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Turning Confusion into a Crime: A Case Study in Prosecutorial Misconduct.

June 25th, 2014 | Uncategorized

On August 12, 2010, sworn law enforcement officers from several different jurisdictions were involved in the apprehension of two individuals who committed a home invasion and fled at a high rate of speed creating a great risk to the public. At the end of the pursuit, the suspects bailed from their vehicles and ran into a wooded area in Bogota, New Jersey. Bergen County Police Officers Jeffrey Roberts and Saheed Baksh were the first officers on the scene. One of the suspects took a threatening action and, as a result, Officer Baksh discharged his weapon at the suspect. Because of heroic work of these law enforcement officers, the suspects were apprehended.  Case closed?…

Because of confusion created by the dramatic events, Officers Roberts and Baksh became the subjects of a criminal investigation arising out of this matter.  Scores of interviews and countless audio and video recordings were scrutinized.  Finally, the Office declined prosecution of the officers.  Case closed?…

In the normal course,  the matter was returned to the Bergen County Police Department for administrative review. A year into these proceedings, however, things took a dramatic turn.  Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, a political appointee, had a well-publicized political feud with County Executive Kathleen Donovan other the future of the county police force. These police officers were caught in the cross-fire. Prosecutor Molinelli withdrew a declination letter and proceeded to indict Officers Roberts and Baksh despite the fact that there was no new evidence or change in the record which could have reversed a determination regarding the purported criminality of the officers’ conduct. Despite enormous risk and the potential for a decade in prison, these officers showed the same courage as they did on that fateful day.  Finally, on the afternoon of May 29, 2014, justice was served when, after a five week trial, a Bergen County Jury made up of honest folks not colored by politics but looking only at facts returned their verdict of not guilty as to all counts of the indictment. Now vindicated, the officers are focused on getting their lives and careers back on track. Case closed!

Roberts Article (5.30.2014)