Pubdate: Sat, 31 Mar 2001
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
Author: Laura Mansnerus
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


The New Jersey Legislature's Black and Latino Caucus, dissatisfied
with State Supreme Court Justice Peter G. Verniero's testimony in
hearings on racial profiling, yesterday called for his

Justice Verniero has not decided whether to give more testimony to the
Senate Judiciary Committee, his lawyer, Robert A. Mintz, said. He was
asked to return by Senator William L. Gormley, the committee chairman,
who at the close of Mr. Verniero's testimony Wednesday night accused
him of having misled the panel in his own court confirmation hearings
in 1999.

In 13 hours before the committee, which is examining the state's
response to racial profiling when he was the attorney general, Mr.
Verniero could not answer many questions about his office's review of
state police practices or his cooperation with the Justice Department,
which was also investigating the state police.

In a letter sent yesterday afternoon, the 20-member Black and Latino
Caucus said Justice Verniero's failure to recall many documents and
conversations from 1996 to 1999 was "disturbing and

The letter, signed by Assemblyman Joseph Charles Jr., also said that
Mr. Verniero's testimony was "at odds with" his response to a request
for records two years ago, while his nomination to the court was pending.

After the caucus asked for records of traffic stops by state troopers,
Mr. Verniero replied in a letter dated March 29, 1999, that "I cannot
provide this information at this time." The attorney general's
department did have some data on stops at the time, as Mr. Verniero
and others have since acknowledged.

The hearings have led to newspaper editorials calling for Justice
Verniero's resignation. Yesterday, The Record of Hackensack said he
should step down, as The Home News Tribune of New Brunswick did
Monday. Today, The New York Times is doing the same.

The hearings resume Monday with testimony from four lawyers from the
attorney general's office. The first is Paul Zoubek, the first
assistant attorney general, who oversaw investigations of the state
police, including the officers accused in the 1998 shooting of three
men on the New Jersey Turnpike.

David Hespe, who was Mr. Verniero's chief assistant briefly and was
later named commissioner of education, is also scheduled to testify
Monday. Another deputy, George Rover, testified last week that Mr.
Hespe had told him not to forward a state police report that Mr. Rover
said should be forwarded to Justice Department investigators.

Mr. Hespe is now teaching at Rowan University in Glassboro,

It is not clear when Justice Verniero might testify again. Senator
Gormley said Wednesday night that the committee might demand his
return, but yesterday aides to the committee said it was Mr.
Verniero's decision to make. 
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