Judge: Ex-South Jersey Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr. can delay prison sentence

Former Bordentown Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr.

Former Bordentown Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr. is pictured in a file photo. (File)

Due to health issues and coronavirus concerns, a judge has agreed to allow former Bordentown Township Police Chief Frank Nucera Jr. delay reporting to federal prison until at least the end of April.

Nucera was convicted of lying to the FBI for his role in a 2016 incident at the Ramada Inn on U.S. Route 206. Federal prosecutors had accused him of attacking a Black teenager in police custody out of a deep racial resentment Nucera held towards African Americans.

Prosecutors dropped the charges of hate crime assault and deprivation of civil rights against Nucera, who is white, in December following a second mistrial in the case. While two different juries deadlocked on those charges, Nucera was found guilty of making false statements to federal investigators during the first trial in 2019. He had been scheduled to surrender to officials at FCI Ashland in Boyd County, Kentucky on Jan. 19 and begin his 28-month sentence. Nucera’s attorney is appealing the conviction.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler granted Nucera’s request to delay his surrender date, but warned, “Don’t think I’m going to be amenable to asking for a further delay.”

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In a letter to Kugler dated Jan. 7, Nucera’s attorney Rocco Cipparone Jr. wrote that his client is at a higher risk of contracting a more serious case of COVID-19.

“Mr. Nucera is particularly vulnerable because of his age and his medical conditions, and a jail environment only will exacerbate his vulnerability to severe illness or worse,” Cipparone wrote.

Nucera, 64, has a history of blood clots, bilateral leg deep vein thrombosis, and bilateral pulmonary “emboli,” which were diagnosed in February 2021 as complications from contracting COVID-19, according to his lawyer. He’s currently on medication to control his blood clots, which he must continue until the end of February.

Nucera is also scheduled to see a cardiologist in March to address complications from his prior COVID-19 infection, his attorney said.

“As the Court may recall from a prior hearing and testimony by Dr. Gould, one of Mr. Nucera’s doctors, Mr. Nucera continues to experience the ‘long-hauler’ effects and symptoms of COVID,” Cipparone wrote.

The government opposed delaying Nucera’s surrender date.

“I am sympathetic to the medical appointments,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Lorber. “But it was not immediately apparent to me from the description of the medical appointments that it would cause any harm to the defendant to have [the Bureau of Prisons] conduct those follow up tests, as opposed to Nucera’s private physicians on the outside.”

Lorber added that it is unclear whether Nucera was any safer from the coronavirus outside of prison, compared to inside, since he contracted the virus between the two trials.

Cipparrone said his client was vaccinated and has had a booster shot, noting that he wore a mask during his last trial.

“The difference is he can control his environment in Burlington County by staying home and limiting his access to people,” he said. “He’s very cautious and very concerned, and in a jail environment, obviously he can’t control who is around, the distancing.”

Lorber made it clear that the government believes Nucera “should not put off his surrender date indefinitely.” Citing the more than 19 months between his sentencing and the second trial, Lorber said there had already been a “substantial” delay.

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Judge Kugler acknowledged the prosecutor’s points, but allowed the delay because of the “unusual circumstances” created by the omicron variant.

“He will serve his sentence absent a reversal by the Court of Appeals of the United State Supreme Court,” he said.

Two subordinate officers testified during trial that Nucera slammed then-18-year-old Timothy Stroye into a metal door jamb at the hotel, after he had been arrested for trespassing. One of the officers worked with the FBI to secretly record the former chief making racist statements against Black people. However, federal prosecutors failed to convince two juries that the assault even occurred in the first place, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nucera will not have to report to the prison before April 30.

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