N.J. AG accused of burying sheriff's case

Jessica M. Karmasek Dec. 9, 2010, 3:30pm


TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - A former Hunterdon County assistant prosecutor, in a tort claim notice filed Wednesday, alleges New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow took part in a plan to clear the name of a county sheriff.

According to the local newspaper, the Hunterdon County Democrat, Bennett Barlyn said he will sue for damages after being fired by the acting county prosecutor/deputy attorney general for complaining about the state's plans to drop the case.

Barlyn says Down and other state officials, including the governor, "formulated a plan to dismiss" more than 40 counts of misconduct and other crimes against a county sheriff and her associates.

In May, Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout and Undersheriff Michael Russo were indicted on charges of official misconduct and other crimes. Also indicted was former Sheriff's Investigator John Falat, Jr.

In August, a judge agreed to dismiss the indictments against the three.

According to a press release from Attorney General's Office at the time, the state's motion to dismiss was based on "legal and factual deficiencies" in the indictments against all three defendants and what were described as "errors" in the county grand jury presentation.

"Those deficiencies and errors made the indictments unsustainable and compelled the Division of Criminal Justice to file the motion in the interest of justice," the statement said.

The state's plan, Barlyn alleges in his filing, also included removing certain employees in the Prosecutor's Office -- specifically, those who were involved in the investigation and the group's prosecution, he said.

In his filing, according to the Hunterdon paper, Barlyn takes issue with Dow's office's claim of "legal and factual deficiencies" in the indictments. The state, he contends, could have tried to present the matter to a grand jury again.

Former Assistant Prosecutor William McGovern made similar claims in papers he filed last Wednesday.

Barlyn and McGovern seek unspecified damages, the Democrat reported.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

More News