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New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter G. Verniero will not be impeached over allegations he misled lawmakers about the extent of racial profiling among state police, a key lawmaker said Thursday. Assembly Speaker Jack Collins said he will refer the issue back to the Senate and to the state supreme court for possible disciplinary hearings. Acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco said Thursday he plans to ask the Senate to censure Verniero. At issue is whether Verniero failed to acknowledge the extent of racial profiling among state police or take sufficient action to stop it during his three-year tenure as attorney general under Republican Gov. Christie Whitman. Collins, a Republican, said there are criminal penalties for what Verniero allegedly did. If convicted of perjury, for example, Verniero would automatically be removed from the bench, Collins said. “We will not be moving forward on this. It’s up to the Senate,” he said. The Senate’s options include asking the Mercer County prosecutor to indict Verniero on perjury charges, Collins said. State courts also can discipline judges and attorneys, he said. Collins, who announced last week he will retire, joined others who said Verniero should resign. “I’m comfortable with my decisions,” he said. Verniero, through his attorney, released a one-paragraph statement denying the allegations and saying he plans “to continue to devote himself to his duties.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Verniero to resign, as has DiFrancesco. Both cited their belief Verniero misled senators about racial profiling during his May 1999 confirmation hearing. The Assembly must initiate and approve impeachment. It would amount to an indictment for trial to be conducted in the state Senate. Robert Mintz, Verniero’s attorney, has argued the Senate cannot conduct a fair trial since so many key members, including DiFrancesco, have already publicly demanded Verniero’s resignation. Collins had said in the past that the prospect of fairness in the Senate would be a factor in his decision. Verniero was the first attorney general to acknowledge the existence of racial profiling by state troopers. The admission came in a 1999 report, one year after two white troopers fired 11 shots at four unarmed minority men — wounding three — during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Critics contend he gave intentionally vague answers about racial profiling during his confirmation hearings weeks after the report was made public. They also allege Verniero had crucial information about profiling for years when he was attorney general but didn’t try to stop it. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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