Cherry Hill Police Officer Injured In Route 70 Head-On Collision

A Cherry Hill police officer was injured in a crash that took place early Saturday on New Jersey Route 70 when a vehicle driving the wrong way collided head-on with the police car.

The incident took place at around 1:38 a.m. when the driver of a green 1998 Chevy Malibu traveling east in the westbound lanes of Route smashed into a police car traveling west on Route 70. According to the police report, the crash took place near the Wawa convenience store by Kingston Drive. The officer suffered minor injuries in the crash.

The police car was traveling behind another vehicle which was going westbound. The officer did not see the wrong-way driver initially. As the car in front of the officer swerved to avoid the wrong-way driver, the officer had no time to avoid the Malibu and collided head-on with the oncoming vehicle.

The officer driving the police car and the driver of the other vehicle were both taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden. Both drivers were treated for injuries and were released. The Malibu was being driven by a female driver who was issued motor-vehicle citations. She was also charged with driving while being intoxicated. Additional charges against the driver are pending.


More Than 20,000 DWI Cases Up In The Air After Officer Accused Of Records Tampering

TRENTON – More than 20,000 DWI cases across New Jersey are under question after a State Police sergeant has been accused of falsifying records.

Sgt. Marc Dennis is facing criminal charges September after a supervisor reported that he had skipped an essential step which is legally required in re-calibrating three breath-testing devices that were used by local police to check the blood alcohol content of drivers accused of driving drunk. Dennis was a coordinator in the State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit.

According to the case report, Sgt. Dennis allegedly signed certifications that claimed that he performed the mandatory steps required in checking blood alcohol levels. These documents and blood testing reports are later used in court when proving accuracy of blood alcohol readings. According to his lawyer, Robert Ebberup, Dennis was not guilty of the alleged crimes.

Ever since the issue came to light, a request has been forwarded by the state authorities to appoint a special judge to handle the expected increase in challenges. According to police reports, around seven years worth of DWI convictions will be affected which were tied to the officer.

Moreover, a federal action lawsuit has been filed by a Camden County attorney on behalf of the defendants who were convicted for DWI based on the test results which Dennis carried out and maintained.

In another similar controversy, more than 15,000 drug convictions are under question where a State Police Laboratory in Little Falls in charge of testing drug evidence is under scrutiny. One of the lab technicians, Kamalkant Shah, was accused of falsifying test results in a marijuana case late December. The disclosure brought some 14,800 cases involving evidence Shah either tested or performed peer review on into question. A criminal investigation in that case is ongoing.

The recent controversy has caused an even larger problem where more than 20,000 individual cases across five New Jersey counties have been affected by the case against Sgt. Dennis. According to records obtained by NJ Advance Media, prosecutors are working with the state court system to figure out how to handle the situation.

Dennis is being accused of foregoing a preliminary temperature check which is required under state Supreme Court rules when calibrating three machines, known as Alcotest devices, that are approved for breath-testing in New Jersey. However, officials from the state Division of Criminal Justice stated that the temperature check is not scientifically necessary. The temperature check was legally required under a decision known as State v. Chun, and the same department brought the charges against Dennis initially.

DWI lawyers representing defendants in cases affected by the sergeant’s actions say that Dennis allegedly skipped a crucial step which is meant to ensure that citizens aren’t convicted of drunken driving based on a fault machine reading.

Christopher Baxter, a former municipal prosecutor who now represents clients accused of DWI said, “The science upon which the state obtained approval for the Alcotest device relies on proper calibration. Without proper calibration, the science behind the device’s accuracy falls apart.”

In New Jersey, penalties for a DWI charge hinge directly on the BAC level recorded by an Alcotest device. Although drunken driving is considered a motor vehicle offense in New Jersey instead of a criminal offense, penalties for a DWI conviction can be steep.

The legal blood alcohol content level in New Jersey is 0.08%, but harsher penalties kick in if the driver records more than 0.1%. Therefore, accuracy of breathalyzer devices is crucial in determining the penalties being faced by the offender.

Human oversight is vital when breathalyzer tests are carried out. Jeff Gold, a DWI lawyer who represented the New Jersey State Bar Association in the landmark Supreme Court decision that established the rules for breath-testing says, “Coordinators (like Dennis) are very important, and it’s about all the citizen has to say the machine is working. Otherwise it’s a robot. That calibration is necessary, and small differences matter.”

Dennis belonged to the State Police Unit which was in charge of performing regular calibrations of breath testing machines used by local police departments to make sure that they were working accurately. Based on records, Dennis was responsible for testing machines in Ocean, Monmouth, Somerset, Middlesex, and Union counties. When someone gives a breath sample at the station, it can be tested only once. Once the person walks out, there is no re-testing of the breath sample.

Sergeant Dennis is being accused of skipping an essential step which is legally required in re-calibrating the breath-testing devices, bringing the accuracy of the devices under his supervision under question. The cases and challenges have already started piling up.

Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice wrote to the justices of the state Supreme Court in an October 17 filing regarding the case of a New Jersey woman who pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges in Spring Lake municipal court. The woman is seeking to withdraw her plea on the grounds that “Dennis calibrated the Alcotest instrument on which she provided a breath sample.”

The state prosecutor’s office expects that many additional challenges will be filed in connection to the breath test results carried out using Alcotest devices that were calibrated by Dennis.

Lisa J. Rodriguez, a Cherry Hill attorney, also filed a civil class-action lawsuit on behalf of another defendant last month. Ashley Ortiz of Ocean County was convicted of drunken driving last year in Wall Township. Court records show that Ortiz was initially pulled over for having a busted light above her license plate, but she was subjected to a field sobriety test when the officer detected the smell of alcohol on her. Her blood alcohol content later came out to be 0.09 percent, as recorded by the Alcotest device.

A complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Trenton in which Rodriguez wrote that those accused of drunken driving, based on the Alcotest results, have very little choice but to plead guilty as these results are mostly considered “indisputably accurate.”

As many as thousands of people who were convicted based on results from machines calibrated by Dennis may seek civil damages in the lawsuit. Prosecutors and attorneys are of the opinion that there could possibly be a lot more DWI cases affected by the criminal case against Dennis. However, the possibility of successfully overturning the DWI convictions in these cases based on the scandal is likely far lower.

Firstly, Dennis was accused of skipping the temperature check while recalibrating just three devices. These devices were used in two DWI cases before they were removed from service. Although the charges bring all cases under question, it is not yet clear if the accusations will affect a few isolated cases only or more.

Drunken driving is a unique offense. In many cases, a conviction doesn’t necessarily require objective testing at all. In most cases, the officers assertion, along with the driver’s behavior, and the results of a field sobriety test, are enough to convict someone.


Driver Gets 4 Years For Drunken Driving Crash

ELIZABETH – 30-year-old Robert McGowan of Connecticut pleaded guilty in September to charges of second-degree vehicular homicide and third-degree assault by auto.

These charges stem from an incident that took place on 1 October 2011, resulting in the death of 69-year-old Peter Tyliczka of Old Bridge. Two passengers riding in the vehicle were also injured in the crash.

The victims daughter, Sheri Tyliczka, stood in court Friday and confronted the man who admitted causing the accident and killing her father five years ago. The drunk driving crash took place in Westfield when McGowan was driving on Tice Place shortly after 1 a.m. He went through a stop sign and struck Tyliczka’s 2001 Cadillac Eldorado as he was driving on Clifton Avenue. As a result of the collision, Tyliczka was thrown from the car.

McGowan’s blood alcohol level was recorded at 0.08%, above the legal limit for being intoxicated.

“You, Robert McGowan, have handed down a life sentence for my family. We are coming up on our sixth Thanksgiving without my dad,” the tearful daughter said in court.

McGowan was sentenced to four years in prison for the incident to which Sheri Tyliczka said, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel for you. There is no light for my family. I wish you the best of luck, but you have devastated my family.”

Before the sentencing, McGowen turned and apologized to the nearly two dozen friends and relatives of the victim who were present at the court hearing. “You don’t have to like me, but I want to say I’m sorry,” he said. He expressed his sorrow in a letter he wrote to the family of the victim.

McGowan’s lawyer, Michael Pappa, argued for a shorter sentence of less than a year in the county jail saying that Tyliczka was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. He also argued that weather played a role in the crash and the stop sign was partly obscured by a tree. Moreover, he stated that a witness reported that Tyliczka did not have his car lights turned on, considering that the driver was traveling at around 1 a.m. it was dangerous.

According to Carolina Lawlor, the Union County Assistant Prosecutor, McGowan was familiar with the intersection as he was living in Connecticut at the time of the crash, though he graduated from Westfield High School.

Lawlor said that McGowan told police he had three or four beers prior to the crash. Moreover, although Mr. McGowan had stopped at that intersection many times before, he was traveling at 45 mph in an area with a 25 mph speed limit.

An indictment against McGowan was not obtained by the prosecutor’s office for the crash until November 2015. According to Lawlor, that was because of seat belt issues and other factors in the case.

McGowan went on to become a businessman in Connecticut after the crash. Shorty before he was indicted in November 2015, he was elected to the town council in Trumbull, Connecticut. He resigned one day after the news of the indictment resurfaced.

According to Superior Court Judge Scott J.Moynihan, McGowan had no prior record. Also, he had apologized to the family. Moynihan said that he has never seen such sincere remorse in over 19 years of service on the bench. He also appreciated the volunteer work McGowan has done and his plans to speak before youths about the dangers of drinking and driving.

McGowan let out a soft sigh when Moynihan announced that a four-year sentence that had been negotiated in a plea agreement. However, McGowan must serve three years and five months of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Moynihan also offered condolences to the relatives of all the victims. He then addressed McGowan saying, “I think you’ll come out alright, and you’ll be able to resume your life.”


Newly Retired Scotch Plains Police Chief Caught On Camera In Alleged DUI Crash

SOUTH PLAINFIELD – According to police reports, 51-year-old Brian T. Mahoney, the newly retired Scotch Plains police chief, was charged with DUI after a crash that took place last month.

Mahoney’s blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was recorded nearly three times the legal limit. The dashcam video available as police evidence showed that Mahoney would not answer any questions asked by the officer during the investigation.

Mahoney had been serving as police chief in Scotch Plains since the last 11 years. He recently retired in March. Just before the midnight of 10 September, Mahoney was charged with DUI after he allegedly crashed his Dodge Durango into a utility pole on New Durham Road.

A blood test taken after the crash revealed Mahoney’s blood alcohol content at 0.23 percent, almost three times the legal limit of 0.08%. His blood sample was drawn at a local hospital where Mahoney was taken for treatment of injuries.

A police dashcam video was obtained which contained audio interviews of witnesses who were present at the scene of the accident. According to witnesses, Mahoney was urinating in the street and hiding bottles from his car in nearby bushes.

When responding officers arrived at the scene, they found Mahoney slurring his words. He was also swaying and staggering, and leaning on his SUV. He had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath while he struggled to stand on his own. There was also a wet spot on his pants.

At first, Mahoney told the officer that he was not injured. He also didn’t remember why he veered off the road, but later admitted that he was on his cell phone while driving.

As the officer issued him field sobriety tests, he turned his microphone on to record his answers. However, Mahoney didn’t reply to several questions the officer asked.

“We’re on tape, alright. So I’m letting you know right now we’re going through this process,” the officer says.

“I understand. I understand. There was an accident,” Mahoney says.

The officer then asked him about his highest level of education twice which he didn’t answer. He then asked him if he was injured in the crash, to which he eventually answered that he was injured. “Yes … my head is killing me,” replied Mahoney.

Paramedics were called to the scene of the crash. Mahoney was not subjected to the tests which is the required police procedure when a driver is injured.

Two witnesses at the scene spoke to the police. One of them, a woman, said she saw Mahoney urinating in front of his wrecked car before police arrived. The witness also advised the police as to where exactly he urinated.

“I turned onto the street and as I was passing, the guy was just getting out of his car and he was urinating right in the middle of the street,” she said. “He was very nonchalant about it.” The witness asked not to be identified by name.

The second witness, who identified himself as Suresh Keswani, said he lives directly across from the crash site on New Durham Road. He said that as Mahoney walked back to his car after the crash, he went to him just to make sure that he was okay.

“He had a bag or something he was trying to throw in bushes and then he came back and sat in the car with the door open. When I asked him if he was okay, he didn’t respond,” stated Keswani.

As another officer arrived the scene of the accident, he told the on-duty officer that they may have to get a warrant to question Mahoney as he was being very hostile.

The dashcam video also records several first responders helping Mahoney back up from the curb as he appeared to struggle to his feet.

Mahoney was then taken to the hospital where he was asked to consent to a blood test. Although he initially agreed to the test, he later changed his mind saying that he may not be making a sound decision by agreeing to the tests due to his head injury. A search warrant was later granted by a judge for Mahoney’s blood to be drawn. However, as the nurse attempted to draw his blood, Mahoney was very uncooperative and was continuously moving his arm.

Mahoney was later picked up from the hospital by a current Scotch Plains officer.

Joshua McMahon of Schiller McMahon in Westfield, Mahoney’s lawyer, stated that he was not in agreement with the South Plainfield police department’s disclosure of the records related to Mahoney’s crash and DUI charge.

“My client is disappointed that members of the profession he’s given his whole adult life to would conspire to illegally disseminate confidential law enforcement records in an attempt to prevent Brian from getting a fair trial,” said McMahon. “We are confident that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, led by a career prosecutor in Andrew Carey, will investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible for this illegal dissemination of confidential government records and violation of Brian’s constitutional rights.”

According to records, Mahoney became chief in 2005. He had been an officer in Scotch Plains for 30 years.

Mahoney’s first hearing in South Plainfield municipal court is scheduled for 2nd of November.

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