Cop drove nude to protect leather car seats

from the Home News Tribune

EDISON — After a day of boating and swimming in the summer, Edison police officer Ioannis Mpletsakis said he drove in the nude so he wouldn’t ruin the leather seats in his BMW.

"I was in the Raritan River and a pool with chemicals," the officer testified in Dunellen Municipal Court yesterday. "I decided, it’s dark out, it’s 10 o’clock at night, and it’s four or five minutes to my house."

Mpletsakis, 26, took the stand in a trial where he is accused of assault by auto, because a passenger of a truck was injured; hindering apprehension and leaving the scene of an accident.

"It was the most foolish thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been regretting it for the past 11 months," Mpletsakis said. "I embarrassed myself, my family and the police department I work for."

Mpletsakis crashed his 2002 BMW 330is into a box truck on Route 27 near Talmadge Road on July 20.

He testified yesterday that he got out of his car, checked to see the passengers of the truck were OK and ran to conceal his nudity.

Mpletsakis, who was suspended without pay after the July 20 accident, was found by a colleague behind a car in the parking lot of a building about 300 feet away from the scene.

Mpletsakis said he fled because he couldn’t get to a pair of shorts he had stashed on the foot well of the passenger side and didn’t feel safe in the vehicle. He said he ran toward the Pines Manor, where he hoped to get help and use the phone to call police.

"In my state of nakedness, I didn’t want to run down Route 27," he said. "I didn’t want people to see me like that."

Mpletsakis said his decision to drive naked was influenced by a love he had for the metallic green BMW, which he said he cared for meticulously.

"Even my family teased me on how I was always out there doing something to it — cleaning it; vacuuming it," Mpletsakis said.

Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Brian Gillet asked Mpletsakis about the amount of alcohol he drank on July 20.

Mpletsakis testified to drinking three beers, but he said the reason he swerved into the box truck was because a third vehicle struck the left side of his BMW.

"I was going straight home," Mpletsakis told Gillet. "If it wasn’t for that other vehicle, the accident wouldn’t have ever happened."

Mpletsakis could not describe the third vehicle, which he said "whizzed by" his peripheral vision.

"Everything happened so fast," he said.

As to why he left the scene of the accident, Mpletsakis said: "No one appeared to be in distress … no one was crying."

Mpletsakis added the driver and passenger of the box truck were laughing at him when they saw him naked.

Like his colleagues who testified earlier in the trial, Mpletsakis said he would only charge someone with a summons for leaving the scene of the accident after he had all the facts.

"We try to locate the driver to give them the benefit of the doubt," he said.

Gillet attempted to question Mpletsakis on the nature of a phone call made to his cell phone on the evening before the crash. But Dunellen Municipal Court Judge Joe Leonard sustained an objection by defense attorney Darren M. Gelber.

Gillet was also forbidden from asking about a prior car accident that left Mpletsakis badly injured in 2004. In that accident, Mpletsakis was driving southbound on Route 1 in a 2000 Honda Prelude when the vehicle left the road near Forest Haven Boulevard and struck a concrete wall near the old Ford plant, police said.

The next phase of the trial — motions and summations — will take place at 1 p.m. Monday. The trial is being held in Dunellen to avoid a conflict of interest in Edison.

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