CAMDEN — A federal judge Friday declared a mistrial on the hate-crime assault and civil right charges against Frank Nucera Jr., the former longtime chief of the Bordentown Township Police Department, who earlier in the week was found guilty of lying to the FBI.
The jury told U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler it was deadlocked on the two remaining charges after it had continued its deliberations after delivering the guilty verdict on Wednesday.
“We all believe you have done your best and we are all appreciative,” Kugler told the jurors Friday morning. “You should be proud of your service, as jurors you are the people who speak for the people of our nation and this is how democracy works.”
Nucera, who retired from the force and from his job as township administrator in 2017, was accused of assaulting a handcuffed, 18-year-old Black man at the top of a hotel stairwell on Sept. 1, 2016. Authorities allege he slammed the head of Timothy Stroye, of Trenton, into the metal door jamb.
He is believed to be the first chief in over a decade to be tried on a federal hate crime. He faces five years in prison for the conviction on the one charge, but his attorney said he will likely get less time due to sentencing guidelines.
Prosecutors have until Nov. 13 to determine if they will re-try Nucera; Kugler said a retrial, if one were to be held, would be unlikely before the end of the year.
The mistrial came after jurors deliberated for over 45 hours.
“I think there’s ample reasonable doubt, but for now we are happy with a mistrial,” defense attorney Rocco Cipparone said as Nucera stood by his side after the mistrial was declared. “I think in some sense that’s a victory for the defense... If you can talk about some thing for eight days that’s inherently indicative of reasonable doubt.”
Federal prosecutors alleged the assault was motivated by deep “racial animus” and used secretly recorded conversations of the chief to argue their case. The defense acknowledged the racist language on the tapes was “ugly,” but it argued there was no assault and therefore no crime.
Jurors heard one racist rant where the ex-chief said he could “shoot” Black people and said they should “stay out of Bordentown.” In one recording he said, “Donald Trump is the last hope for white people.”
During its deliberations, the panel reviewed testimony transcripts from seven of the nine witnesses called to the stand and rewatched video from inside of the Bordentown Township police station that shows Stroye discussing his arrest with a cellmate.
In addition to prison time, Nucera faces the loss, in full or in part, of his $106,000 annual pension.
According to New Jersey Department of Treasury spokesman William Skaggs, once the trial is complete the future of Nucera’s $106,000 annual pension will be a matter scheduled before the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System Board.
Board members “will then decide whether to forfeit any of his pension service credit of salary,” Skaggs said in a statement to reporters Thursday. The board meets once a month.
— (Burlington County Times)