A federal judge on Tuesday sustained hate-crime charges against a former Bordentown Township police chief accused of roughing up a handcuffed black teenager and spewing slurs toward minorities in his South Jersey community.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in Camden denied a defense motion to dismiss an indictment against Frank M. Nucera Jr., who has been charged with making racially charged remarks as the chief law enforcement officer in the town about 35 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Authorities allege that Nucera slammed against a door the head of a teen suspected of failing to pay a hotel bill in 2016.
After a nearly five-hour hearing, Kugler rejected claims by Nucera’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone Jr., that the case should not proceed to trial because the sergeant who secretly recorded his former chief also deleted recordings that could have been used in his defense.
“Where’s the evidence that any of the deleted recordings would have helped you?” the judge asked.
The prosecution plans to use more than 100 hours of recorded conversations in which Nucera repeatedly uses racial slurs. In one, Nucera, now 61, is heard saying, "These [N-word] are like ISIS, they have no value. They should line them all up and mow 'em down. I’d like to be on the firing line, I could do it.”
Bordentown Township Sgt. Nathan Roohr, who has admitted to secretly recording his boss, testified Tuesday that he deleted about 20 recordings to free space on his iPhone, but that there was no relevant information about Nucera on them.
The civil rights case includes allegations that Nucera expressed animus toward black people by ordering K-9 officers to be present at certain sporting events and apartment complexes to try to intimidate them.
Nucera has pleaded not guilty. A 34-year veteran, he retired from the department in January 2017, a month after the recordings were turned over to authorities.
Kugler also denied a defense request seeking two trials in the case: the first to determine whether Nucera was guilty of assaulting Timothy Stroye in the hotel incident, and, if Nucera was convicted, a second trial to determine whether the attack was racially motivated.
Authorities say Stroye, then 18, was being escorted out of the hotel when Nucera allegedly slammed his head, causing “a loud thud” that could be heard by witnesses. Stroye has said that he could not identify the person who struck him because he had been pepper-sprayed.