Another Rodney King? Cops on trial dispute man's brutality claim

By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on October 21, 2015

Marcus Jeter, the alleged victim circles his raised hands in the photo, testifies, during the criminal trial of Bloomfield police officer Orlando Trinidad and Bloomfield police officer Sean Courter who are charged with official misconduct and related charges before Judge Michael L. Ravin in the Essex County Courthouse in Newark.

 

NEWARK — Marcus Jeter said he grew up watching Rodney King and other individuals of color become victims of police brutality.

On June 7, 2012, Jeter claims he became a similar victim when Bloomfield police officers falsely arrested him and assaulted him during a motor vehicle stop on the Garden State Parkway.

In explaining why he later spoke to the media, Jeter tied his experience to those other cases on Tuesday during his testimony at the trial of Bloomfield Police Officers Sean Courter and Orlando Trinidad, who are accused of making false statements in police reports about the incident.

"The world needs to understand that people are falsely accused every day and they deal with...the things like I dealt with of possibly being shot, possibly being dead," said Jeter, who is African-American, after previously referring to King's beating by Los Angeles police in 1991.

"I just wanted to tell my story," the 31-year-old Jeter added.

On cross-examination, however, Courter's attorney, Charles Clark, raised questions about that story in an effort to attack Jeter's credibility, and repeatedly noted how Jeter is suing the two officers and other defendants.

The attorney pointed out how Jeter has not provided certain details about the night in question, and Clark suggested Jeter was misrepresenting the extent of his injuries.

Clark also took aim at the most critical piece of evidence in the case — a police dashboard video from Trinidad's patrol vehicle.

Prosecutors claim that video shows Jeter's hands were raised the entire time, proving Courter lied in reports that Jeter tried to disarm him when Courter was removing Jeter from the vehicle. Around the same time, Jeter claims Courter punched him in the face.

But Clark argued that just as Jeter believed Courter punched him, Courter believed Jeter was trying to grab his gun — even though both moments are not captured on the video. He also noted how Jeter's hands disappear from view in the video for a brief moment.

"We can't watch a tape and understand what's going on completely, can we, sir?" Clark said to Jeter.

Courter, 35, of Englishtown, and Trinidad, 34, of Bloomfield, are charged with official misconduct, conspiracy, tampering with records, and false swearing. Trinidad also is charged with aggravated assault for striking Jeter during the incident.

Courter and Trinidad have been suspended without pay from their positions.

A third officer involved in the arrest, Albert Sutterlin, who retired in May 2013, pleaded guilty in October 2013 to tampering with records and is awaiting sentencing. Sutterlin is expected to testify today.

The case began when Courter and Sutterlin responded to a domestic-related call at Jeter's Bloomfield home. After they arrived, Jeter left the residence and the officers later stopped him on the Parkway and drew their guns on him.

Trinidad arrived at the scene and struck the front of Jeter's car with his patrol vehicle. After getting approval from his supervisor, Courter ultimately broke the driver's side window and removed Jeter from the vehicle.

In police reports, the officers claimed Jeter had tried to grab Courter's gun and that Jeter had hit Trinidad.

Jeter has testified he had his "hands up" the whole time and said he never tried to disarm Courter and did not strike Trinidad. Jeter has said he spoke with Courter at the residence and the officer indicated he could leave.

Jeter was ultimately charged with eluding, attempting to disarm a police officer, resisting arrest and aggravated assault.

Prosecutors initially only had the police dashboard video from Courter's vehicle. After prosecutors later reviewed the video from Trinidad's vehicle, they determined that video was inconsistent with the officers' police reports. As a result, the charges against Jeter were dropped and Courter and Trinidad were charged

During the trial, the officers' attorneys have said the officers believed Jeter was trying to grab Courter's gun and pointed out how the video shows Jeter lowered his hands at some point.

The attorneys also have focused in large part on Jeter's departure from his home. They have alleged Jeter was drunk and that he fled the residence after Courter ordered him to stop.

As part of that argument, Clark challenged Jeter on Tuesday about how he could not recall which club he visited earlier that evening and which specific people he was hanging out with. Clark noted how those friends would have seen Jeter drinking and the bartender would know what he served him.

"Alcohol didn't affect your memory that night?" Clark asked Jeter.

Jeter said he wasn't drunk, and indicated he couldn't remember those details due to length of time that has passed. "It happened so long ago," Jeter said.

Clark questioned Jeter about how he claims in his lawsuit that the officers had committed an act of "racial profiling." Answering Clark's questions, Jeter acknowledged the officers were initially responding to a 911 call and did not randomly select his home.

Clark and Jeter also sparred over the extent of Jeter's injuries.

In addition to Courter allegedly punching and elbowing him inside the vehicle, Jeter claims Trinidad hit him in the back of his head while outside the vehicle.

Jeter later received medical treatment at the township police headquarters and at a hospital. He has said he suffered a laceration on his ear, a sprained wrist, and bruising on his body, and that he was "bleeding all over the place."

Clark pointed out how Jeter claims in his lawsuit that he was denied medical treatment after being arrested. Jeter acknowledged he received medical care that night.

Clark also noted how medical records state Jeter suffered "minor" injuries and that there was no swelling on his head. After the hospital treatment, Clark said a hospital doctor wrote that Jeter was "resting comfortably and in no distress, denies pain and discomfort."

But Jeter claimed those documents were inaccurate. He said his injuries were not minor, and that the doctor must have missed the swelling on his head. Jeter claimed police officers were rushing the hospital staff, and that "they never asked me how I feel before we left."

Clark also confronted Jeter with a document purportedly signed by Jeter after receiving treatment from the EMS workers. By signing the document, Jeter refused additional medical treatment, Clark said.

Jeter maintained he didn't sign the form. "That's not my signature," he said.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment