NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Two police officers who accused a motorist of trying to grab one of their guns were convicted Thursday of misconduct in part because a dashcam video showed the motorist holding his hands up.
Bloomfield Officers Sean Courter and Orlando Trinidad were found guilty by an Essex County jury of conspiracy, official misconduct, tampering with and falsifying public records and lying to authorities. Courter, 35, and Trinidad, 34, face mandatory minimum prison sentences of five years when they're sentenced in January.
Courter, of Englishtown, and Trinidad, of Bloomfield, initially said motorist Marcus Jeter tried to grab Courter's gun and struck Trinidad during a traffic stop on the Garden State Parkway in 2012. Jeter was charged with resisting arrest, aggravated assault and other offenses based on video from one of the officers' dashboard cameras.
But Jeter acquired a second police dashcam video through an open records request. Combined, the videos showed him with his hands in the air for virtually the entire encounter.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Jeter and charged Trinidad, Courter and a third officer.
"They accused Mr. Jeter of criminal acts that led to him being charged and indicted," assistant prosecutor Berta Rodriguez, who tried the case, said Thursday. "He was facing five years in prison. But for the dash camera in the second police vehicle, he might be in prison today."
The third officer, Albert Sutterlin, pleaded guilty in 2013 to falsifying and tampering with records.
Courter's attorney Charles Clark told The Star-Ledger that he disagreed with the verdict and was "100 percent convinced" the officers were innocent.
According to prosecutors, Courter followed Jeter onto the parkway after Jeter voluntarily left his home following a verbal dispute with his girlfriend.
Jeter refused to get out of his car when Courter stopped him, and Courter and Trinidad, who struck the front of Jeter's car when he arrived, broke one of the car's windows and dragged Jeter from the car, prosecutors said.