New Liberty MS principal arrested for DWI after car crash in West Orange

Liberty Middle School

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The newly hired principal of Liberty Middle School was arrested in West Orange on Aug. 30 for driving while intoxicated after she crashed and caused property damage on two private properties on Rock Spring Road. Aretha M. Dooley-Malloy was leaving a fundraising event for Councilman Bill Rutherford, who is running for mayor, and caused property damage at the two properties, according to a West Orange Police Department report. The West Orange School District has placed Dooley-Malloy on administrative leave. 

WOPD Officer Justin Davis responded to the scene of the accident, where he found Dooley-Malloy’s car idling in the driveway of one home. The front and rear airbags had been deployed, and there were dents and scratches on the bumper. A brick retaining wall, sprinkler head and lawn of one home were damaged; a retaining wall and plants were damaged at the home next door. 

“I proceeded to ask Ms. Malloy to explain to me how the incident occurred. Ms. Malloy responded stating, ‘I have to use the bathroom.’ I then explained to Ms. Malloy that she could utilize the bathroom after I was done conducting my investigation. Ms. Malloy was asked several more times to explain how the incident occurred, to which she continued to respond, ‘I have to use the bathroom,’” Davis wrote in the police report. “Ms. Malloy later stated that she was not involved in a motor vehicle accident and that she pulled to the side of the road because she had to take a picture. Ms. Malloy was advised that her vehicle exhibited substantial evidence that her vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident.” 

Davis asked Dooley-Malloy to produce her driver’s license, registration and insurance card, which she never did, according to the report. He and other officers who responded to the scene detected alcohol on Dooley-Malloy’s breath and administered two field sobriety tests. Davis wrote in the report that Dooley-Malloy refused to submit to a breath test. She was arrested for driving while intoxicated and taken to WOPD headquarters. Dooley-Malloy was also charged with refusal to consent to taking samples of breath and driving an unregistered motor vehicle. 

“During the booking process Ms. Malloy failed to follow simple commands and was very uncooperative,” Davis wrote in the police report. “While Ms. Malloy was being fingerprinted, she spontaneously uttered that she was operating the above vehicle and that she swerved out of the way while attempting to avoid hitting a deer. During the entire procedure, Ms. Malloy refused to answer questions pertaining to the drinking/driving questionnaire and last-drink location report due to her repetitive questioning regarding the validity of the arrest. Ms. Malloy was advised on multiple occasions as to why she was arrested, however, she continued to disregard the officers’ responses.” 

Dooley-Malloy was given a court date and released into the custody of Rutherford. Rutherford posted a statement to his Facebook page on Sept. 2, saying that he passed the accident shortly after it happened and did not interfere with the police’s response. 

“Upon seeing the aftermath of an accident, which appeared to have just happened, I stopped to make sure everyone, including the accused, was OK,” Rutherford wrote. “She was a guest at my event, and I was concerned for her as she was clearly in distress. I would have been concerned about anyone else in that same position. As a pastor, that is a natural response for me. As a councilman in town, and just as a decent human being, I wanted to help. I was also concerned about the family that was standing at the scene in some level of anguish as well. So I spoke with them at length. I’m grateful they weren’t hurt, and no one else was either.” 

Rutherford said he spent the majority of his time at the scene of the accident with the family that was most directly affected, and that he went to the police station to give Dooley-Malloy a ride home several hours later. 

“I recognize that sometimes being helpful will force me to pay a price,” he wrote. “In this case, the price is politics fueling speculation and innuendo. I think it’s far more important for me to show up for people when they are in need than calculate the cost for showing up or the political fallout of doing so.” 

Rutherford told the West Orange Chronicle that he is “deeply saddened by this terrible accident. I’m praying for everyone involved.”

Interim Superintendent of Schools C. Lauren Schoen declined to comment on the matter. 

Edison Middle School Principal Xavier Fitzgerald moved to LMS to fill the principal position before the opening of the school year on Sept. 6 and will remain there with Assistant Principal Stephen Olshalsky, according to a letter sent to families at both EMS and LMS on Sept. 2. Steven Melendez, the assistant principal at Edison, will temporarily assume the role of principal there. 

“As a longstanding member of our middle school family, Mr. Fitzgerald has served as Edison principal for the past 17 years,” Schoen wrote in the letter. “His familiarity with our students, staff and school families will enable him to effectively transition into this acting principal role. I am confident that this leadership team will provide the experience, support and consistency to the Liberty school community for a successful and outstanding academic opening of school.” 

Dooley-Malloy’s attorney, Newark-based Ray Hamlin, told that he believes his client will be cleared.

“I’m confident that, due to the facts as I understand them, the resolution will be favorable for her,” Hamlin told, further asking people in the community “to let the process play out. There’s two sides to the story. Unfortunately in the court of public opinion, people don’t care about that. When it’s all said and done, no one goes to the person and says, ‘We’re sorry we jumped to that conclusion.’”