Torricelli won’t appeal appellate court finding

The Appellate Division of state Superior Court upheld the former U.S. senator’s conviction for leaving the scene of an accident in Lambertville in August 2003.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — Former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli will not appeal the decision of the Appellate Division of state Superior Court, upholding his conviction for leaving the scene of an accident in Lambertville in August 2003, his attorney, William Deni, said Monday.
   Earlier this month, Judges C.S. Fisher and S.L. Reisner rejected Mr. Torricelli’s claim the state failed to prove he knowingly caused damage and failed to prove damages beyond a reasonable doubt. The court also rejected Mr. Torricelli’s contention he was denied a fair trial by the municipal court judge.
   The ruling upholds the findings of earlier municipal court and Superior Court rulings finding Mr. Torricelli guilty. For leaving the scene of an accident, Mr. Torricelli lost his license for six months and was required to pay court costs and a $200 fine.
   Throughout his trial in Lambertville Municipal Court and his appeals, Mr. Torricelli said he had not been driving at the time of the accident. He said his former wife, Susan Holloway, was driving when the fender bender occurred.
   Sean Jackson, Mr. Torricelli’s partner in Rosemont Associates, a consulting firm in Delaware Township, spoke Monday on his behalf.
   "Sen. Torricelli and Miss Holloway are glad that this sorry episode has at last come to an end," Mr. Jackson said. "They had both inspected the other vehicle in question and found no damage, and the record showed that there was no damage to either vehicle. The courts have now created an unworkable system requiring that the police be called any time two cars happen to bump in a private parking lot regardless of damage."
   The accident occurred Aug. 29, 2003, in the parking lot of the Main Street Market. Mr. Torricelli said he drove his Jeep into the lot, parked and remained in the vehicle while Ms. Holloway went inside the market. While she was gone, he crossed the console to sit in the passenger seat and began to study for an examination for a securities license.
   Mr. Torricelli said he remained in the passenger seat when Ms. Holloway returned to the Jeep and got behind the wheel. It was she who backed up the Jeep and hit a car owned by Edward O’Leary, owner of the market, Mr. Torricelli and Miss Holloway testified.
   Eyewitness Kenneth Nanni, a Lambertville contractor, said otherwise. From his vantage point at a house next door, where he was sanding the porch rails, Mr. Nanni said he saw a male driving the Jeep.
   The municipal court judge said he believed Mr. Nanni. He also said he believed Ms. Holloway would "take a hit" for the senator because the couple remain close.
   In his testimony, Mr. Torricelli acknowledged both he and his ex-wife knew the Jeep had collided with Mr. O’Leary’s car, but they said they did not see any damage.
   But the appellate judges relied on a state law that says, "It shall not be a defense that the operator of the motor vehicle was unaware of the existence or extent of personal injury or property damage caused by the accident so long as the operator was aware that he was involved in an accident."