Two Bloomfield, New Jersey police officers were indicted, and another plead guilty after suppressed dashcam footage showed them beating a man who was facing years in prison. Now that man is taking legal action against them.
The video, which did not emerge until 30-year-old Marcus Jeter was already on trial, ultimately prevented him from serving years in prison for a multitude of criminal charges, including eluding police and assault.
The incident occurred June, 2012 when police were called to the Bloomfield home Jeter shares with his girlfriend. No charges were filed and Jeter says he left after briefly talking to the officers.
Moments later, police, who say Jeter was eluding arrest, pull him over on the Garden State parkway and draw their weapons. Officer Sean Courter can be seen on the dashcam footage pointing a pistol at Jeter through the drivers side window while another officer, Albert Sutterlin, who is armed with a shotgun, stands by.
The footage then shows a police car, driven by Officer Orlando Trinidad, come careening from the opposite direction over the median into ongoing traffic, before striking Jeter’s parked car. (This was not mentioned in any police report.)
Officer Courter then breaks the driver side window, opens the door, and begins punching Jeter in the face.
“The next thing I know, one of the [officers] bust the door and there is glass all over my face,” Jeter said. “As soon as they opened the door, one officer reached in and punched me in my face.”
Courter continues to punch and elbow Jeter while screaming “stop resisting” and “stop going for my gun” while the victim is clearly holding his hands in the air. “All I kept saying is I’m not doing anything,” Jeter said.
It is at this point that Jeter is dragged out of his car, thrown on the ground, punched further, handcuffed, punched one more time for good measure, and then placed in a squad car.
Local coverage from the time of the incident, containing the suppressed dashcam footage from WACB-TV:
It is worth noting that the Bloomfield Police Department’s internal investigations department found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the officers in their initial “report.”
During Jeter’s criminal proceedings, attorneys for Officers Courter and Trinidad argued that their clients had acted appropriately.
“I think the facts will show they used reasonable and necessary force to remove him,” Frank Arleo, the attorney representing Trinidad said at the time. “Our position is that Officer Courter acted appropriately at all times and we anticipate the truth will eventually win out,” Courter’s attorney, Charles Clark, said.
After prosecutors reviewed that dashcam video, all charges against Jeter were dropped, and Courter and Trinidad were indicted on charges of official misconduct, conspiracy, tampering with records, and false swearing. Trinidad is also facing an aggravated assault charge.
Predictably, Jeter has filed a lawsuit against Bloomfield Township. The suit affirms that Bloomfield officers targeted, followed, and eventually assaulted him.
It alleges racial profiling, use of excessive force, physical assault, failure to provide prompt and adequate medical care, and false arrest. The complaint also alleges that the township and police department have a “documented history” of falsifying police reports, sham Internal Affairs investigations, engaging in cover-ups, unlawful arrests, and use of excessive force.
Jeter was unarmed, committed no crime, and presented no threat or danger to the defendants or public, the lawsuit says, adding that the township created false reports and concealed the dashcam footage.
Bloomfield Township and 10 officers, including Sutterlin, Trinadad and Courter, have been named in the suit.
Jeter is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, cost and interest, attorneys’ fees, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest against all defendants and any other relief that the court deems justifiable.
The Bloomfield court docket shows motions were filed and parties met regarding the lawsuit on August 27, but Police State Daily could not obtain further details. Attempts to reach out to Marcus Jeter himself were also unsuccessful. The lawsuit is pending.
Officers Courter and Trinidad were suspended without pay. Officer Sutterlin, who retired last year, pleaded guilty to tampering with records. His sentencing is scheduled for September 26.
Jeter had initially been offered a plea deal to serve five years in prison.