Bergen County, NJ – A state appellate court ruled last week that the suspect who filed an appeal complaining that the prison sentence she received for dragging a New Jersey state trooper with her vehicle was too harsh could now potentially face an even stiffer penalty.
Brittany Burnett, 27, had asked the appeals court to overturn her conviction and toss out her five-year prison sentence, NJ.com reported.
Not only did the appeals court determine Burnett was given a fair trial, it also ruled that the sentence she was given was not severe enough under the law, according to the paper.
The court ultimately remanded the case back to the Bergen County judge for resentencing, NJ.com reported.
The attack on New Jersey State Trooper Michael Delgaizo occurred on July 20, 2018, outside a Taylor Swift concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, according to North Jersey Media Group.
Burnett, who had been hired to drive a group of people to and from the concert, pulled her SUV into a bus lane leading to Route 120 after the show to park and call her clients, NJ.com reported.
Trooper Delgaizo asked her three times to move her vehicle out of the bus lane, but she refused and became belligerent.
Court records showed that at one point, Burnett told someone she was speaking with on the phone that “a cop” was trying to talk to her, but that she wasn’t going to move her vehicle.
Trooper Delgaizo ultimately told Burnett to stay put because he was going to write her a ticket, NJ.com reported.
“Delgaizo took two or three steps toward his troop vehicle when he heard the defendant’s vehicle shift into drive,” according to court testimony.
The trooper turned back towards the suspect’s vehicle and pounded on her hood while yelling “Stop! Put the car in park! Put the car in park!” court documents read.
Burnett crashed into Trooper Delgaizo’s knee as he reached into the vehicle to unlock the door, NJ.com reported.
The suspect then “hit the gas” and dragged Trooper Delgaizo down the road and onto the Route 120 ramp, where he ultimately “became dislodged and fell end-over-end multiple times,” according to court testimony.
A civilian and a traffic-control worker both witnessed the attack and corroborated the trooper’s account, the appeals court noted, according to North Jersey Media Group.
Burnett fled the complex and headed out onto Route 17, where she swapped out her clothing.
She was apprehended by additional state troopers later in the night after they spotted her license plate, North Jersey Media group reported.
Prosecutors said Trooper Delgaizo’s knee and back were injured in the attack, forcing him to miss a month’s worth of work, but the Bergen County judge dismissed allegations the trooper suffered significant bodily injury during the incident, according to the news outlet.
Burnett was convicted on charges of resisting arrest, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, and eluding police.
The county judge sentenced her to five years on the eluding offense, four more months in county jail for the resisting arrest offense, and 364 days in county jail on the aggravated assault offense, which was ordered to run concurrently with the prison time, North Jersey Media Group reported.
The sentencing judge also noted that Burnett could face problems in prison because she is an “openly gay woman” who has allegedly suffered “discrimination because of her sexual orientation” in the past, according to the appeals court.
Burnett’s attorneys appealed her sentence and argued that the court should not have allowed evidence about Trooper Delgaizo’s injuries because they allegedly hadn’t been backed by medical evidence, according to NJ.com.
They further complained that the judge had reprimanded a defense witness in front of the jury improperly, and said Burnett’s expired driver’s license status from another state had been unfairly admitted.
The appeals court tossed out all of the defense’s arguments before further ruling that the county judge had actually sentenced Burnett too leniently, NJ.com reported.
Since she was sentenced to state prison on the eluding charge, “the court should not have sentenced her to the county jail on the other offenses,” the appeals court said, according to the North Jersey Media Group.
The panel said Burnett had acted violently multiple times during the encounter and that she had time to “cool down” after each offense, but chose not to, NJ.com reported.
The appeals court held that the sentencing court should have considered adding prison time for resisting arrest and an additional three-to-five-year-sentence for the assault offense, according to the North Jersey Media Group.
The case was remanded back to the county judge for resentencing.