Evidence from a 2010 traffic stop was thrown out in court Wednesday when a judge ruled in favor of newly elected Hightstown council member Robert Thibault, calling the stop “politically motivated.”
Thibault said he was very pleased with the results.
“I think the judge’s statement was very strong and very clear, and it made the past year and a half of processes and proceedings and fighting worthwhile,” Thibault said.
West Windsor Municipal Court Judge Mary Brennan said Detective Benjamin Miller testified he overheard other police officers talking about a warrant for Thibault at National Night Out, and ran a warrant check and his license the next morning. No outstanding warrants were found, but databases showed Thibault had a suspended drivers license out of North Carolina.
Brennan said Wednesday the search violated Thibault’s first, fourth and 14th amendment rights.
“The police targeted me because of my political views and this is America and we’re suppose to be protected from that,” Thibault said.
In 2010 Thibault was running in the local election, and was vocally in favor of the results of a study that said Hightstown and East Windsor should share a police department and court services, known as the Patriot Study.
Thibault was pulled over by Miller on Aug. 6, 2010 in the Borough Hall parking lot, and issued tickets for driving with a suspended license and failure to surrender a suspended license, Brennan said.
In Miller’s earlier testimony, he did not provide the names of officers who were talking about Thibualt during National Night Out, and the judge said it was difficult to accept the testimony because of this.
“One can only conclude this was all about politics,” Brennan said.
The judge said the license lookup was done without probable cause, the state had not met the burden of proof and was therefore granting the motion to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop.
“I have no comment which way it went, it’s her ruling,” said Larry Quattrone, council president who is also a Hightstown Police Department spokesman.
It was unclear as of Thursday if there would be an appeal.
North Carolina officials expunged Thibault’s traffic record after finding the suspended license was a clerical error, and New Jersey officials reinstated his license, Thibault said.
Thibault still believes the overall results of the Patriot study are accurate.
“A Borough of one square mile of 5,000 people cannot sustain an expensive police force on its own,” Thibault said.
Unsure of what is next, Thibault said he is going to focus on his family and the holidays and will discuss with his attorney what are the next steps.
“Now I can focus on Christmas, my family and after the holidays I’ll start thinking about what’s next,” Thibault said. “I just had not thought about anything but resolving the case of the ticket, the case of what the judge has declared political retaliation.”