All 12 jurors deliberating the case against racist former New Jersey police chief Frank Nucera agree that he’s a liar: They’ve already convicted him of lying to the FBI. The former Bordentown Township police chief concedes he went on racist rants about nonwhite citizens that his underlings recorded. Two of his own officers testified under oath in federal court that Nucera slammed a Black teenager’s head into a metal doorjamb, and Nucera didn’t take the stand in his own defense.
But a jury was unable to reach a verdict on two other charges ― hate crime assault and deprivation of civil rights under color of law ― that were directly related to the head slam his officers say he committed.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler of Camden declared a mistrial on those two counts on Friday. U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced after the mistrial that they’d retry Nucera on the outstanding counts.
The jury began deliberations last Wednesday, and had held discussions for over 40 hours. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a white juror “stood in the jury box with his hands crossed when the panel solemnly filed into the courtroom” to deliver the verdict on the lying charge this week.
The case against Nucera illustrated the challenges in holding officers accountable. Nearly two decades ago, according to The Trentonian, former Bordentown Township police officer Evan Jones says he was pushed out of the force after he filed an excessive force complaint about Nucera with the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. Current Bordentown Township Police Chief Brian Pesce testified that he had “lost all trust and confidence” that complaints about Nucera would be handled appropriately, and told the FBI that a former Burlington County Prosecutor told him to “let sleeping dogs lie” when he learned Nucera was under FBI investigation.
Judge Kugler, according to the Inquirer, gave federal prosecutors until Nov. 13 to decide whether they would go to trial once again on the remaining counts.
Nucera’s attorney said they’ll assess their options on the lying to the FBI conviction, and that Nucera “always... regretted” making those “ugly and embarrassing” comments.”
“He’s held his head high throughout this process,” said Rocco Cipparone. “He’s handled it with grace and dignity.”
This has been updated with Carpenito’s announcement that prosecutors will retry Nucera.