Tuckerton New Jersey police dog attack video, officer suspended without pay, facing indictment again

Justin Cherry, a suspended Tuckerton police corporal is suspended without pay as a result of the dog attack on Tucker, now 60, of Barnegat. Cherry first came under indictment in 2015, charged with official misconduct and other offenses related to the incident.  The charges stem from allegations by prosecutors that Cherry released his K-9 partner on Tucker after she was already in the custody of Barnegat police officers for allegedly eluding police while driving with a suspended license.

The dash-cam video first was requested under the Open Public Records Act in 2014 by John Paff, a private citizen from Franklin in Somerset County who advocates for public access to government records. Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Grasso, now retired, ordered the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to turn it over to Paff in 2014, but Prosecutor Joseph Coronato appealed Grasso’s decision, saying Cherry would never get a fair trial if the video were made public beforehand.

The Appellate Division of Superior Court in July issued a 2-1 decision upholding Grasso’s ruling that the video be released to the public. But, because the appellate court’s decision was not unanimous, the case was automatically sent to the state Supreme Court for an appeal to decide whether the video is a government record that is subject to the Open Public Records Act.

Because that appeal is pending, the prosecutor has not released the video. However, because the video recently became part of the court file in the criminal case against Cherry, the Press filed a public records request for it with the state judiciary, which is not subject to the Open Public Records Act. Cherry’s attorney, Tracy L. Riley, included the video as an exhibit in a motion she filed in October to dismiss the latest indictment against Cherry. The court granted the request made by the Press.

Riley, in her motion to dismiss the indictment, accused Michel A. Paulhus, executive assistant prosecutor, and prosecutor’s Detective John Halliday with misleading the grand jury that indicted Cherry and withholding exculpatory evidence from the panel, including that Tucker’s medical records don’t show her being treated for dog bites.

Riley was prepared to argue in court for dismissal of the indictment last week when Assistant Prosecutor Michael Weatherstone agreed to throw it out. Weatherstone, however, said he will go back to another grand jury to obtain a new indictment against Cherry. Weatherstone said he expects the new indictment to be handed up before Christmas.

Tucker, who subsequently pleaded guilty to eluding police, has a civil lawsuit pending against Cherry and the Tuckerton and Barnegat police departments. Cherry was initially suspended with pay. Following his indictment, Cherry’s pay was suspended.