NEW JERSEY'S WORST RECEIVES LENIENT SENTENCE AFTER KILLING PASSENGER: former Burlington Township cop Justin Rodriguez, 25, received a 4-year sentence after his deadly drunken speeding car crash that killed Ariana Williams, 27Rodriguez was driving with an open can of Coors Light at a speed of 86 mph, nearly twice the road's limit, when he struck a pole after 2 a.m. He sustained critical injuries when he was thrown from the vehicle, and was found to have a blood alcohol level of .17 at the scene.
Sunday, July 02, 2017 12:50PM
MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (WPVI) -- A former police officer who was driving drunk when he caused a fatal off-duty crash last year is now headed to state prison.
Burlington County prosecutors say Justin Rodriguez received a four-year sentence Friday.
The 25-year-old Burlington Township man had pleaded guilty in May to a vehicular homicide stemming from a Sept. 23 crash in Florence Township. The crash killed his passenger, 27-year-old Ariana Williams, and left Rodriguez critically injured.
Authorities have said Rodriguez was speeding when he lost control of his car and struck a pole.
Rodriguez had served with the Burlington Township police department for 11 months before the crash occurred. He was suspended without pay after being charged and was fired following his guilty plea.
Most of the drunk-related crashes occur in the early a.m. hours like this one. So, when you are on the road at that time, always beware of these drunk and dangerous morons.
Cops always receive special treatment in New Jersey. The most corrupt state in the union. This has allowed crooks, bullies, PTSD, mentally-ill and other criminals to join the police work force. The state is in a government shutdown right now. Has been going downhill for many years, there is a net exodus of people out of the state; only free-loaders on the property owners remain.
By Amanda Hoover
MOUNT HOLLY, NJ -- A man who swore to protect and serve his community as a police officer will spend the next four years behind bars for his role in a fatal drunken driving crash that killed his friend.
Justin Rodriguez, a 26-year-old former Burlington Township police officer, was sentenced to four years in state prison for vehicular homicide by Judge Terrence Cook of the Burlington County Superior Court Wednesday. His will also face a longterm suspension of his license and other traffic-related fines.
For many, Rodriguez's role in law enforcement only augmented the recklessness of his decision to drive while intoxicated.
"You, as a sworn law enforcement officer of all people, should know the dangers of drinking and driving," Cook said.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty in May to a vehicular homicide charge stemming from a September 2016 crash that killed 27-year-old Ariana Williams, a passenger in his car.
While the court accepted the plea deal, much of Williams' family and large circle of friends said that sentence left justice undone, and appeared Friday to call for stricter action against Rodriguez.
"My heart is broken. I cry myself to sleep," Rachelle Barrington, Williams's aunt, told the court. "I feel robbed. I don't feel justice today."
Those who knew Williams, some for decades, described her as a "vibrant" woman with an infectious smile who brought people together. Many recognized her as a grounding force in their lives, saying she had comforted them in times of grief and listened to problems late in the night to give advice.
Many of the more than 15 people who spoke recounted not only their memories, but the grief that will continue into the future as Williams is missing from weddings, birthdays and holidays.
"It's obvious that four years is inadequate," Brian Fritz, an attorney for the Williams family, said outside the courthouse Friday. He said the family plans to bring a civil suit against Rodriguez as well as the Brickwall Tavern, where Williams and Rodriguez ended their night too intoxicated to drive.
That suit could also include a Ruby Tuesdays where the two had drinks earlier in the evening, he said.
The night of September 22 began as an outing for two friends, who first went to a Ruby Tuesdays for drinks. There, Rodriguez ordered three beers, a margarita and a mix drink made with tequila before moving on to the Brickwall Tavern in Burlington just after 9 p.m., Cook said. Throughout the night, he drank several more beers and shot of Jose Cuervo, purchasing a drink as late as 1:40 a.m., not long before they two got back into the car.
Authorities said Rodriguez was driving with an open can of Coors Light at a speed of 86 mph, nearly twice the road's limit, when he struck a pole after 2 a.m. He sustained critical injuries when he was thrown from the vehicle, and was found to have a blood alcohol level of .17 at the scene.
Williams, who was wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.
Rodriguez had served as a police officer with the Burlington Township Police Department for 11 months at the time of the crash. He was suspended from the force and removed following his guilty plea.
While he had no prior criminal record, the several months leading up to the September crash were tumultuous ones for Rodriguez, his attorney Katherine Hartman said. After a volatile breakup and a day on the police force that put him on the scene of brutal a murder-suicide, Rodriguez began "self-medicating" with alcohol, and was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder as well as a substance abuse issue, Hartman said.
He had recently received inpatient and outpatient treatment for the issue.
No family members of friends of Rodriguez's spoke Friday, but Cook noted that several character letters advocating in his favor had been entered in the court.
"I am sorry. I am truly, deeply sorry," Rodriguez said, addressing the court. "I take full responsibility for my actions."
Rodriguez will be eligible for parole after serving around 41 months in prison. While behind bars, he will likely be kept in a more isolated environment for his own protection, considering his past in law enforcement, Hartman said.
While some took issue with the sentence, others noted that no sentence would bring peace to either family.
"I don't feel like any length of time is going to make it better," Tatiana Williams, the twin sister of Ariana said following the sentencing. "As a police officer, he should've been more careful."
The Williams sisters had been friends with Rodriguez for around 4 years, according to Tatiana. She said she wished Rodriguez had applied his duty to "protect and serve" the community to his friendship with Williams, as well.
For Williams's parents, it's still hard to understand the fatal crash, and why their daughter would get into the car with an impaired driver.
"It doesn't help at all," Ronald Williams, Ariana's father, said of Rodriguez's apology outside of the courthouse. "We told our daughters to call for us. If you can't make it home, call someone."
by Cristina Rojas
FLORENCE, NJ -- An off-duty Burlington Township police officer crashed his car into a utility pole early Friday, killing a woman passenger and critically injuring himself, police said.
Justin Rodriguez, 25, was driving his Acura Integra around 2:10 a.m. when he struck a pole on West Front Street in Florence, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said.
His passenger -- Ariana Williams, 27, of Florence -- was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rodriguez was thrown from the car and taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center. He is listed in critical condition.
A preliminary investigation indicates that speed was a factor in the crash, authorities said. Officials are also conducting toxicology tests to determine if alcohol or drugs also played a role.
The crash remains under investigation by Florence police and the prosecutor's office. No charges have been filed at this point.
Rodriguez graduated from the Gloucester County Police Academy in December.
BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, NJ — An off-duty rookie police officer has been charged with the death of a Florence woman who was killed after he crashed his car while driving drunk, prosecutors said.
Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernadi said Justin Rodriguez, a Burlington Township police officer for 11 months, drove his Acura Integra into a utility pole on West Front Street in Florence on Sept. 23. Rodriquez was thrown from the car. Ariana Williams, a passenger in his car, died at the scene.
A blood test on Rodriquez showed he had “consumed an excessive amount of alcohol in the hours leading up to the crash,” Bernardi said. He was arrested Thursday morning and charged with one count of second-degree vehicular homicide for Williams’ death. Rodriquez was released after he posted $50,000 bail.
Burlington Township Police said Rodriquez has been on administrative leave since the crash and is now suspended without pay pending the case’s outcome.
The Burlington Township Police Department said the investigation into the incident was conducted by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, in conjunction with the Florence Township Police Department.
“The members of the Burlington Township Police Department, first and foremost, would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Ariana Williams. We cannot even begin to imagine the pain and grief they are experiencing over their loss. This was a tragic and preventable accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.” the department said in a statement.