Jury deliberations continued for about seven hours Thursday without a verdict in the trial of ex-Bordentown Township Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr., accused of striking a handcuffed black teen suspect in 2016.
Nucera is charged with one count each of hate-crime assault, deprivation of civil rights, and lying to the FBI. He could face up to 20 years if convicted and a $500,000 fine.
The jury, which includes three black women, has deliberated for about nine hours over two days. U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler told the jury to return Friday at 9:30 a.m. to resume deliberations. Testimony in the case lasted two weeks.
A 34-year law enforcement veteran, Nucera was charged with smashing Timothy Stroye’s head into a metal doorjamb during a Sept. 1, 2016, incident at a Ramada Inn. Prosecutors allege his actions were motivated by racial hatred. Stroye is black, Nucera is white.
Police responded to a report from the hotel that Stroye, then 18, of Trenton, and his girlfriend were swimming at the pool and had not paid their bill.
Stroye and his girlfriend struggled with police and were eventually handcuffed. Authorities alleged that Stroye was not resisting when Nuceraresponded to a call for backup.
The case against Nucera included 81 recordings secretly made by a fellow officer that captured the former chief using racial slurs. Authorities said Nucera used police dogs to intimidate African Americans, including stationing them at high school basketball games. He also spoke about joining a firing squad to mow them down.
On Thursday, the jury asked for transcripts from the testimony of Sgt. Salvatore Guido, one of two officers who said they witnessed Nucera strike Stroye. Guido spent two days on the stand. He initially told the FBI during an interview in December 2016 that he did not see the assault. Later the same day, Guido changed his statement to the FBI and said he saw the incident.
The jury also asked for the testimony of Terri Cowen, the Ramada manager who told the court earlier this week that she had complained to township officials that Nucera treated black patrons at the hotel differently. After the incident with Stroye, Cowen said Nucera asked her, “What kind of people are you renting rooms to?" She said that was a reference to blacks and that she was offended by it.
In another request, the jury asked to view a video of a conversation Stroye had in a jail cell with a suspect in an unrelated case shortly after the Ramada incident. Stroye could be heard relaying that he was on the floor in a scuffle with an officer when a group of officers piled on and one of them used his knee to push Stroye’s head into the wall.
The defense argued during the trial that Nucera was disliked by the rank-and-file in the department because he curtailed overtime pay and was a tough disciplinarian. Nucera made no admission of any wrongdoing on the recordings, the defense said.
Nucera resigned from the department and a dual role as the administrator in January 2017 after learning he was being investigated. His $8,800-a-month pension was suspended in March, pending the outcome of the trial.