State moves to withdraw from trooper beating case

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — State prosecutors have asked a federal judge for permission to end their defense of a New Jersey state trooper accused of using excessive force during an arrest three years ago, according to a published report.

The state Attorney General’s office filed its request July 27 in U.S. District Court in Trenton after deciding it had a “professional obligation” to withdraw its representation of Staff Sgt. Richard Wambold Jr., The Star-Ledger reported Sunday. The state cited a conflict of interest, saying it would be defending Wambold in the civil rights lawsuit brought by the alleged beating victim while also prosecuting the trooper internally on administrative misconduct charges.

It’s not known when a ruling will be made on the request. If the state is allowed to withdraw, Wambold would be responsible for his personal legal fees and any damages awarded to the plaintiff.
Wambold’s attorney, Charles Sciarra, told the newspaper that he will challenge the motion.

Sciarra, who has maintained his client’s innocence, said the state should pay for the defense of a “dedicated public servant.” Sciarra has accused the Attorney General’s Office of reacting more to news coverage than to the facts in the case.

The lawsuit and the administrative charges stem from a May 2009 traffic stop in Warren County, which was captured by a dashboard camera inside a state police cruiser.

Wambold and another trooper were seen in the video throwing James Bayliss to the ground, kneeling on him and punching him.

Bayliss, who was 21 at the time, had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in a 2005 car crash that left him in a coma for three months. His lawyer and relatives have said Bayliss has an uneven gait and a form of speaking that makes people think he’s intoxicated when he is sober.

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