Saturday, July 22, 2006

Farber - Ledger - AG apologizes but won't step down

Published in the Star Ledger, Saturday, July 22, 2006

Farber apologizes but won't step down
In interview, AG says she will resign only if probe concludes she should

Star-Ledger Staff

Attorney General Zulima Farber yesterday apologized for going to her boyfriend's aid during a traffic stop, but said she has no intention of resigning unless an independent investigation concludes that she should.

"As I see this episode take on a life of its own, it occurred to me, because it has been pointed out, that my mere presence was inappropriate and I accept responsibility for that," Farber said during a taping of NJN's "On the Record."

"I asked for no favors. I wanted no favors. All I was doing was ... going to the aid of the man with whom I share my life," Farber said.

A special prosecutor appointed by the governor is investigating whether Farber or her State Police driver did anything to get Fairview Police Department officers to go easy on her boyfriend, Hamlet Goore, during a Memorial Day weekend traffic stop.

An officer initially issued two summonses to Goore, for having a suspended driver's license and driving an unregistered vehicle, but later acted to void them. Police also did not impound the vehicle, instead letting Goore drive it five blocks to the North Bergen home he shares with Farber.

"Did it occur to me that my mere presence there would have caused some problem? The answer is no," Farber said during the television interview, to air on Sunday. "But if that gave a misimpression to those police officers, for that I apologize to everyone in the state and to them in particular. ... I did not mean to intimidate anyone."

Gov. Jon Corzine earlier this month appointed retired Judge Richard J. Williams to conduct an independent investigation into whether the state's top law enforcement official sought favored treatment for Goore, or whether anyone involved violated the law. Williams has the authority to bring criminal charges if warranted.

Several Republican lawmakers have called for Farber to resign. She said she has no intention of doing so, but would if Williams recommended it.

"If I did something that would require my resigning I would do that," Farber said. "I don't believe that (my) mistake rises to that level."

Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), one of Farber's most vocal critics, said yesterday she should leave office now.

"She just does not get it," Cardinale said. "It's not her mere presence at the scene. She used state resources to go out and do this and now we are paying a state prosecutor to look into the details. This still reeks. She would have done the public a real service if she had gone on that show and said she was resigning."

Goore was stopped May 26 during a routine holiday "Click-it or Ticket" seat-belt enforcement campaign. When officers told Goore the car would be impounded because it was not registered, he called Farber to unload the minivan of clothes, a laptop and bicycles he was hauling for their planned weekend getaway at the Shore.

Farber, who was in Newark at the time, directed her State Police driver to head to the scene, she said. The trooper made calls on the way to the scene, the attorney general said, adding she did not know with whom he spoke.

"He didn't tell me," Farber said. "I didn't ask him to do that, but he was trying to be helpful. I was on the telephone with Hamlet."

Two officials with knowledge of the investigation have said the driver called Fairview police and instructed them not to tow the minivan because there were confidential state documents inside. That conversation, made on a recorded line, also included talk between the trooper and Farber, and a copy of the tape has been turned over to Williams.

The trooper, Lt. George Justin, also spoke with Fairview officers after he and Farber arrived at the scene, according to the attorney for Officer Albert Napolitano, who issued the tickets.

Farber said she spoke with the Fairview mayor -- who was at the scene to talk to his son, a Fairview police officer -- but no one else.

At one point, the attorney general said, someone -- she didn't know who -- offered to have Goore's vehicle towed to their home free of charge. "I immediately turned and said, 'Oh no, Hamlet will pay for the tow,'" Farber said.

Sometime later, she added, "A police officer approached, I don't know which one, and said if you promise to follow the van with the State Police vehicle then we don't have to tow the vehicle at all. That seemed like a reasonable solution to the problem."

That afternoon, Napolitano submitted paperwork to the Fairview Municipal Court to have the citations voided on grounds of incorrect information, according to court records. The court, however, did not dismiss the citations.

Goore has since paid $66 in fines and court fees for the unregistered vehicle citation. He is fighting the ticket for driving on a suspended license. State records show Goore had paid to have his license restored a year before the Memorial Day weekend stop, but that information had not been entered into the computer checked by police.

Rick Hepp covers criminal justice. He may be reached at or (609) 989-0398.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.