Corzine changes driver after crash

March 28, 2008 9:09:05 AM PDT
The state trooper who drove Gov. Jon S. Corzine during the car crash that nearly killed him almost a year ago no longer works in the state police unit that protects and drives the governor. Robert Rasinski, whose unauthorized use of emergency lights was blamed for triggering the April 12 crash, was transferred to the state police unit that protects the Statehouse and other state government buildings.

State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said Rasinski requested the transfer. Jones described protecting government buildings as "related work" and said transfers aren't uncommon within the state police, which he said has more than 100 different jobs.

"All troopers move around from station to station and sometimes within the various specialties," Jones said.

Rasinski hasn't responded to numerous requests for comment since the crash.

Corzine, in the front passenger seat, was not wearing his seat belt when the SUV careened into a guardrail. He voluntarily paid the $46 fine.

He spent 18 days in the hospital, much of it on a ventilator, after the crash and months doing therapy. He needed four surgeries, including an additional one in September, to repair a broken left leg.

A state police report concluded that unauthorized use of emergency lights by Rasinski triggered events that led to the accident.

Rasinski was driving an unmarked state police sport utility vehicle at 91 mph in a 65 mph zone on the Garden State Parkway, with lights flashing, before the crash.

He was driving Corzine from Atlantic City to a meeting at the governor's mansion in Princeton with radio show host Don Imus and the members of the Rutgers women's basketball team, whom Imus had insulted with an on-air racial slur.

State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes recommended Rasinski be suspended for up to five days without pay.

Rasinski, at least for a time, continued driving the governor after Corzine was released from the hospital and resumed gubernatorial duties.

Corzine continuously praised Rasinski.

"In the midst of the accident he did everything he possibly could do to protect me and the other people in the car," Corzine said in June. "It was very clear that he did that and I think it could have been a lot worse if he hadn't been as able as he was."

An expert panel formed after the crash recommended restrictions on when state troopers can speed and use sirens, limiting driving shifts to eight hours, using helicopters to transport the governor more frequently, adding more troopers to the unit and requiring a front-seat passengers follow the law by wearing seat belts.