NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County correctional officer today admitted signing a false report following another officer’s assault of a federal pretrial detainee, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Angel Chaparro, 38, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to an information charging him with filing a false report. Officers Luis Ortiz and Damion James and Sergeant Herman Pride were previously charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to violate a pretrial detainee’s civil rights. Those charges remain pending.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On the evening of Aug. 17, 2020, a federal pretrial detainee at Essex County Correctional Facility squirted a substance onto a correctional officer. The detainee subsequently was transported to a disciplinary cell, where Chaparro, Ortiz, and James began to conduct a strip search of the detainee. They never completed it. Chaparro admitted that during the strip search, James assaulted the detainee, striking him multiple times in his face, head, and chest area. Multiple supervisory officers, including Pride, watched the assault, but no one intervened to stop it. At the end of the assault, Pride said, “Okay, that’s enough.”
Following the assault, the detainee asked for, and was initially denied, medical assistance. Two days later, the detainee was finally taken to the emergency room at University Hospital in Newark. He was diagnosed with large swelling and tenderness in the right side of his face and discoloration and bruising around his right eye.
Chaparro admitted that, in connection with the assault, he was given a blank “Strip/ Body Cavity Search Report” to sign. After he signed the blank report, it was ultimately filled out and submitted by a supervising officer. Chaparro admitted that the report was false in that he signed it as “reporting officer,” even though he did not write it. Chaparro also admitted that by signing the report, he falsely indicated that a strip search of the detainee had been completed, when, in fact, the officers never completed the strip search. Chaparro admitted that the report that was ultimately submitted was additionally false because it said “N/A” in the section of the report titled, “If applicable, reason for use of force,” when, in fact, Officer James struck the detainee multiple times while Chaparro, Ortiz, Pride, and other supervising officers watched and did not intervene.
The false report charge to which Chaparro pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2021.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; and the Essex County Correctional Facility Internal Affairs Bureau, under the direction of Director Alfaro Ortiz and the Office of the Warden, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Acting Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal.
The charges and allegations in the criminal complaint against the other defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.