Trial Begins for NJ Police Chief Accused of Hate Crimes

A New Jersey police chief accused of saying Black people are “like ISIS” is facing trial in federal court on hate crime charges. Prosecutors claim that retired Bordentown Township police chief Frank M. Nucera, Jr.’s actions were motivated by his “deep animus” against African Americans.

Nucera, who is white, is accused of slamming a Black teenager, who was handcuffed, against a door during a September 1, 2016, arrest, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The incident occurred after officers responded to a report that teens were swimming in the pool of a Bordentown hotel without paying for a room.

According to federal prosecutors, a Black teenager, who was handcuffed and being led to a police cruiser, was approached by Nucera from behind. The police chief reportedly slammed the teenager’s head into a door jamb, injuring him. The teen did not pose a threat to the officer, prosecutors maintained.

After the attack, prosecutors said Nucera made racist remarks about Black people that were secretly recorded by one of his police officers, which was not the first time Nucera was caught on tape using racial slurs.

“These [N-word] are like ISIS, they have no value,” Nucera said in one recording from November 2015. “They should line them all up and mow ‘em down. I’d like to be on the firing line, I could do it.” The comment was made while Nucera was speaking about an African American he suspected of slashing a police car’s tires.

Federal prosecutors claim Nucera had “a significant history of making racist comments concerning African Americans” and had also used police dogs to intimidate Black spectators during high school basketball games.

The prosecution is expected to use more than 100 hours of recordings during which the 62-year-old can reportedly be heard using racial slurs. Prosecutors said in court filings that nearly half of the 23 officers under Nucera’s command recorded him because they were so disturbed by his racist comments.

For nine months, Nucera was secretly recorded by his former subordinate, Bordentown Township Sergeant Nathan Roohr. Roohr, who is expected to testify against Nucera, said he was concerned by the chief’s animosity toward Black people in the predominantly white community, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Roohr alleged that Nucera used racial slurs when discussing the teenagers and their families, hours after assaulting the teen at the hotel in September 2016. When the police chief heard that the teens were from Trenton, which has a predominantly Black population, he allegedly said, “Stay the f— out of Bordentown.”

“I’m f— tired of them, man,” Nucera said in the recording, according to prosecution court filings cited by CBS News. “I’ll tell you what, it’s getting to the point where I could shoot one of these m—f—. And that [N-word] b— lady, she almost got it.”

Nucera also has a history of using violence against African Americans. Three months later, while trying to defend his use of force during the September 2016 incident, Nucera said police officers were called “cause of six unruly f— [N-word].”

The 62-year-old pleaded not guilty to charges of hate crime assault, deprivation of civil rights, and lying to FBI agents. He retired in 2017 during an FBI investigation, CBS News reported.

Nucera’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone, asked the jury to judge his client based on his actions, not his words, in his opening statements. Cipparone told CBS News his client admits to making the comments and claimed he was remorseful. However, he said federal prosecutors do not have the evidence to substantiate their claims.

“Mr. Nucera said some pretty socially unacceptable and inappropriate comments of a racial nature, but as the judge told every juror we interviewed and selected, it’s not a crime even for police officers to use those terms,” Cipparone said. “So unless the government proves Frank Nucera struck [the alleged victim] and struck him because of his race, he’s not guilty.”

Nucera’s trial began on September 16 with jury selection in a federal court in Camden, New Jersey, and is expected to last between two to three weeks. Opening arguments before US District Judge Robert Kugler were heard on September 20.

If convicted, Nucera will face up to 20 years in prison. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Melanie Burney reported that Nucera can also lose his $8,800 per-month police pension, which has been halted until the end of the trial and a verdict is reached.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.