Official Misconduct Sentencing Downgrades (Part 4)

by | Jun 11, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Here, Trinidad’s proffered evidence that he was a model citizen who dedicated substantial portions of his adult life to public service and generously provided financial support to family members during times of hardship led the judge to find mitigating factors seven and nine. See N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(7) and (9). In addition, the judge found mitigating factor eight because the offense was out of character and, having already lost his job, Trinidad was unlikely to reoffend under like circumstances. See N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(8). The judge, however, applied aggravating factor nine after finding there was need to deter other police officers from engaging in similar conduct. See N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(a)(9). In weighing those factors, the judge held that the mitigating factors were not so “extraordinary” as to merit waiver or reduction of the mandatory minimum prison term and did not overcome the need to deter such conduct by police officers.

We agree. The fact remains that Trinidad brutally assaulted a defenseless person who was not resisting arrest. He then lied to cover up his crimes so he could keep his job and knowingly caused the State to bring unsupported, serious charges against Jeter. His predicament is self-imposed and certainly does not outweigh the general deterrence gained by his imprisonment. He simply has not made the requisite showing for waiver or reduction of his mandatory minimum sentence. Accordingly, we find the judge did not abuse his discretion in sentencing Trinidad.

Trinidad also appeals the trial judge’s denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal. Applying the same standard as the judge, we review for whether the State’s evidence was sufficient to warrant a conviction. R. 3:18-1. However, giving the State the benefit of “all of the favorable inferences” that we could draw from the evidence, we agree with both the trial judge and Appellate Division that a reasonable jury could find the defendant guilty of each charge. See State v. Reyes (1967). From our review of the record, we are satisfied that the strength of the State’s case leads to no other conclusion. For the reasons set forth, the judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed.

This case likely cost the taxpayers of New Jersey millions of dollars. The man beaten by the defendant police officer received a 1.6-million-dollar civil judgment. On top of that, Trinidad qualified for the services of the public defender before the appellate division and New Jersey Supreme Court. Taxpayers will be on the hook for any of those related legal fees that can not be garnished from Trinidad. Additionally, the prosecution of a jury trial and two levels of appeals was also tax-payer funded. On the other hand, taxpayers will likely not have to pay the pension and retirement benefits that a police officer who was not convicted of official misconduct would otherwise receive.