Jury Deciding Fate of South Jersey Police Officer Accused of Beating Unarmed Suspect Says It’s Deadlocked.
By Melanie Burney, The Philadelphia Inquirer
A federal jury deciding the fate of a Camden County Police Department officer who was caught on video appearing to punch an unarmed suspect told a judge on Monday that it was deadlocked. The judge ordered the jury to continue its work.
After deliberating for about eight hours over two days, the jury sent a note Monday afternoon to U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler with a question in the trial of Nicholas Romantino, charged with violating the civil rights of Edward Minguela in February 2018.
”We are deadlocked. People are adamant on both sides. How long do we need to go before this is a mistrial?" the jury asked in a note Kugler read aloud.
Romantino’s lawyer, Daniel E. Rybeck, said it appeared inevitable that the case would end in a mistrial.
Kugler told the jury that “it is your duty to deliberate” and asked the panel to try to reach a decision in the case. The trial began last Monday and the jury began deliberating Friday afternoon.
”Take as much time as you need. There is no hurry,” Kugler said.
The jury deliberated for another hour and went home at 4:15 p.m. It will return at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Romantino, 26, of Egg Harbor Township, was charged last November in a two-count indictment. He was accused of assaulting Minguela on Feb. 22, 2018, in Camden and trying to cover-up the beating.
The beating was recorded by a liquor store’s surveillance camera and has been viewed thousands of times on social media. The black-and-white video appears to show Romantino pushing Minguela to the ground and punching him in the back of the head about a dozen times.
The video was played during the trial for the jury, and an eyewitness who also recorded the incident on his cell phone testified. The defense contends that Romantino feared for his safety and that of two other officers, and that Romantino used needed force because Minguela failed to comply with orders.
An exclusive video appears to show a Camden County police officer repeatedly punch a man in the head. Aaron Baskerville speaks to the man as well as a Camden County spokesperson. http://on.nbc10.com/Em0Fv5T
Posted by NBC10 Philadelphia on Monday, February 26, 2018
Romantino and the two other officers were removed from street duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. The two other officers have returned to duty, a spokesperson said.
According to the indictment, Romantino, a two-year veteran of the Camden County force, responded to a dispatcher’s report of a “man with a gun” in the area of Collings and New Hampshire Roads in Camden’s Fairview section.