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Published On: Thu, Apr 25th, 2019

Two Trenton Police Officers Charged with Civil Rights Violations, Obstruction of Justice

Two Trenton police officers have been charged with civil rights and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly assaulting a man they were arresting, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

One of the officers, who has since left the Trenton Police Department, is charged with additional civil rights and obstruction counts for allegedly assaulting a second defendant while in a holding cell at Trenton Police Headquarters.

Scale of Justice photo/DTR via wikimedia commons

Trenton Police Officer Drew Inman, 25, of Hamilton, New Jersey, and former Trenton Police Officer Anthony Villanueva, 25, of Ewing, New Jersey, are charged in a six-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on April 18, 2019, and unsealed today. Both defendants are charged with one count aiding and abetting one another to deprive a man of his civil rights. Villanueva is charged with two counts of obstruction, and Inman with one count of obstruction, in connection with that incident. Villanueva is also charged with depriving a second man of his civil rights in a separate incident, and with obstruction related to that second incident.

“Police work is difficult and dangerous, but officers need to respect the civil rights of the people they are policing,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “They cannot resort to excessive force in performing their duties. Incidents like these erode the public’s confidence in law enforcement, and make policing harder for everyone whose job it is to keep our communities safe.”

“Civil Rights violations are of great concern, particularly when the allegations involve a member of law enforcement,” FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said. “The public has an absolute right to trust that law enforcement will protect those they serve and keep them safe. When that trust is violated, it makes it more difficult for our fellow police officers and federal agents to maintain the community’s  confidence.”

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

On April 9, 2017, a Trenton man involved in a routine traffic stop fled in his vehicle and then on foot and was pursued by Trenton police officers. The man was eventually surrounded by Trenton police officers and complied when he was ordered to put his hands in the air. While the man was complying with further police commands, Villanueva approached the man and punched him in the face and Inman tackled the man to the ground. Inman and Villanueva then punched the man numerous times, while he cried out in pain, and told officers, “stop hitting me in my face,” and “you’ve got my hands.”

Inman and Villanueva returned to the police station to prepare reports in connection with the victim’s arrest. To justify their actions against the victim, Inman and Villanueva prepared and submitted false and fraudulent reports, in which they attempted to portray the victim as the aggressor and an ongoing threat.

On Nov. 28, 2017, Villanueva, who had been assigned to work in the holding cell area of Trenton Police Headquarters, sprayed Oleoresin Capsicum (commonly referred to a “pepper spray”) on a prisoner who was confined in a holding cell. Villanueva later completed an incident report that contained numerous false statements designed to conceal his unlawful conduct and improper treatment of the prisoner.

The violation of civil rights counts each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The false records counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for each of the charges is $250,000.

The charges and accusations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and Inman and Villanueva are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Molly Lorber, Joseph Gribko and Ray Mateo of the U.S. Attorney=s Office Criminal Division in Trenton in the criminal case.

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