In June 2016 a Bordentown father was wrapping up his Father’s Day by playing a game of basketball with his two sons, when the ball rolled into the street and got stuck under a New Jersey State Trooper’s patrol car.
Annoyed with the number of troopers that came speeding through his neighborhood, Thomas Rowley, walked out into the street to retrieve the basketball and talk to Trooper Brennan Sullivan. Rowley didn’t expect a heated confrontation or to be put under arrest, but that’s exactly what happened.
Rowley has now filed a federal lawsuit accusing Sullivan of making a false arrest, using excessive force and malicious prosecution.
The suit explains that Rowley had been playing outside with his children when trooper Sullivan came speeding down their street without overhead flashing lights or a siren,” and didn’t stop for about 20 yards before stopping with the ball wedged under the car.
Rowley went into the street and complained to Sullivan about the number of troopers that regularly speed their way through the neighborhood when leaving the nearby by State Police Bordentown Barracks, according to the suit.
The suit says Rowley asked Sullivan if he was on call. Sullivan, according to the suit, responded with an expletive and stood “chest to chest” with Rowley and said “don’t make me embarrass you in front of your kids.
Rowley pointed to the ball “and told Sullivan it could have been one of his children crushed under the vehicle,” the suit says.
Sullivan became angry over the criticisms and arrested Rowley, “purely on malice,” the suit says.
The suit claims the trooper included “false claims,” including accusations that Rowley delayed traffic, was intoxicated, used vulgar language in front of children and failed to obey lawful orders, in his report to support Rowley’s arrest.
The suit says as Rowley was being arrested his oldest son, “begged Sullivan not to take his father away.”
Rowley was detained for about 20 minutes at the Bordentown station and charged with disorderly conduct. The suit alleges that as Rowley was being released he told an unnamed trooper that he planned to file a complaint against Sullivan.
That trooper told Rowley to “forget” about filing a complaint, and when Rowley refused to drop the issue the unnamed trooper arrested Rowley again and he was detained for another 20 minutes, the suit says.
When Rowley was released for a second time he was given papers for an Internal Affairs complaint.
Rowley was initially convicted of the disorderly conduct charge in municipal court, but was acquitted after a new trial in Superior Court.
“This has been a long ordeal for Mr. Rowley, but he was finally vindicated last week,” said Thomas Mallon, Rowley’s attorney.
Mallon told NJ Advance Media that Sullivan completely abused his authority and behaved inappropriately during the incident.
“They don’t learn their lesson from an acquittal,” Mallon said, “Mr. Rowley deserves his day in court as a plaintiff and the trooper should have to defend himself.”
A spokesperson from the Attorney General’s office declined to comment on pending litigation.