New Jersey’s Bloomfield Township has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a wrongly convicted Black man whose violent arrest by officers was caught on police dashcam.
Marcus Jeter reached an agreement with the township Wednesday, July 4, agreeing to drop his suit in exchange for the $1.6 million, according to a press release. Jeter initially filed his complaint in June 2014 accusing Bloomfield Township, its police department and at least 10 of its officers of violating his civil rights when they beat and wrongly arrested him during a violent traffic stop on June 7, 2012.
Moreover, his complaint alleged that officers used unreasonable and excessive force, falsely imprisoned him, discriminated against him because of his race and maliciously prosecuted him, among other things.
The New Jersey man was originally charged and convicted of resisting arrest, eluding police and assaulting a police officer — charges that could have landed him behind bars for five years. Prosecutors dropped the charges, however, after dashcam footage from the officers’ cruisers was made public thanks to an open records request, proving Jeter’s innocence.
What played out on the video completely contradicted officers’ account of what happened. In their reports, police claimed Jeter resisted arrest and tried to snatch a gun from one of the cops as they tried to remove him from his car. They also alleged that Jeter struck one of the officers during his arrest, all of which turned out to be false.
“What happened to Mr. Jeter sounds like something we would expect in some far-away totalitarian regime with no regard for truth or due process—not the great state of New Jersey,” said the man’s attorney Tracey Hinson. “The vast majority of police officers in New Jersey and across the country faithfully serve their citizens. But some are not fit to be police officers.”
In a break from the norm, the three arresting officers — Sean Courter, Orlando Trinidad and a third unnamed cop — were charged and convicted with several crimes stemming from Jeter’s violent arrest. Courter and Trinidad were convicted by a grand jury back in 2015 for submitting false reports about the arrest, despite Courter’s wife pleading the judge for leniency on his behalf. Both officers were sentenced to five years.
Meanwhile, the third officer pleaded guilty in 2013 to other charges in connection to the incident.
“When police officers act like they are above the laws that they swear to protect, they must be held accountable by prosecutors and citizens alike,” Hinson said. “This case is important because it demonstrates that no one is above the law.”
In a statement, Jeter said the events of that night still haunt him. The night of his arrest, Courter and Trinidad approached his car with their guns drawn and ordered him out of the vehicle before senselessly beating him.
“… While I still struggle with anxiety whenever I see a police car or see instances of police brutality on the news, I am grateful to close this chapter and can hopefully continue on my path of getting my life back in order,” he said. “I hope my ordeal sheds light on this kind of unlawful conduct by law enforcement officers and empowers other people falsely accused of crimes—and prosecutors—to take a public stand against such conduct.”