An Essex County correctional officer admitted Wednesday that he covered up a colleague’s assault of a federal detainee.
Angel Chaparro, 38, told a federal judge in Newark that he and two colleagues were strip-searching the detainee at the Essex County Correctional Facility last August when the assault occurred.
The detainee – who was being held pending a federal trial – had squirted a mixture of urine, yogurt, and milk onto a correctional officer, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said Friday.
Officer Damion James attacked the detainee in a disciplinary cell, “striking him multiple times in his face, head, and chest area,” Chaparro testified via a videoconference with the U.S. District Court judge in Newark, Honig said.
Several supervisory officers witnessed the assault, but none of them intervened, Honig said.
Eventually, Sgt. Herman Pride said, “OK, that’s enough.”
The detainee requested and was denied medical aid, Honig said.
Two days later, he was taken to University Hospital in Newark with “large swelling and tenderness in the right side of his face and discoloration and bruising around his right eye,” she said.
The defendants were required to submit documentation about their use of force but didn’t, Honig said.
“Instead, Chaparro signed a false report indicating that no force had been used,” she said.
Federal authorities, in turn, charged Chaparro, Pride, James and Officer Luis Ortiz with civil rights violations.
Chaparro became the first to take a deal from the government rather than go to trial, pleading guilty Wednesday to filing a false report.
Chaparro admitted that he signed a blank “Strip/ Body Cavity Search Report” that was later filled out and submitted by a supervising officer, the U.S. attorney said.
The report included, among other things, that the strip search was completed – when, in fact, it wasn’t, Chaparro admitted.
He said it also falsely included “N/A” in the section of the report titled, “If applicable, reason for use of force.”
U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi scheduled sentencing for Oct. 20.
Charged remain pending against James, Pride and Ortiz.
Honig credited special agents of the FBI and the Essex County Correctional Facility Internal Affairs Bureau with the investigation leading to the guilty plea, secured by Acting Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal.
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