FREEHOLD, NJ — A former municipal court judge, who sat on the bench in nearby Bradley Beach and Neptune City, has pleaded guilty to falsifying records in a ticket-fixing scheme that benefited the towns in which he served, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
Richard Thompson, 62, of Middletown entered a guilty plea on February 2 to one count of fourth-degree falsifying records in some 4,000 court cases while serving as a municipal court judge in nine Monmouth County municipalities. Since October 23, 2015, he has been suspended from his judicial duties in Bradley Beach, Colts Neck, Eatontown, Middletown, Neptune City, Oceanport, Rumson, Tinton Falls and Union Beach.
Appearing before Criminal Court Judge David F. Bauman, Thompson admitted to steering monies to the municipalities that employed him as a municipal court judge — diverting more than $500,000 in fines that under state law should have gone to Monmouth County.
He admitted that on numerous occasions while presiding as a judge from January 2010 to October 2015, he suspended fines he issued in connection with the disposition of motor vehicle tickets and improperly converted those monies to contempt of court assessments, when there was no legal basis to do so, according to the prosecutor.
In an effort to conceal the scheme and prevent its detection, Thompson committed these acts after citizens and, in some cases, attorneys had already departed the courtroom, according to the findings of a two-year investigation by the prosecutor’s office Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit.
New Jersey law permits a judge to hold an individual in contempt for various reasons, including failure to appear before the court and disrupting court proceedings. The law further provides specific requirements that must be followed before a judge may hold someone in contempt of court, including giving the individual an opportunity to be heard.
According to state law, monetary fines levied in municipal court for motor vehicle offenses are split equally (“50-50”) between the municipality and county. However, contempt of court fines are fully retained by municipalities. In instances where motor vehicle citations are issued by New Jersey State Police troopers, 100 percent of the monetary fines are given to the state treasury, according to the law.
Thompson’s conduct unfairly benefited the towns where he served at the expense of the county’s treasury, according to the complaint. As a result, between January 1, 2010 and the date of his suspension on October 23, 2015, Thompson unlawfully diverted more than $500,000 in fine money from Monmouth County to the municipalities where he sat on the bench. As such, Thompson’s conduct was likely to curry favor with the municipalities that continued to employ him as a judge, allowing him to retain his seat on the various municipal courts for many years, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“County residents who appear before judges do so with the rightful expectation that those entrusted with black robes will be honest and forthright, and uphold the highest principles of integrity. Thompson’s persistent disregard for these principles, and manipulation of the municipal court system, betrayed this sacred trust,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
Thompson could face a sentence of 18 months in prison, but his plea agreement calls for noncustodial probation and allows him to apply to the pretrial intervention program (PTI). As part of his plea, Thompson is permanently disqualified from being a municipal court judge or holding any other public employment.
The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Melanie Falco and Maria Franceschini. Judge Thompson is represented by Charles Uliano, Esq., of Long Branch.
In November 2012, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office launched a Corruption Tip Line designed to solicit the public’s assistance in identifying and targeting corruption, fraud and misconduct occurring in local governmental agencies. Citizens may report concerns via the following: Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Corruption Tip Line – 855-7-UNJUST (855 786-5878); or email email@example.com and write “Corruption/Misconduct Tip” in the subject line.
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