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Published On: Mon, Sep 24th, 2018

New Jersey: Police officer Roger Then charged for assaulting attempted suicide victim, violating civil rights

A federal grand jury indicted a City of Paterson police officer for multiple offenses arising from the assault of an attempted suicide victim at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Police Officer Roger Then, 29, of Paterson, was charged in a five-count indictment with one count of conspiring to violate an individual’s civil rights; two substantive counts of violating an individual’s civil rights; misprision of felony for concealing the civil rights violation; and falsifying a record for submitting a false police report about the assault. Then was previously charged by criminal complaint in May 2018. He will be arraigned in federal court on a date to be determined.

photo/Alexander Lesnitsky

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Then and Ruben McAusland were police officers with the Paterson Police Department.  On March 5, 2018, they responded to a call from an attempted suicide victim. The victim called 911 and was taken by the Paterson Fire Department to St. Joseph’s Medical Center. Then and McAusland responded to the victim’s residence and subsequently followed the Fire Department to the hospital to monitor the victim.

Two videos captured some of the events that took place in the hospital that night. A hospital surveillance video shows the victim sitting in a wheelchair and McAusland standing at the hospital admissions desk. The victim appeared to throw an object down the hallway.  McAusland, looking angry, pushed the victim’s wheelchair with his hands and punched the victim in the face. As the victim fell towards the ground, still in the wheelchair, Then grabbed the victim by the back of the neck and pushed the victim to the ground.

In the second video, taken by Then using his cellular telephone, the victim was on his back in a hospital bed. The victim said, “right here?  See my cheek?”  Then turned the camera toward himself and smiled. Then next turned the camera back towards the victim and McAusland. The victim said, “ha, ha, bitch.” McAusland responded, “I’m a what?” The victim said, “do it.” McAusland put on a pair of hospital gloves and proceeded to violently strike the victim twice across the face. McAusland then stood over the victim and said, “I ain’t fucking playing with you.” The victim covered his face with his hands and was silent. McAusland continued, “calm your ass down.” Rather than intervening to stop McAusland’s assault of the victim, Then recorded it.

Then and McAusland submitted a police report in connection with the events of March 5, 2018. The police report did not mention that McAusland punched the victim and that Then grabbed the victim by the neck and pushed the victim towards the ground, as captured in the first video. The police report also did not mention that McAusland violently struck the victim, twice, in a hospital room, as depicted in the second video. Nor did the police report mention that Then had recorded the second assault on his cell phone and failed to intervene to stop it from happening.

The victim suffered multiple injuries to his face, including an eye injury that required surgery, as a result of these assaults.

The conspiracy to violate civil rights count and the two substantive violation of civil rights counts each carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The misprision of felony count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison. The false records count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for each of the charges is $250,000.

On June 27, 2018, McAusland pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark federal court to an information charging him with possessing with intent to distribute narcotics and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. He is awaiting sentencing.

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