2009-07-16 / Front Page

N.B. police lieutenant faces official misconduct charges

Keith Buckley also charged with vehicular homicide for death of Lt. Christopher Zerby last year

North Brunswick Township police Lt. Keith Buckley is facing two counts of official misconduct related to a fatal motor vehicle accident he was involved in last year.

Lt. Keith Buckley Lt. Keith Buckley The July 7 grand jury indictment follows an initial charge of second-degree vehicular homicide that was handed up by the grand jury on Oct. 31, based on the prosecutors' belief that the vehicle Buckley was operating during a fatal accident Aug. 12 was traveling at 94 mph in a 45-mph zone. The crash killed Buckley's fellow police officer, Lt. Christopher Zerby, who was a passenger in the sports car.

The first count of the new charges asserts that Buckley, as a public servant, was refraining from performing the duties of a police officer as he drove a nonpolice vehicle while on duty, according to a document read by Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Nicholas Sewitch.

According to the investigation, Buckley took an unmarked police vehicle to his brother's residence and borrowed his brother's rented 2006 Dodge Viper, which he was driving at the time of the accident. The charge says that since Buckley is believed to have been driving at an excessive speed, he was endangering the public he had the duty to serve, while also endangering his passenger, Zerby.

The charge claims that Buckley had a responsibility to protect the public, obey all local, state and federal laws, and not engage in any conduct unnecessarily endangering the public.

"The allegation is that while on duty, Mr. Buckley endangered the public he was being paid to serve and to protect, and he broke the laws he was being paid to enforce," Sewitch said.

The second count of official misconduct is based on both Buckley's and Zerby's failure to possess their handguns and handcuffs while in the Viper although they were on duty, thereby making them unable to perform the duties of law enforcement officers should a situation arise. In addition, Buckley, who was Zerby's superior, allowed Zerby to unarm himself and allowed him to ride as a passenger without proper police equipment.

"Buckley rendered himself unable to perform but also rendered Zerby unable to perform the duties of a police officer," Sewitch said.

The second count also addresses the allegation that Buckley was driving the Viper without a legitimate purpose while endangering the safety of others.

"This says, by engaging in this conduct, Buckley had violated various rules and regulations of the North Brunswick Police Department," Sewitch said.

The next court date was scheduled for today.

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