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Ex-Carteret Police Director Avoids Jail After Guilty Plea in DWI Crash

Ronald Franz Pleads Guilty to Eluding and DWI, Agrees to Never Hold NJ Public Job
Ronald Franz
Former Carteret Police Chief Ronald Franz being fingerprinted at the Middlesex County Courthouse. Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A 71-year-old former Carteret Police Director, who only lasted three weeks in the job, agreed to spend the the next three years on probation and never hold a public job again following a DWI arrest.

Mayor Dan Reiman hired Ronald Franz to be police director earlier this year, but Franz only lasted three weeks before getting arrested for eluding police and driving while intoxicated.

Franz had come out of retirement to take the Police Director job, after a lengthy career as a NJ State Trooper, only to be arrested after getting in a one-car crash in Old Bridge.  He was suspended, at first, and then fired after a reporter started asking about a previous lawsuit against him during his time with the State Police.

Mayor Reiman, currently focused on taking control of the borough's Board of Education away from the voters, recently told the Home News Tribune that the only thing constitutents complain about is the efficiency of the school system.

A spokesperson for Reiman did not respond to a request for comment on the sentence, nor did they respond to New Brunswick Today's inquiries about who currently holds the police director job.

On October 31, Judge Alberto Rivas allowed Franz to stay out of jail, sentencing him instead to three years probation and a brief driver's license suspension.

The sentence comes as the result of a plea deal reached between Franz and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO).

Franz will also have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines, have an "ignition interlock device" installed in his vehicle for a total of nine months, and forfeit his right to hold public office ever again.

The Judge said he was concerned that Franz, a career law enforcement professional, had been belligerent with the officers who arrested him.

Franz also passed out in the back of a police car, according to Assistant Prosecutor Christine D'Elia, who said that, had the case been taken to a grand jury, Franz would have faced a second-degree charge of eluding instead of the third-degree charge he pled guilty to.

Franz was represented by John Hogan of the powerful Wilentz law firm, based in Woodbridge.

"He had a very bad night" said Hogan.  "He didn't have a memory of what happened that night.  It's a blur."

Franz, who was  was not given a breathalyzer test but was instead charged with refusing to take one.

Franz had nothing to say for himself during the sentencing, relying on what his attorney had said.

But Hogan conceeded that "the video is undeniable, quite frankly," presumably referencing videos of the incident recorded by Old Bridge Township police vehicles.

Just a few days earlier, in a separate court battle, the county’s Assignment Judge Travis Francis ruled that the video of Franz crashing his vehicle on Route 9 and driving over some 50 feet of grass as he tried to elude police must be released by the Township in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.

Judge Francis ultimately sided with Steven Wronko, an activist who filed a request for the video, and was denied by the Township.

Wronko was represented by Pashman Stein's CJ Griffin, who sees the decision as an important counter to a much-maligned Appellate Division ruling that has made it much harder for citizens to obtain records, including videos, from police.

"It is always good when you can convince the court to disagree with the Appellate Division's [Lyndhurst v. North Jersey Media Group] decision," said Griffin.  "I have convinced two judges now: Judge Jacobson and Judge Francis."

The issue of whether or not hundreds of thousands of hours of videos recorded by police vehicles and new "body-worn" cameras--and many other police records--will be available to the public through the OPRA law, is expected to be addressed by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the near future.