Jurors at the trial of two former Camden police officers heard a prosecutor and defense attorney offer competing analyses of testimony describing 13 incidents in 2008 and 2009 in which the officers allegedly broke the law while making drug arrests.
The painstakingly detailed closing arguments are to continue Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Antonio Figueroa, 35, and Robert Bayard, 33, once members of the city's Special Operations Unit, are accused of violating the constitutional rights of defendants by stealing cash, planting evidence, and lying in reports and to state grand juries.
Many of the victims had criminal records, or were found in possession of drugs, so Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Skahill pointedly told jurors that "nobody is beneath the law." In a number of cases the officers allegedly planted additional drugs on suspects, apparently in an effort to burnish their arrest records.
"The Constitution," Skahill said, "doesn't stop at the city of Camden."
The government case largely centers on the testimony of three former officers who, after pleading guilty last year, testified at length during the last four weeks.
Figueroa's attorney, Ralph A. Jacobs, flatly called the three officers liars, repeatedly citing inconsistencies and a "jumble of contradictions" in their descriptions of their admittedly illegal activities.
"They are lying" and involving Figueroa and Bayard "to get out from under" potential 10-year prison sentences, he said. All three have said they are hoping for lesser sentences by cooperating with prosecutors.
Jacobs directed much of his criticism at "rogue" former Camden patrolman, Jason Stetser, who at one time partnered with Figueroa.
Stetser, 33, of Waterford Township, pleaded guilty in June 2010. He was known on the street as "Fat Face" and had a reputation for aggressively going after drug dealers.
Also accused as self-serving by Jacobs were former officers Kevin Parry, 31, and Dan Morris, 48, who also testified for the government.
On the stand, the three gave different accounts of who was at a meeting on how to handle a sum of cash taken during a raid at an apartment complex in 2008.
Also, Parry said he saw Stetser pay informants with drugs 20 to 30 times, while Stetser said he did it twice, while later conceding there may have been a third instance.
Skahill told jurors the official police reports Figueroa and Bayard authored defied common sense. In two instances, the officers justified searching a home without a warrant by claiming they were in "hot pursuit" of a suspect. That was a lie, Skahill said.
"What kind of drug dealer will go run and flee into his own home" containing illegal drugs, Skahill said to the jury.
Bayard's attorney, Robert N. Agre, is to give his closing Wednesday, followed by a response by Skahill and Deputy U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick.
Bayard and Figueroa did not testify, and the defense case lasted less than a day.
All five former officers were on an elite crime-fighting team Camden police established in 2008 to crack down on drug dealers and violence in the city's toughest neighborhoods.
The five officers almost immediately started planting drugs on suspects and stealing cash discovered during searches, according to court documents. Then they lied to grand juries and wrote fake reports to bring unjustified criminal charges.
The FBI was tipped by city police in 2009, and the subsequent indictments have resulted in state prosecutors' dismissing charges against or erasing convictions of some 200 people. In most instances, those arrested had pleaded guilty to drug possession and related offenses.