NEWARK, NJ – An Essex County jury has convicted two Bloomfield police officers of official misconduct and related charges in connection with a June 7, 2012 motor vehicle stop on the Garden State Parkway in which the officers falsely accused a motorist of resisting arrest and going for an officer’s weapon, officials announced.
Following a five week trial before the Honorable Michael L. Ravin, Judge of the Superior Court, the jury found Sean Courter, 35, of Englishtown and Orlando Trinidad, 34, of Bloomfield guilty of conspiracy to commit official misconduct, official misconduct, tampering with public records, falsifying public records and false swearing, said a release issued by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.
Trinidad was also found guilty of simple assault.
A third police officer, Albert Sutterlin, pled guilty on Oct. 17, 2013 to fourth degree offenses of falsifying and tampering with records. He resigned from the police department.
On June 7, 2012, Bloomfield police officers were called to Jeter’s home after he and his girlfriend had gotten into a verbal dispute. Jeter voluntarily left the home and the premises, says reports.
Officer Courter then followed Jeter onto the Garden State Parkway and pulled him over. Courter is captured on video trying to get Jeter to leave his vehicle. With his hands in the air, Jeter refused saying he feared for his life because Courter's gun was drawn. Courter called for back up.
When Trinidad arrived on the scene from the opposite direction of traffic, he struck the front of Jeter’s car. Courter then broke the window and with help from Trinidad pulled Jeter from the car, the video shows. On video, officers can be seen hitting Jeter and yelling that he was trying to take their gun, all the while, Jeter's hands are in the air.
Jeter was arrested.
Following the incident, the officers wrote police reports stating that Jeter attempted to grab Courter’s gun and stating that he struck Trinidad. Jeter was then charged with eluding, resisting arrest, aggravated assault and attempting to disarm a police officer.
For nearly a year, prosecutors only had the dashboard video from Courter’s patrol vehicle. Jeter’s lawyer sought the second dash camera video through an Open Public Records Act request. That video clearly showed Jeter’s hands up in a surrender position throughout the encounter, says the release.
After reviewing the newly discovered video, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges against Jeter and opened an investigation into the officers that resulted in an Essex County grand jury returning an indictment against the officers in January of 2014.
Assistant Prosecutor Berta Rodriguez, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Frantzou Simon, said, “Justice was finally served for Marcus Jeter. These officers give a bad name to all the good, honest, decent police officers. Courter and Trinidad took an oath to uphold the law. On that day in June of 2012 they violated that oath. They accused Mr. Jeter of criminal acts that led to him being charged and indicted. He was facing five years in prison. But for the dash camera in the second police vehicle, he might be in prison today.’’
After the verdict was announced, bail was immediately revoked by Judge Ravin and both officers were remanded to county jail to await sentencing scheduled for January 11.
Both officers face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in New Jersey State Prison.