New Jersey State Police are investigating complaints that two state troopers escorted a high-speed caravan of luxury sports cars, reportedly including former New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, to Atlantic City last month.
The alleged incident occurred March 30. Witnesses who emailed the state Turnpike Authority to report the incident said they saw two state police cruisers escorting the speeding cars, one in front and one in back.
According to Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney, one witness said he saw flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and had to speed up to get over to the right and out of the way. Once there, he said, the cars "raced by" at speeds upward of 100 mph. Their license plates allegedly were taped over.
Another witness said he saw the cars weaving in and out of traffic at high speed.
"We will not tolerate any conduct by a member of the State Police that puts the public in jeopardy, as this unauthorized caravan had the potential to do," Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. "We are thoroughly investigating this incident, and those responsible will face serious discipline."
The state attorney general's office announced Monday night that Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry and Trooper Joseph Ventrella have been suspended without pay as the alleged escort is investigated. Nassry has been with the state police for 25 years and Ventrella for six years.
Nassry's attorney, Charles Sciarra, said in a statement emailed Monday evening that his client had been scheduled for an interview about the incident earlier in the day but was suspended before the interview took place. He implied that the attorney general's office was swayed by news coverage that started with The Star-Ledger of Newark's first reporting the alleged incident on Sunday.
"We hope that the powers that be will take a breath, exhale and engage in a fair investigative process with which we will continue to cooperate," Sciarra said. "Either way, we will not permit Sgt. Nassry to be sacrificed to satisfy a public-relations agenda."
It wasn't immediately known if Ventrella had an attorney.
Sciarra added that the incident had been blown out of proportion and that charitable organizations "routinely ask and receive escorts from the State Police to and from the various charitable functions they attend with their exotic vehicles." It was not immediately clear whether the March 30 trip was connected to a charitable event.
Jacobs was part of the caravan, The Newark Star-Ledger reported, citing a source with knowledge of the trip.
In an email to ESPNNewYork.com, Justin Schulman, Jacobs' agent, said the running back was part of a group that did drive to Atlantic City on that same day. But he said he's not sure if Jacobs was in the caravan cited in the complaints.
"Brandon was part of a group that went to Atlantic City that day but isn't aware of the details regarding the police escort," Schulman said.
When asked about the incident at an unrelated news conference, Gov. Chris Christie, at one time the state's top federal prosecutor, called it "a dumb thing to do" and said he was confident leaving the investigation in the hands of Chiesa and police auperintendent Col. Rick Fuentes.
"I hated it when politicians behind podiums would lecture law enforcement people about what to do in law enforcement," he said. "So far be it from me to be a hypocrite on this one. I trust the attorney general, he's a smart guy, and I trust superintendent Fuentes."
Jacobs agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency on March 28, two days before the investigated trip. The running back was released by the Giants on March 9, when both sides couldn't come to terms on a restructured deal.
In a profile published on Rides magazine's website in October, Jacobs talked about his car collection and said he drives with the Driving Force Club.
"We probably do, like, 100 miles. Sometimes we'll end up on an airstrip and do some racing, but other than that, we always cool," Jacobs said of his involvement with the club, according to Rides.
According to Rides, Jacobs said at the time he was upgrading the turbochargers on his Nissan GT-R, with the expectation it would put out more than 700 horsepower when the work was done.
But Jacobs also told the magazine he knows his limits.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.