internal investigation after the wreck involving Hill, but he wouldn’t elaborate on the outcome.
In: Regional News
Tags: coblock.org, cop block, police misconduct, alan hill, chris tasiopoulos, greenwich township police, pohatcong township police, richard guzzo, warren county prosecutor's office
Location: New Jersey, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
Views: 6318 | Comments: 5 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
|Liveleak on Facebook|