A Camden County jury on Wednesday convicted a South Jersey police officer of two counts of official misconduct for slapping and pushing a 13-year-old girl in the face — an incident captured on police body-cam video.
The jury of seven men and five women, though, was hopelessly deadlocked on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child after deliberating over two days.
Gloucester Township Police Officer John Flinn, 29, showed no reaction when the jury foreman read the guilty verdicts. His wife gasped and cried in the gallery.
Flinn has been suspended from the police department since the incident two years ago at the Twin Oaks group home for juveniles with emotional issues.
Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Angela Seixas argued during closing arguments Tuesday that Flinn used excessive and unnecessary force while trying to handcuff the girl. On Wednesday, Seixas told Superior Court Judge Edward McBride Jr. she had no objection to Flinn remaining free pending his still-unscheduled sentencing hearing.
Flinn was initially charged with simple assault. A grand jury indicted him in August 2018 on the more serious third-degree endangering charge and the second-degree official-misconduct charges. Seixas on Wednesday told the judge the assault charge was still pending.
Colby Gallagher, spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office, said afterward that it was not yet known whether Flinn would be retried on the deadlocked endangering offense. She said each of the official-misconduct convictions carries a minimum of five years in prison without parole and a maximum of 10 years.
Defense attorney Louis Barbone told the judge that he will file post-trial motions prior to a sentencing hearing.
Barbone, who contended during his closing argument that Flinn had been justified in using force to get the girl into handcuffs, said after the verdicts Wednesday: “We respect the jury’s work. Nonetheless, [we are] shocked and disappointed.”
Flinn declined to comment.
About 20 supporters of Flinn, including retired police officers, attended the trial since it began last week.
The incident for which Flinn was on trial happened when officers responded to the group home about 6:30 p.m. March 8, 2018, for a 911 call of “juveniles fighting” and “using objects as weapons.”
The body-cam video of another officer, Paul Bertini, showed him approaching the 13-year-old girl and repeatedly telling her to “Calm down!” The girl was punching and kicking two staff workers in an office and telling them she wanted to get out.
After Bertini forced the girl facedown on the ground, Flinn cuffed her left wrist behind her back. Flinn was having difficulty trying to cuff her right wrist, and could be seen and heard in the video slapping the girl twice on the right side of her face. She was heard moaning and crying.
Flinn told the girl: “Stop playing these … games,” then twice pushed down the left side of her face. He finished cuffing her, and Bertini left to check on another problem in the home.
The girl was taken to a hospital for evaluation and was not charged with a crime.