LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Former South Jersey police chief to be retried on hate crime and civil rights charges

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

Federal prosecutors say they will retry the former police chief in Bordentown Township after a jury deadlocked on hate crime and civil rights charges and found the 34-year department veteran guilty only of lying to the FBI.

Frank Nucera, 62, was accused of assaulting a handcuffed black teen during a 2016 police call at the Bordentown Ramada Inn. Federal prosecutors allege Nucera was motivated by racial hatred when he grabbed the 18-year-old’s head and smashed it into a door jamb. Nucera, who retired in 2017 amid the allegations, denies committing the assault.

But authorities allege Nucera has a long history of making racist and violent comments. The key witness in the case was a member of the department, Sgt. Nathan Roohr, a K-9 officer who made 81 secret recordings over the course of a year and testified that he had witnessed the assault.

The jury — comprising nine white and three black members — deliberated for 45 hours over eight days. Two days after finding Nucera guilty of lying to the FBI, the jurors told U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler they were deadlocked on one count each of hate crime assault and deprivation of civil rights. Kugler declared a mistrial on those counts.

Among the quotes contained in a transcript compiled by Roohr was Nucera allegedly referring to an African-American man he suspected of slashing the tires of a police vehicle: “These [racial epithet] are like ISIS, they have no value. They should line them all up and mow them down. I’d like to be on the firing squad, I could do it.”

Nucera was also quoted during the 2016 presiden tial campaign allegedly calling Donald Trump, “the last hope for white people.”

Nucera faces up to five years in prison on the charges of lying to the FBI, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 6. Should he be found guilty on the other two counts in a retrial, he faces up to 20 years total.

His attorney, Rocco Cipparone of Haddonfield, said Friday that he respected the jury’s decision. “We’ll assess our options going forward on that, but I’m very glad today that at least for now this weight has been lifted from Frank Nucera’s shoulders.”

Cipparone also noted that his client had expressed regret. “Mr. Nucera has always regretted making those statement as I told the jury, they’re not pleasant comments certainly, they’re ugly and embarrassing comments.”

Nucera has come under fire before during his time leading the police force in Bordentown, a small, predominately white community in Burlington County south of Trenton.

He was receiving a monthly pension of nearly $9,000 that was frozen after he was charged. A spokesperson for the state Treasury Department told members of the media that the status of his pension will be decided at the next monthly board meeting for the pension fund.

This story contained material from the Associated Press.