Town of Ulster releases video of county legislator’s traffic stop

The long-suppressed videotape detailing with what one police officer called “a routine traffic stop” four months ago finally saw the light of public scrutiny Tuesday night. The tape was from a police patrol car dash cam which recorded the exchange between county legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky and officer Gary Short in the Town of Ulster shortly before 7 p.m. in the Aldi’s parking lot on May 24.

Berky’s lawyers sought to suppress the dash cam on the grounds that it would compromise her chances for a fair trial. The town board, acting on the advice of the state’s Freedom of Information office and town attorney Jason Kovacs, voted 4-0 Tuesday night to release the tape. Councilman Joel Brink was absent.

Town supervisor Jim Quigley had ruled that only those who had FOILed the dash cam would receive copies. Berky requested a copy, but was not in attendance during the 30-minute special town-board meeting. Recipients of the tape are free to distribute it as they choose.

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Berky was due in town court on June 14, but did not appear and did not contact the court. She did not appear for hearings in July or August. Her attorneys represented her at town board meetings on October 16 and 23. Berky has a trial date in town court, if she so chooses, for November 20.

Joe O’Connor, Berky’s lawyer at the special session, told the town board that releasing the video might expose the town to “hundreds of requests” for such videos at an expense (with police officers appearing in court) of “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

O’Connor said he would discuss with his client whether she wants to appeal the town’s decision.

Related:

County legislator apologizes for behavior at traffic stop shown in video

The tape shows Short approaching Berky’s Prius in the Aldi’s parking lot after following her for about a quarter-mile from the intersection of Ulster Avenue and Morton Boulevard onto Route 9W. On audio she is heard asking the officer why she was being stopped. He tells her it’s for speeding, 43 miles per hour in 30-miles-per-hour zone.

Berky told him she never speeds and was driving with traffic. She said she was headed home to feed her young son and had a job interview in downtown Kingston. Sounding increasingly agitated, she said she could not afford a traffic ticket as it will increase her cost of insurance. She says she was “broke.”

Short went back to his patrol car to write a ticket. Berky stepped out of her car, apparently gasping for air and bent over double. Short returned and inquired about her health. She said she was having “a panic attack.” Short asked whether she wanted medical assistance. She did not reply, but seemed to be breathing better.

Short returned and offered to write a ticket for failure to wear a seatbelt, a much lesser offense than speeding. Berky told him she always wears her seatbelt and refused the offer. Short then wrote the speeding ticket.

At about halfway through the 26-minute incident, Ulster officer Kevin Woltman appeared to inquire as to Short’s status. The officers chatted briefly and he leaves. Woltman is the nephew of Brian Woltman, Berky’s Republican opponent in the November 7 election.

As Short issued her the speeding ticket, Berky was heard to say, “I don’t trust you. I don’t feel safe here. Tell me what my rights are. I didn’t understand.”

“I’ve explained everything to you,” Short replied, his voice reflecting exasperation. “I’m not going to argue with you any longer.”

Berky, in private, has claimed she was harassed by the officer, but has not filed a formal complaint. He lawyers did not raise that issue.

Her attorneys did cite cited unspecified “politics” by the 4-1 Republican town board against Berky, a Democrat.

Rocco Secreto, the board’s lone Democrat, voted with majority Republicans Tuesday night. “Politics had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Town police chief Kyle Berardi defended his officers against allegations of politics.

“For one thing, my people don’t pay a lot of attention to politics,” he said. “I doubt if he knew who she was, or cared if he did. That said, if it was politics, it would have been dealt with. That’s not the kind of thing we allow in this department.”

Berky defeated Woltman 352-172 in a Democratic primary in 2015. She polled 1330 votes without opposition in the general election. Woltman, a purchasing agent at city hall, is now an enrolled Republican, according to the board of elections. Berky, an urban planner and former county deputy planner, owns a consulting business.


Edited for time and relevance. Full video here.

There are 50 comments

  1. Tommy Harmon

    SMH. Police have a very difficult job dealing with the impaired. They kept their kewl though.

    “Her attorneys represented her at town board meetings on October 16 and 23.” – I would suspect this would mean she’s spending more on lawyers than she’d be paid “in her county role”.

  2. Bob B

    Hilarious! She could get some tips by reading a book called “What Happened?” I have not read it but I think it is about whinning when you don’t get your way. The officer also showed great restraint.

  3. JamaicaonHudson

    And? Who cares? She got a speeding ticket. What do I care she has a lead-foot? The woman is vastly over-qualified for the position (and is a decent legislature). Furthermore, I don’t think the video should have been released (it’s a violation–petty offense, not a crime, and doesn’t pertain to her elected office)…

    This incident actually caused me to research the candidates and, at this point, I am casting my vote for Jennifer Schwartz-Berky–because I don’t like nasty, nepotistic tricks.

      1. JamaicaonHudson

        Ms. Berky? As a young Black woman, I’m slightly amused by your “accusation”. Perhaps you find it strange to read a thoughtful, well-written comment from a “local”?

        *shrugs*

        Whatever, I’ll take it as a compliment…

        1. K

          What was the nepotistic trick? Confused by your statement, I would be more offended that she expects special treatment because she is a legislator- you or I wouldn’t get that why should she?

        2. Ms. Berky.......

          …..What does being “a young black woman” have anything to do with anything being discussed here? Is that your crutch that you use when someone disagrees with your comments?

          1. JamaicaonHudson@gmail.com

            What does being a “young Black woman” have to do with my assertion that I’m not Jennifer Schwartz-Berky? I hope that’s not a serious question? If so, unfortunately I cannot answer it, as it would be against my religion.

            You see, my religion forbids me from answering redundant, nonsensical, and otherwise idiotic questions. It also forbids me from wasting my time.

            So, on that note…Bye.

    1. RSAS

      I do not like people using their position to benefit themselves this is a form of CORRUPTION.
      She never should have used her status as an elected official to sway the outcome.

    2. Kara

      We have enough unstable people in office these days. That’s why I’m glad I was made aware of her clear mental instability before voting. I’m glad this was released.

    3. Jay

      yes, she has a lead foot and got a speeding violation. it is trivial and by no means should it be blown out of proportion. but she stated her position with the county to the officer as if it means something, she reacted in an overly dramatic way over a simple violation that she was guilty of and was not actually going to be cited for by the officer, and is now fighting it with costly lawyers in a drawn out court proceeding that will cost all you taxpayers more money. her claims of being broke are obviously misleading as if she can pay them, then why not pay the much lower fine she would have gotten had she just listened to the officer and taken the ticket she was being given in the first place. there are no nepotistic tricks or anything going on here, just her trying to use her position as an elected official to be above the law and not be responsible for her own transgressions. it is a an act of sheer corruption and selfishness for her to even bring up what she does. cops don’t care what you do for a living, they only care in that situation that you committed a violation and you accept your citation like a responsible adult. we need to see videos like this because it shows how people abuse their position in government like it’s a right for them to not need to follow the rules of law. making policy doesn’t mean you’re above it.

  4. JimmyDean

    Political alliances aside, this is a County Legislator. She’s the one who brought that into it. And now she has to wear it.

    Transparency and integrity in office. Isn’t that what everyone wants? So I absolutely support the release of this video to demonstrate the true nature of this woman.

    In her professional role, she needs to be adept at listening, at analyzing and at negotiating. She clearly has none of those skills. She’d rather talk over others, whine and cry, fake panic attacks, make light of a serious condition like PTSD for her own benefit and then claim she doesn’t feel “safe” when all that fails. There’s clearly no level too low for her to stoop to in order to get what she wants.

    This video shows her for what she is. These are her true colors folks. Spoiled, entitled and unethical.

  5. Michael Sullivan Smith

    It was painful to reread the story after listening to the video. The writer misrepresented everything related to what she was having the panic attack over. Legislators have commitments they make and fitting that in with everything else is a challenge. This is a classic case of the straw breaking the camels back. But it’s also something that, though painful, everyone that takes for granted what they think its like to be committed to your job or position should be forced to listen to.

    1. RSAS

      You don’t think we all have commitments and tight schedules. NOT an excuse if she would have just taken the ticket she would have been on her way in less than 10 min.

    2. Pen von Ponckhockie

      You’ve got to be kidding me. After watching the video, it seems to me that the article erred on the side of downplaying how ridiculous and over-the-top the whole display was. Probably protecting her as a dem.

  6. Ena

    As someone who works a difficult job in Ulster County, NY and therefore deals with manipulation, emotional blackmail, victim complexes, entitlement, personality disorders, histrionics, lying, projecting, hypocrisy and coercion on a daily basis, let me give my experienced view.

    This woman does NOT have PTSD. And I’m tired of that term being so abused by the entitled. This is a crafted act. If anything other than entitlement and an utter lack of personal responsibility, she has Borderline Personality Disorder or even Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    You know who does have PTSD? Combat veterans. EMTs. Firemen. Emergency room staff. Nurses. And yes, police officers who are abused daily while doing jobs that the faint of heart could *never* do.

    People like this are completely unwilling to cooperate with legal authority for the same reason they often don’t cooperate with scientific medicine – because they are simply two of the few things left in the world that cannot be emotionally manipulated. Clearly, emotional manipulation is her modus operandi.

    “Tell it to the judge.”

    One of the worst things you can do is to neatly fulfill every negative stereotype of the groups to which you belong. An embarrassment to liberals, Democrats, women and every other group of which she is a member.

    1. Joe

      BOOM! Ena hit the nail on the head! Her fake “ptsd” is a slap in the face to all those who legitimately suffer from it. Ms. Berky’s actions reveal more about her true character than any campaign propaganda will ever tell us.

  7. Heidi Walker

    Wow, I can see why her lawyer did not want the video released.
    The police officer was very professional and patent.
    As for this member of my county legislature, I am not impressed, not at all.

  8. FuriousGeorge

    I thought she was too broke to pay a speeding ticket? Do public defenders normally represent people at town board meetings?

    1. Dylan Kennedy

      No from what I understand she has hired one​ of the most expensive but very responsible law firms in the city of Kinston. Once again that’s just what I’ve been told not necessarily fact……yet.

  9. Brian

    wow…..how many chances did the officer give her to get off with a slap on the wrist seat belt ticket…..”I don’t have any money to pay for this ticket”…..wah wah wah

  10. JP

    All I see is a typical politician that thinks they are above the law. They see it at the top in Washington, and think it applies to them as well. The officer handled himself professionally. Mrs Berky was felt she was “entitled” because of her position as a legislator. The officer was actually being nice to her offering her a downgraded ticket. Micheal Smith, are you kidding with your comment sympathizing with Berky?

  11. Dan G

    Its lucky that Ms. Berky is not African American otherwise she might have been shot for getting out of the car. Sometimes its very nerve wracking when the police pull you over and when they sense you are nervous they assume the worse. I was recently pulled over for having one headlight that was out unbeknowst to me during a rainstorm (mechanical failure issue). As I awaited a ticket, I noticed that over 25% of the cars never turned on their headlights (human failure issue) . Interesting how police target some cars and not others. I no longer have confidence in the police and view them with suspect.

    1. Budriser

      Maybe you should look at it as you had a headlight out and got caught for have a headlight out.
      Christ I was pulled over by a black officer in a black neighborhood cause of a tail light being was issued a equipment ticket and let go. Was I racially profiled.

  12. Chris B

    She thought her elected position placed her above the law and she was wrong. Now she gets to pay the consequences. When you make a mistake, you own it. She looks like she is old enough to have learned this life lesson by now. Follow the law Ms. Legislator and you won’t be splattered across social media looking like a fool.

  13. David

    She absolutely destroyed any dignity she may have had by groveling and begging while sitting in that car
    The side of the road is not the place to plead your case, save your argument for court and don’t waste the officer’s time. While simultaneously making a complete fool out of yourself
    I laughed my butt off when she said “I have PTSD” did she get it by driving that Prius?

  14. Jane

    The poster, Kara, and others, have proven that the release of this video is slanderous, and, unless Kara, and others, can prove their allegations, the legislator has a strong case for libel against them. “We have enough unstable people in office these days. That’s why I’m glad I was made aware of her clear mental instability before voting. I’m glad this was released”

    Yes, officer, you CAN stop everyone. All officers can drive not even one mile over the speed limit, unless there is an emergency, and act as pace cars, and, pull people over who attempt to pass.

    When the hyperventilation began, it was not the officer should have called EMS. Period. And I guess Kingston doesn’t have a mediator they could send to the scene when there is an obvious problem.

    Why shouldn’t Berky have said she is a County Legislator? Anyone is a fool who doesn’t know how that who you are and what you do can have an effect especially given the ongoing pick-and-choose regulation enforcement in every aspect of governance.

    Berky was right to refuse the ticket for not wearing a seatbelt when she was wearing a seatbelt. It’s wrong that she was offered the lesser charge. This is how it goes now in every aspect of policing and courts? The officer didn’t even offer a drink of water, nor ask if there was anyone he could call. presumably, Berky was then on the road driving, having been so shaken up. Oh, THAT’S good.

    I’m not sure which is causing the greatest degree of nausea I’m feeling; the manner in which this situation was handled; the plea offer; the lack of an emergency medical technician on the scene, or the vile comments here.

  15. Dylan Kennedy

    This woman has visited​ my establishment many times. Her business was always sincerely appreciated. That being said she was a literal nightmare for a low scale tavern/restaurant owner, my staff and my regular customer base. I wish her well in her journey in life but I will sleep better knowing that she will not be legislating any laws that will affect my children or beloved neighbors in my home town anytime soon.
    Sincerely born and raised Kingstonian
    D.T.Kennedy

  16. Dylan Kennedy

    By the way does awaiting moderation mean awaiting censorship to protect unstable liberals that don’t have legs to stand on.
    Born and raised Kingstonian,
    D.T.Kennedy

  17. S. Singleton

    Jane – It’s too late. Elvis has left the building. Your friend, Jennifer, is “officially” famous – for all the wrong reasons. The video has inexplicably gone international and #Berky is near trending on Twitter.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-28/prius-driving-ny-legislator-fakes-ptsd-panic-attack-get-out-minor-speeding-ticket-vi

    https://twitter.com/hashtag/Berky?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc^tfw

    Is there a political equivalent to an “Amber Alert” so we can warn adjacent communities that she might threaten to “represent” or “advocate” for in the future ?

    How much better might have things gone for her if she hadn’t thought so highly of herself, and simply conducted herself as another citizen rather than as someone entitled to special treatment… That routine traffic stop could have been completed in five minutes without her face ever appearing on camera. It could have been a non-event – all within her direct control.

    I’m sorry, but this “wound” is self-inflicted, and I’m afraid the libel laws are not applicable to citizens commenting on public officials making fools of themselves in public.

    In seeking alternative employment, perhaps Ms Berky (#Berky) can apply her “viral video” skills to some else’s product or service in a constructive fashion, and if so, she may have a future in Internet Marketing.

  18. Hank

    She was totally full of crap and tried every which way to get out of a ticket. She should probably be charged with attempted bribery or intimidation and abuse of power. There is no way she should be allowed to continue in her position since she clearly attempted to initiate corruption. However, if a police officer can use his “discretion” to issue a lesser ticket for a violation she did not commit, whose to say he can’t issue a worse charge at his “discretion?” It could also be interpreted that he was willing to accept the bribe. We do not know his motive for issuing a ticket for a lesser violation. Was it because she said she was a county legislator? How could we know that? There’s the appearance of impropriety. This should also be a wake up call to the absurdity of these pull overs to begin with. If driving 13 miles over the speed limit is so terrible, why would he be willing to let her off the hook for it? This is a victimless crime. A non crime. People should not be pulled over randomly, especially since he did implicitly admit that everyone was going over the speed limit. Cities should not be using police resources as hall monitors. This is a massive money grab nationwide. If I were the judge in this case, I would throw this ticket out and the cop should be reprimanded and she should be removed from her position.

  19. Mark

    Since I live in the “Fly-Over Zone” of the Midwest, what exactly is a “County legislator?” We have county boards and city councils, but I have never heard of a county legislator. This “lady” is a perfect example of what NOT to do during a traffic stop. “I dont feel safe any longer here.” LMAO! Liberals make me laugh every day! Great job officer!

  20. A.L.Davidson

    Political affiliations aside, all politicians, always try to influence, citizens employed in any occupation, whether it be a peace officer, police officer, judge, even a fast food drive through kid. The desire for political power corrupts instantly.
    I’m convinced that all politician, specifically in our United States, are corrupted by power and greed to some degree. With the career politicians being the most corrupt, and greediest. Every single career politician has sold their votes to the highest buyer/lobbyists at some point. How else is it possible for a politician that has an annual salary of less than $200,000.oo a year, to become a millionaireplus in the first 4 years of their term. I suggest that you look it up yourself, every member of Congress is a Millionaire. Except for maybe one, when I looked, awhile back, there was only one that was not, and that’s only because he just got there.
    The only way to correct this corruption is Term Limits for all politicians (just like the president has) and the banning of lobbying, of any government positions and/or agency, Federal and State plus County, City, Township. etc.
    Well, my wife just got home so time for me to go, thanks for letting me rant.

  21. Mel

    She was a disgrace for her place as a public servant, a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT!!! Wasting this officer’s time.. ridiculous, she should have been arrested. That officer DESERVES A MEDAL for his patience with someone e SO out of control!! Seriously….

  22. Appalled in Kinsgton

    She has brought disgrace to her office, her constituents as well as herself. She is quickly making the county a laughing stock and needs to grab some dignity from somewhere and step down. Obviously not a slip of the tongue or simple faux pas, but twenty-six minutes of some of the most deplorable behavior and abuse I’ve seen in some time. The “nightmare” comment above also points to a disturbing pattern of behavior and abuse towards others. The officer should get a commendation. The sad thing is she probably makes more than him. You would also be surprised by her salary.

    As for the others defending her, she was speeding and got caught. She needs to have the character to stand up and accept her mistake. She was speeding because others were doing so is the poorest excuse ever. If your child or animal stepped out in front of her and she couldn’t stop in time and killed them would you accept that?

    Take your ticket like the rest of us, and move on with some grace and dignity becoming your position not to mention a decent person. I don’t wish her ill will, but she can’t be in her position. Hopefully, it will be a learning experience, and she can learn to respect and not abuse people just doing their job – whether a police officer or a worker in a coffee house.

  23. JamaicaonHudson

    First, it’s Kingston.

    Second, appalled is a strong word. It essentially means “to be horrified” by something. The fact that you’re “appalled” by an embarrassing traffic stop video is vaguely comical. Personally, I’m appalled by things with more, well, gravity—like perpetual war, a permanent (and growing) underclass, the brutality and moral ambiguity of those who claim to be religious, and the seemingly unending acts of (completely preventable) mass carnage. In addition, I was appalled by some of the vitriol directed at a woman for throwing a tantrum on a dashcam video—that is until I realized that majority of the people posting vile comment were dregs summoned by the joint-clarion call of plut-o-tweets and 60pt-font. These “very, fine people” (from all areas except the district in question) were also “appalled”—so much so that they bombarded the messageboards and phone lines of local media and government offices with appalling comments (i.e. “If I was the cop, I would have slapped her” or “she should be investigated and her kids taken by CYS”). When these good Americans took a break from their Schadenfreude ramblings, they bestowed praise on the officers involved. Unfortunately, due to their lack of basic reading skills, even their compliments were rife with misspellings/inaccuracies (“Thks to Officers Don Short and Tom Wolton they both deserve a metal”). If I was the Puritanical-Grammar Nazi-type, I would have been appalled by their inability to cobble together a coherent sentence—but, luckily, I’m not that judgmental…

    As for your claim that Jennifer Schwartz-Berky “has brought disgrace to her office, her constituents as well as herself and made the county a laughing stock”, I beg to differ. Afterall, if you think that an embarrassing traffic stop is grounds to invalidate someone from holding office and/or bring “shame” to the constituency, then how do you feel about someone elected to the highest office in the country that colludes with a foreign government? Would that be grounds to “step down” as well? In addition, closer to home, another case of a public official caught on dashcam didn’t reach viral status: In April, Maria Rodriguez-Gregg (a Republican Assemblywoman from New Jersey) was involved in a traffic accident. She, when questioned about being under the influence of drugs (which, as it turns out, she was), unleashed a barrage of profanity-laced threats at the arresting officers. These weren’t veiled “I know people in high places” threats, these were threat threats…Oddly, Mrs. Rodriquez-Gregg’s “15 minutes of fame” didn’t generate the same interest—and, interestingly, her dashcam video didn’t licit a tweet from Trump Lite. Perhaps due to the aforementioned ‘s party affiliation—or because she drove a Jeep rather than a Prius? Who knows? Point is, if the constituency of Burlington, NJ (or the working-class rubes that voted for a plutocrat because he donned a silly red hat) aren’t embarrassed, then why should I be?

    So, with the above in mind, pardon me if I’m sympathetic to a person who, despite this incident, is an accomplished woman and mother. Furthermore, I have no interest in continuing to rake someone over the coals for a tantrum-inducing traffic stop—for which an apology was issued. I will say this incident gave me a reason to return to the polls (I abstained last election cycle). In addition, it propelled me to research both candidates. I discovered that the candidate I’m voting for is an urban planner, and that she helped to write Kingston’s successful DRI Grant Bid. I thought that was both interesting and ironic as her opponent is a purchasing agent with the City of Kingston—which would mean that even Brian Woltman has a few good reasons to vote for Jennifer Schwartz-Berky…

    *cue the Raising Arizona theme-song*

  24. Maude F

    First she sounded somewhat reasonable and contrite, apologizing. Next she moved into begging for special favors. When that didn’t work, went into hystrionics and staggering against the car, bawling out loud, screaming, faking a “PTSD” episode (unconvincingly) then morphed into threatening and trying to use her position and “influence” to intimidate the more-than-polite officer of the law she was clearly trying to thwart. Next, she went into trying to bargain and threaten/argue, moving between the two. This is a dangerously unbalanced, unqualified, narcissistic, law-breaker and amoral/unethical, unbalanced mental specimen. Clearly not even qualified to be a bag lady, which she appeared to be. Disgusting and unfit for any community service.

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