A jury deliberating in the hate-crime assault trial of former Bordentown Township Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr. told a judge Tuesday that it had reached a decision on one count but was deadlocked on two others.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler told the jury it could deliver the verdict on the single count or keep deliberating to reach a decision on all three. The jury continued deliberating without reaching a verdict.
It was unknown on which count the jury had decided. Defense attorney Rocco Cipparone asked the judge to accept a partial verdict and declare a mistrial on the remaining counts. The judge refused. The jury was dismissed after deliberating for about 7½ hours on Tuesday and instructed to return at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Nucera is charged with hate-crime assault, deprivation of rights, and lying to the FBI. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison and lose his $8,800 a month pension.
The jury of five men and seven women has been deliberating for more than 30 hours since it got the case last Wednesday. Nucera is accused of striking a handcuffed black teenage suspect.
“They are trying hard as jurors,” said Glenn Zeitz, a veteran civil rights lawyer who has been following the case. “It’s a credit to our system when jurors take their roles seriously and understand the consequences for everyone involved.”
The case is unusual in that Nucera is charged with a hate crime as a top-ranking law enforcement officer. He was implicated by fellow officers, who broke the “blue wall of silence,” common among police officers who refuse to testify in misconduct cases.
Authorities allege that Nucera, who is white, used excessive force when police arrested Timothy Stroye on Sept. 1, 2016, during an incident at a Ramada hotel in Bordentown Township. They charged that the assault was racially motivated.
Nucera, according to a fellow officer, slammed Stroye’s head into a wall ”like a basketball.” Stroye, who was yelling expletives, was in custody and not resisting, several officers said. Nucera was among several officers who responded to a request for backup.
Prosecutors contend that Nucera, the longtime chief in the predominantly white community just outside Trenton, had a deep hatred against blacks and other minorities.
They cited alleged comments that Nucera made after the Ramada incident, among other remarks secretly recorded by a fellow officer. At least half of the members of the 25-member department recorded the chief, court records show.
After the scuffle with Stroye, back at the police station, Nucera told one of the officers who witnessed the confrontation that he and numerous other officers had responded to the call for backup because there were “six unruly [expletive, N-word]” at the hotel, authorities said.
The jury, which includes three black women, has asked for transcripts of testimony by all but two of the nine witnesses presented by the prosecution. The defense rested its case without calling any witnesses.
On Wednesday, the jury requested the testimony of FBI Special Agent Vernon Addison, who secretly recorded Nucera during a December 2016 interview at a Bordentown truck stop. Nucera is accused of giving false statements during that interview, telling Addison that he was unaware of any problems during Stroye’s arrest.
The jury also asked for the testimony of Bordentown Township Lt. Shawn Mount, one of the first officers to arrive at the hotel. Mount, who was involved in a struggle with Stroye, said he did not witness the alleged assault by his former chief.