The Silent Indictment of a Cop: 5 curious questions for Hudson Prosecutor
The HCPO’s two-count indictment of JCPD Officer Denzel Suitt raises five curious questions for Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.
Last week, Real Jersey City exclusively reported that Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) officer Denzel Suitt was indicted by a Hudson County grand jury for Theft by Unlawful Taking and Official Misconduct for allegedly stealing $600 while conducting a stop.
Following that article, multiple police officers close to Suitt complained that the story had too much rumor and not enough questions for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO).
They may have a point, as it’s definitely not Real Jersey City to let the HCPO’s actions go unquestioned. Unfortunately, nearly every RJC inquiry with the HCPO’s spokesperson and executive leadership goes unanswered. Which is why, at least in this case, asking some questions publicly might get a better response.
As for the rumors mentioned in the first article, no one’s denying they exist surrounding Suitt’s predicament, but those favorable to him claim they’re baseless. Additionally, Suitt is apparently back to work on modified duty, which is the result of a policy change following the HCPO’s false prosecution of Lt. Kelly Chesler for $800 (who wasn’t even accused of personally stealing money).
All that said, below are five curious questions for Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez:
1. Does the HCPO care about spelling names correctly?
No one’s perfect, and I wish I could afford an editor to review my work for grammatical errors, but I don’t think it’s asking much for an assistant prosecutor with the HCPO to spell a defendant’s name correctly on an indictment. From my research, it’s Denzel, not Denzell.
2. Why didn’t the HCPO publicize that they indicted a JCPD officer for Theft & Official Misconduct?
The strangest part about Suitt’s indictment is that it’s been exclusively reported by Real Jersey City.
Seriously, a Jersey City police officer was indicted for theft and official misconduct – for over a month – and not a single mention by The Jersey Journal/NJ.com? No press releases for Hudson County View?
With all the JCPD officers arrested for theft by federal authorities, including ex-Chief Philip Zacche, it’s hard to understand why Suarez wouldn’t put out some meaningless statement about “rooting out corruption” following Suitt’s indictment.
3. Why wasn’t Suitt’s partner indicted?
Suitt allegedly stole $600 from a suspect during a traffic stop possibly related to narcotics/DUI. Now, whether a theft occurred is certainly disputed, yet there’s no doubt that a stop did happen. As well, Suitt apparently had a partner with him during the stop – which raises its own set of questions.
When asked for his opinion about what factors would lead to Suitt’s partner not being indicted, former JCPD Chief Robert “Bubba” Cowan – now the owner of a private investigation business (Cowan Investigations) – told Real Jersey City that “several factors could be at play.”
“During the investigation leading up to the indictment it is a given that Officer Suitt’s partner at the time of the traffic stop was interviewed by the HCPO or JCPD Internal Affairs Unit (working at the direction of the HCPO),” Cowan stated.
The former chief pondered that one of two things may have have happened. Either it was “found that the alleged theft took place unbeknownst to the officer,” or “the officer subject to the interview was found to be involved,” but “involved to a lessor extent in the alleged theft.”
If the latter were the case, Cowan said “it would be possible the uncharged officer cooperated in the investigation to some extent after a grant of immunity. This cooperation could be from simply providing information up to and including having testified before the grand jury while agreeing to testify in future court proceedings.”
4. Does the alleged victim’s criminal history matter?
What if Suitt’s partner didn’t testify against him? What if there’s no evidence of a crime committed by Suitt other than the testimony of the alleged victim? If both are the case, then the HCPO’s indictment – which came about one year after the stop – is based on the testimony of someone that’s apparently a convicted criminal.
According to a 2010 Jersey Journal article, Jermaine Palms, identified in the indictment as the victim, was arrested while on parole for an aggravated assault and wanted in connection to a carjacking.
When asked if, hypothetically, Palms were the only person to provide a damning statement against Suitt, Cowan said “individuals having an extensive criminal history, if one exists, should certainly be a major factor in the HCPO seeking an indictment.” The former chief added that “criminal history should be carefully weighed against other evidence that might exist aside from a stand alone statement from the alleged victim.”
5. Does Esther Suarez really care about a $600 theft?
Another important aspect of the case against Suitt is whether it should be handled administratively by the JCPD or criminally by the HCPO.
Regardless, if Suarez considers prosecuting $600 worth of theft to be a valuable use of resources, she might want to take a look at some of the records recently provided by her office via OPRA… or she can wait for another Real Jersey City exclusive to find out.
Either way, it’s been fun asking questions out loud. Hopefully Suarez will be releasing a statement soon on Suitt’s indictment to clear up any confusion regarding the case.