A Philadelphia woman has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the New Jersey state police after two officers reportedly arrested her for refusing to answer questions during a traffic stop. The incident was captured on the troopers' dashboard camera (video below).
Rebecca Musarra, an attorney from Philadelphia, was pulled over on Oct. 16, 2015, near the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, NJ.com reports. According to her, the police officers violated basic rules after they arrested her for refusing to answer their questions.
Capt. Stephen Jones, spokesman for the state police, said the division's internal affairs office will review the lawsuit and investigate the incident.
"In the event that problems are identified, training and/or disciplinary measures are implemented where appropriate," he wrote in an email to NJ.com.
Defense attorneys for the state said the officers "acted in good faith and without fraud or malice." They intend to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The dashcam video and dispatch log from that night were acquired by NJ Advance media via an open records request in April.
Musarra was pulled over by Trooper Matthew Stazzone for allegedly exceeding the speed limit. Shortly after, a second trooper, Demetric Gosa, appeared on the scene.
Stazzone asked Musarra for her license, registration and insurance and asked her if she knew why she was pulled over. According to Musarra, she provided the requested documents but didn't answer the trooper's question.
"You're going to be placed under arrest if you don't answer my questions," Stazzone warned her after asking her several more times. When Musarra told him that she was not required by law to speak, Stazzone told her to get out of the vehicle and cuffed her.
Musarra asked if she was being detained because she declined to answer questions.
"Yeah," Stazzone said.
"Yeah, obstruction," Gosa added.
Stazzone then read Musarra her Miranda rights and drove her to a nearby State Police station.
The state of New Jersey defines obstruction as hindering law enforcement through "flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle, or by means of any independently unlawful act," according to NJ.com.
At the police station, Musarra said she was placed in a holding cell and was not allowed to make a phone call to her parents. She said a supervisor at the station, Trooper James Butler, eventually reviewed the dashcam video and apologized for the incident, saying Stazzone was a rookie and had made a mistake.
Musarra was never officially charged or issued a summons. She was released from custody about two hours after the traffic stop occurred.
This is certainly not the first time New Jersey police has been sued. In 2009-2012, New Jersey police departments spent over $19 million on legal fees and settlements for lawsuits filed by civilians, Marketplace reports.