Police officer acquitted on charges he falsely arrested lawmaker on drunken-driving charge

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WOODBURY, New Jersey — A southern New Jersey police officer accused of making a bogus drunken-driving arrest of state lawmaker has been cleared of all charges.

A Gloucester County jury deliberated for about 10 hours over two days before it acquitted Washington Township officer Joseph DiBuonaventura. He had faced 14 counts — including official misconduct and tampering with records — stemming from the July 2012 arrest of Assemblyman Paul Moriarty.

Moriarty maintained his innocence, claiming DiBuonaventura targeted him, and all charges against the lawmaker were dismissed shortly after DiBuonaventura was indicted in May 2013. That came after prosecutors said the charges against Moriarty stemmed from an illegal stop and could not be prosecuted.

"I feel great," DiBuonaventura told the South Jersey Times moments after embracing numerous friends and family members who had sat with him throughout the trial. He also called his mother to tell her the news.

DiBuonaventura had denied the allegations and said he was being targeted because he was a whistleblower. He has a civil case pending against the township and Police Chief Rafael Muniz.

"They're all political cronies, it should've never gotten to this point," he told the newspaper.

DiBuonaventura has been suspended without pay since the charges were filed against him. He told the newspaper that he hopes to return to work with the department.

Muniz declined comment on the verdict. He told the newspaper that the department will be consulting with legal counsel to determine what its next moves should be.

Moriarty said he was not happy with the verdict, saying that video of the incident that was captured by a camera in DiBuonaventura's patrol car "speaks for itself."

"I know that I did nothing that day but operate my car safely and lawfully at all times," Moriarty said in a prepared statement. "My hope is that eventually video cameras in all police vehicles will prevent these types of situations in the future."

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