RARITAN TWP., NJ –TAPinto has filed suit against Raritan Township seeking information the municipality has kept secret regarding the DUI charge against Hunterdon County Freeholder John E. Lanza.
The incident regarding Lanza seems to be one township officials have sought from the beginning to conceal from the public.
Lanza was found slumped over the steering wheel of his black 2015 Ford Explorer around 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 5, according to police records. The SUV, which was pulled to the far-right side of Milestone Drive in Raritan Township, was running.
Lanza was unresponsive and police broke the SUV’s front passenger window so that they could reach him.
One report claimed that Lanza was “too impaired to stand,” but that isn’t evident from the video provided to TAPinto.
After receiving a tip, TAPinto first sought information about the charges against Lanza on Sept. 6 but, contrary to law cited in the suit, the township offered no response until Sept. 13. After being challenged, it provided more information on Sept. 18, then released its final redacted documents and video on Sept. 26.
Lanza is represented by attorney John Paul Velez of the Ledgewood-based Forster Arbore Velez law firm. In a written statement, Velez previously said Lanza suffered a “medical emergency.” But that doesn’t explain why the ambulance – which arrived within minutes – waited more than 19 minutes before taking Lanza to Hunterdon Medical Center for treatment.
Velez has insisted to the media that Lanza was not taken into custody or arrested, but documents provided by the township include a Booking Report and names Patrol Officers Connor Gallagher and Dustin Pflug as the arresting officers.
“It seems clear that Raritan is interested in protecting Lanza and keeping the public from reading details about his intoxicated condition that he might consider embarrassing,” TAPinto’s suit claims. “Lanza’s status as a public official, however, should not provide him any special privilege to keep the details of his DWI from the public.”
The suit was filed in Superior Court on behalf of TAPinto by CJ Griffin of the Hackensack-based law firm Pashman Stein.
In its refusal to release the requested records, Raritan Township attorney Edward Purcell of the Warren-based law firm DiFrancesco Bateman cited Lanza’s “reasonable expectation of privacy” and claimed “information relating to medical, psychiatric or psychological history, diagnosis, treatment or evaluation” is not a government record subject to disclosure. Purcell also cited what he called “the township’s interest in confidentiality” which “outweighs” any interest in disclosure.
In addition to the DUI and reckless driving charges, documents show police found $12,500 in cash in the center console of the Lanza’s SUV. Velez said the cash has been returned to Lanza, but the township hasn’t revealed any other details about the money.
Lanza, a Republican, is seeking re-election this year.