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Deadlocked jury told to continue deliberating in hate-crime trial of former South Jersey police chief

The jury has told the judge it is deadlocked. He has sent them back to further deliberate to try to reach a verdict.

Former Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr. exits U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Jury deliberations continue Monday.
Former Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr. exits U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Jury deliberations continue Monday.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Jury deliberations in the hate-crime assault trial of former Bordentown Township Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr., accused of hitting a handcuffed black suspect, stretched into a fourth day Monday without a verdict.

The jury told U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler early Monday that it was deadlocked. Defense attorney Rocco Cipparone immediately requested a mistrial, which was denied.

After consulting with lawyers on both sides, Kugler recharged the jury on the law regarding deliberations and asked the panel to “give it one more try” to reach a unanimous verdict. The jury deliberated for about eight hours Monday and then said it wanted to recess.

The judge sent the jury home, telling the lawyers that he had “no further word about a deadlock or anything else like that.” He told the panel to return at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Nucera is charged with one count each of hate-crime assault, deprivation of civil rights, and lying to the FBI. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. He could also lose his $8,800-a-month pension, which was suspended in March pending the outcome of the trial.

Authorities allege that Nucera, the longtime chief in the predominantly white community just outside Trenton, had a deep hatred against blacks and other minorities. Nucera compared blacks to ISIS and said they should be mowed down, according to a fellow officer. He also called President Donald Trump ”the last hope for white people.”

The jury, with nine white and three black members, began deliberating last Wednesday afternoon. The jury has deliberated for about 23 hours over the four days.

Some of the jurors, seven women and five men, appeared grim when they filed into the jury box Monday morning after sending a note to Kugler that the panel was deadlocked. Two stood with their arms crossed.

Later, the jury requested transcripts of Patrolman Anthony Nagle and current Chief Brian Pesce. Nagle was present when the alleged assault occurred but testified that he did not see the incident. Pesce succeeded Nucera as chief and the defense alleged that he wanted Nucera’s job.

Last week, the jury asked the judge to clarify the definition of reasonable doubt. It also asked for transcripts of testimony of two police officers who testified against Nucera, 62.

The key prosecution witness in the case was a Bordentown Township K-9 officer who secretly made 81 recordings of Nucera that captured the now former chief using racial slurs. A second officer also implicated Nucera in the assault.

Nucera, who is white, is accused of striking Timothy Stroye, who is black, then 18, of Trenton, at a Ramada hotel in Bordentown Township on Sept. 1, 2016. Nucera was among several officers who responded after Stroye got into a scuffle with police.

A fellow officer testified that Stroye was handcuffed and not resisting arrest when Nucera grabbed Stroye’s head “like a basketball” and slammed it against a wall, making a “loud thud.”

Police went to the Ramada after the hotel manager said Stroye and his then-16-year-old girlfriend were swimming in the pool and had not paid their bill. Both teens struggled with police and Stroye was pepper-sprayed.

Neither Stroye nor Nucera testified in the trial. Nucera resigned from the force and a dual position as township administrator in January 2017 after learning he was under investigation by the FBI.