The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office allegedly attempted to cover up a cop’s lie. New Brunswick Police Detective, Joshua Alexander wrote in his report that he approached the home of a couple suspected of distributing marijuana along with a group of plainclothes cops. Alexander wrote that he was armed with a search warrant and that detectives knocked on the door several times and announced their presence before kicking down the door for entry. Last October in his testimony, the officer was adamant that he was the officer who knocked on the door and announced he was a cop, waited 15 seconds before finally giving the command to bust down the door.
What Alexander didn’t know was that defense attorney, Joseph Mazraani had surveillance video of what actually happened. The video showed that Alexander (with the warrant in hand) was in fact one of the last officers to approach the house and was not near the door when officers barged in. The video showed officers busting down the door of the home seconds after they arrived (not after knocking and announcing their presence). After Mazraani presented the information, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office dropped the criminal charges against defendants the next day.
Although the charges were dropped against the defendants, injustice continued. Instead of any public rebuke of Alexander for his misleading testimony, the Prosecutor’s Office pushed to prevent the public from learning about it. When Mazraani fought to have this information released, he was met with resistance at nearly every turn by the Prosecutor’s Office—which wanted the documents to be sealed.
This case is one that sheds light on the secrecy and corruption that takes place in the criminal justice system. “Without evidence to the contrary as we had in this case, this case shows you how vulnerable the word of the public is when tested against the word of a police officer,” Mazraani said, and adding that the dismissal of the case was an “attempted protection of that police witness.”
Mazraani went on 6 days after the hearing in October to distribute documents to 3 Superior Court Judges and a handful of defense attorneys so that they could be advised of the officer’s “flatly contradicting” testimony. Mazraani said, “It is my position that members of the bench in Middlesex County should be aware of these officers’ lack of candor when evaluating their testimony. Documents included Alexander’s incident report, a copy of the surveillance video, and a transcript of the October hearing.
In response, Acting Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor, Brian Gillet wrote to Judge Rivas in a December 2019 letter that its office had already asked two judges to review Alexander’s testimony and that “Mazraani’s actions are clearly designed to usurp and circumvent powers reserved exclusively to the court and forever tarnish the reputation of the law enforcement officer in question.” At the time, no misconduct finding had been made against Alexander so the Prosecutor’s office requested that Mazraani and other attorneys who received the documents “be restrained from providing this material in any form, to any other person or entity.”
Eventually Judge Rivas agreed with Mazraani, saying it was in the public interest for the materials to be distributed and that the prosecutor’s office had “no legal basis” to prevent the information from being public. Judge Rivas ordered the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office to pay Mazraani and a law associate nearly $3,500 in attorney fees for their “frivolous” attempt to gag Mazraani. The judge said in a June court filing that the prosecutor’s office “was seeking to quash transparency and prevent the public from learning about the investigating officer’s inappropriate actions.” The prosecutors withdrew their appeal on July 16 and paid Mazraani the attorney fees, according to court documents. Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone, who took over the office in June, declined to comment.
“That office engaged in what has become an all-to-routine act of protecting one of their own to the detriment of transparency and public accountability,” Mazraani said.
“The public is beginning to open their eyes to it, I think for a very long time it was this idea that what the police officer said happened is what happened.” said attorney Brynn Giannullo, who represented a defendant in this case.
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Criminal defense lawyer, Alissa D. Hascup is a zealous advocate for transparency in the criminal justice system. Ms. Hascup is skilled and experienced and committed to ensuring your rights are protected in court. She will fight to ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your case. Contact her office for a free consultation about your case. She is available 24/7 at 862-257-1200.