N.Y. County Dem Legislator Has Meltdown During Traffic Stop, Uses Multiple Excuses in Effort to Avoid Speeding Ticket

October 31, 2017

Long-suppressed video emerged last week of a New York county legislator pleading with a police officer not to give her a speeding ticket, leading the Democratic official to apologize for her behavior.

Ulster County legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky was driving her Prius on May 24 when officer Gary Short pulled her over in an Aldi supermarket parking lot in Kingston, N.Y., Hudson Valley One reported.

The 26-minute video, captured on a police patrol car dash cam that recorded the exchange, was publicized at an Ulster Town Board meeting last Tuesday. Berky's attorneys had pushed to stop the release of the tape, arguing it would not allow their client to receive a fair trial.

During the traffic stop, Berky asked Short whether their exchange was being recorded; he confirmed it was.

In the video, Berky tries several different ways to get out of the ticket for going 43 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. The tape shows her "venting at the officer, begging not to be ticketed, citing her position as a county lawmaker, and naming elected officials she says she's contacting," the Daily Freeman reported.

She also claims that she does not have the money to pay for a ticket.

"Please don't give me a ticket, I'm broke," she says in the video. "I'm completely broke, and if you tell people, it's going to hurt me. I'm totally broke. I made $20,000 last year. Please don't give me a ticket."

Berky later says that she is having a panic attack and has PTSD.

When Short asks if she will listen to him, Berky responds, "Yes, I will listen to you, and you're not going to let me go even though I'm a county legislator and I always do everything right and I follow the law and I was at the same pace as every other car."

Short repeatedly attempts to explain the reason for giving the ticket to Berky, who at times appears to hyperventilate and have a panic attack while blaming her speed on traffic.

Berky also claims that she does not feel safe with the police officers around as another officer comes to support Short.

"Guys, I don't feel safe anymore," Berky says. "I don't feel safe here. I don't feel safe around you."

"I work 24 hours a day to support my family," Berky adds.

Berky also becomes angry with Short after he indicates he will cut her a break on the ticket so that the penalty will be less severe. Short ends up giving Berky a ticket for going 13 miles an hour above the speed limit.

Berky, who is up for reelection on Nov. 7, apologized for the incident on Friday.

"The video released earlier this week of my Town of Ulster traffic stop captured a tough moment for me," Berky said. "Like so many working families, I too face tough times and stressful situations.  As a professional, a public servant, and a mother, I know my interaction with Police Officer Gary Short was unacceptable. I want to apologize to Officer Short and thank him for his patience and professionalism with me during a very difficult time."

Other Democrats defended Berky without addressing her conduct during the stop. The Democratic leader of the Ulster County Legislature, Hector Rodriguez; the chairman of the Kingston Democratic Committee, Joseph Donaldson; the regional political director of the Working Families Party, Phil Leber; and the lead organizer of Citizen Action of the Hudson Valley, Callie Jayne issued a joint statement on the matter.

"Jennifer has been a dedicated public servant for decades and an important progressive voice on the Ulster County Legislature," the statement said. "We stand united in supporting her reelection as the legislator of District 7. We know she is a knowledgeable city planner, environmental advocate, and steadfast champion of human rights—her many strengths serve her well in her her position as a legislator, including her ability to reflect and learn from her experiences … We would like to thank Officer Short for his professionalism and patience in a difficult situation."