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Probe Of NJ Officers Could Taint Drug Cases

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

February 04, 2010

CAMDEN, N.J. — Robert “Biggum” Henderson, a convicted drug dealer and admitted junkie, says he has lived most of his life by the law of the streets.

Don’t snitch.

“I don’t talk about people,” he said one day last week. “I basically try to mind my own business, because it’s a better way to go.”

And, while that policy has helped him survive on South Camden’s streets, it also, he alleges, brought him into conflict with a group of Camden police officers now suspected of bringing a law of their own to those same streets.

Last month, without notice or explanation, two of Henderson’s drug-possession convictions were dismissed.

He is one of at least seven defendants whose cases the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office has moved to vacate because of an investigation into four suspected rogue police officers who are now the target of an FBI corruption probe.

The officers, who have been suspended without pay, are suspected of beating defendants, planting drugs, and bringing phony charges to enhance their arrest records and force reluctant players in the drug underworld to cooperate.

Henderson told his story last week from an interview room at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, where he is serving time on a third drug charge that he says also may be tainted.

The 55-year-old was convicted of drug possession in 2006 and 2007. Both cases were brought, he said, after Camden Police Officer Jason Stetser – a seven-year department veteran known as “Fat Face” – demanded information about drug dealers.

Since Henderson didn’t talk, he said, Stetser planted drugs on him and sent him to jail.

Stetser is among four officers suspended without pay as the county Prosecutor’s Office reviews arrests dating back to at least 2006. The other officers are Antonio Figueroa, Kevin Parry, and Robert Bayard.

All four have been described as part of a special operations team that tackled gun and drug crime. They have been advised by the police union’s attorney not to speak about the allegations.

Richard Madden, a lawyer hired by Stetser, said the highly decorated officer had among the most arrests and drug busts in the department. That, he said, might have made him a target of drug dealers’ complaints.

Stetser has not spoken to federal investigators and does not know what the allegations are, his lawyer said.

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