N.Y. teen accused in 911 hoax on N.J. Turnpike plans not guilty plea

Rodney Tanzymore, accused of making a hoax 911 call leading to the controversial stop by New Jersey State Police troopers of Queens teenagers last year, made his first court appearance today.

Authorities said he falsely reported three men with guns at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop in Hamilton Township on Nov. 21. The State Police pulled over the van Tanzymore was traveling in along with a driver, three chaperones and 10 other teenagers. No weapons were found.

Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier, sitting in Trenton, maintained bail at $50,000, saying Tanzymore, 19, presented a “serious threat to the physical safety of the public.”

Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades emphasized the dangerous nature of last year’s hoax -- troopers pulled over the van with their guns drawn and shut down northbound Turnpike traffic -– and said Tanzymore had already admitted to making the call in a statement to police.

In addition, Tanzymore pleaded guilty to a disorderly persons offense after making another hoax 911 call in Queens in August.

Tanzymore’s lawyer, Jason Foy, said bail should be only $15,000 because Tanzymore has no criminal convictions and his grandparents are retired and on a fixed income.

“The family is looking to get him help,” Foy said. “No one is trying to run or hide from what occurred.”

Foy admitted the case against his client was strong, but said Tanzymore plans to plead not guilty.

The judge asked for an evaluation of Tanzymore’s mental health before he is released.

Tanzymore appeared via video conferencing. He has been held at the Mercer County Correction Center since Monday, when he was arrested for creating a false public alarm.

His alleged 911 hoax sparked questions about whether the State Police had targeted his van because the teenagers were black and Hispanic. Christine Molnar, the president of the social services group the teenagers were members of, told a television reporter in December that, “It’s hard to imagine it would have happened to a group of white kids.”

David Jones, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, said the incident was blown out of proportion by people “playing the race card.”

“This has nothing to do with race,” he said. “They were victimized by one of their fellow students.”

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