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Probe Of NJ Officers Could Taint Drug Cases

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

February 04, 2010

Investigators “go on fishing expeditions,” Madden said. “So we’re just sitting back and seeing what happens. They keep us in the dark.”

The orders to vacate the sentences have been filed by judges on the basis of motions from the Prosecutor’s Office that cite only “the interests of justice and . . . good cause shown” as reasons for dismissing the charges.

Defense attorneys say they expected dozens, if not hundreds, of cases to be vacated.

Neither the Camden Police Department nor the Prosecutor’s Office would comment on the investigation. The FBI has not publicly acknowledged the investigation, but sources familiar with the probe said it was the basis for the police suspensions.

Henderson’s description of Stetser’s alleged harassment mirrors stories told by others arrested by the suspended officers over the last few years.

In each case, suspects said the officers stole money and drugs during searches or planted drugs on suspects who refused to cough up information on dealers and their stashes.

“If you don’t have something to give them, then you’re going to jail,” Henderson said.

Some also allege physical abuse and property destruction. Henderson said that in 2006, he and his fiancée were living in an abandoned house rigged for electricity when Stetser burst in. While another officer waited outside, he said, Stetser destroyed his TV and microwave oven with a sledgehammer and dumped kerosene on their cot and clothes.

“About a week later, he returned and informed me that I was now working for him,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he repeatedly wrote to judges and filed police internal affairs complaints to bring attention to Stetser.

Henderson wore a tan jumpsuit over a white T-shirt and used red reading glasses missing a stem, his voice cracking as he read notes on a yellow piece of paper describing his unusual legal odyssey.

“The last four years of my life have been really, really crazy,” Henderson said.

The first time Stetser arrested him in 2006, he said, he had a personal stash of drugs – two bags of heroin – but he said he was charged with carrying 36 bags of crack with the intent to distribute.

“You are going to work for me whether you like it or not,” Henderson said Stetser told him as he was arrested. "I said, I’m not doing no telling, I don’t know nothing about nothing. He said, ’You’ve been around too long not to know something about something.’ "

After nearly a year in the Camden County Jail, Henderson was released on probation.

Three months later, Henderson ran afoul of Stetser again, he said. He claims he was arrested while he was scratching lottery tickets on a porch. Henderson said he was not carrying drugs, but Stetser pulled out a Mike & Ike candy box with red baggies of drugs.

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