by Al Della Fave,
Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
TOMS RIVER-Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato announced the return of the indictment yesterday (1/13/15) against Justin M. Cherry, a Tuckerton Borough Police Officer who is currently suspended without pay, in connection with the arrest of Wendy Tucker, a 58 year-old Barnegat resident, on January 29, 2014 in Barnegat Township.
The indictment alleges that Cherry committed aggravated assault when he released his K-9 partner “Gunner” and allowed it to attack Ms. Tucker after she had already been apprehended and was under the control of two Barnegat police officers. The indictment also charges Cherry with two separate counts of official misconduct. One official misconduct charge alleges that Cherry falsified his police reports and swore out an affidavit for Ms. Tucker’s arrest which contained false information. The other official misconduct charge alleges that Cherry utilized his position as a police officer to commit an aggravated assault upon Ms. Tucker. Cherry is also charged with False Swearing, Tampering With Public Records and Hindering His Own Apprehension. The Official Misconduct charges and the Hindering Apprehension charge are second degree crimes. The Aggravated Assault and Tampering With Public Records charges are third degree. The False Swearing charge is a fourth degree crime. Second degree crimes can result in incarceration from between five and ten years. Third degree crimes can result in imprisonment from between three and five years. Fourth degree crimes can result in incarceration for up to eighteen months.
The indictment stems from Cherry’s interactions with Ms. Tucker on January 29, 2014. Cherry and another Tuckerton officer were called to a private residence in Tuckerton where Tucker was alleged to be an unwelcomed guest. Ms. Tucker agreed to leave the residence. It was discovered that Ms. Tucker had driven her motor vehicle to the residence in Tuckerton. Tuckerton police discovered that Ms. Tucker’s driving privileges were suspended at that time. Tuckerton police asked Ms. Tucker to take the bus home to Barnegat. She agreed to, but was seen by Cherry several minutes later driving her vehicle from the area. Cherry attempted to stop Ms. Tucker’s vehicle, but she refused to do so. Police from neighboring communities were alerted. Ms. Tucker drove to Barnegat Township where she was stopped by officers from the Barnegat Police Department. The indictment alleges that Cherry followed Ms. Tucker’s vehicle to where it was stopped in Barnegat Township and allowed his K-9 to attack Ms. Tucker during her arrest when the use of the K-9 was unnecessary, unwarranted and improper. The indictment further alleges that Cherry falsified his police reports and the affidavit to try to conceal his wrongdoing.
Ms. Tucker was initially charged with driving with a suspended license and third degree Eluding. The Eluding charge has been dismissed.