Rebecca Musarra, an attorney in Philadelphia, was stopped by police in New Jersey. Trooper Matthew Stazzone pulled her over allegedly for speeding. When he asked for her license, registration, and proof of insurance, she complied but when he asked her a question, which could have incriminated her, she chose not to speak.
Although she remained respectful yet silent during her encounter with police, her silence got her arrested. After Officer Stazzone arrested her, he read her Miranda rights telling her that she had the right to remain silent. What?
Dashcam video obtained by NJ Advance Media revealed what transpired between the two. Musarra was asked, “Do you know why you are being pulled over tonight?” She chose to remain silent so she did not incriminate herself. Officer Stazzone became visibly agitated and asked her again. Once again, Musarra remained silent. Stazzone asked her the question several times, becoming increasingly more agitated each time and warned her that she would be arrested if she did not answer his question.
Musarra finally did speak but only to identify herself as an attorney and informing the officer that she was not required by law to answer his question.
Stazzone then arrested her with assistance from his partner, Demitric Gosa.
When Musarra asked if she was being arrested for remaining silent, Stazzone replied, “Yeah.” Gosa added, “Yes. Obstruction.” New Jersey defines obstruction of justice as impeding the administration of the law “by means of flight, intimidation, force, violence, physical interference, or through any independently unlawful act.” Sitting quietly in your car while a cop asks if you know why you were pulled over does not fall into any of those categories.
The officers patted her down twice, took her to the station, placed her in a holding cell, and handcuffed her to the bench.
After Trooper James Butler, a supervisor, watched the dash cam video, he determined there was no basis for Musarra to have been arrested. He apologized and explained that “a mistake was made, and to chalk it up to training, and that [Stazzone] was just a rookie.”
She was released without being charged or cited but has filed a lawsuit in response to what happened.
WATCH the dashcam video of Musarra’s arrest for remaining silent below.