|Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) today announced that a trooper with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) has been charged after, as alleged, he punched a woman in the face while holding a flashlight in his hand. The victim was handcuffed in the backseat of a police vehicle while she was awaiting a medical evaluation.
Nicolas J. Hogan, 28, of Gibbstown, New Jersey, was charged by complaint-summons on November 15, 2023, with one count of aggravated assault causing significant bodily injury (3rd degree) after striking the victim in September 2022 in Upper Deerfield Township, in Cumberland County, while he and other troopers were waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive to evaluate the victim.
The charges arise from an investigation by OPIA’s Corruption Bureau.
The incident occurred on September 7, 2022, after NJSP troopers responded to a report of a trespasser at an Upper Deerfield Township residence around 1:30 a.m.
On the way to the home, a pair of NJSP troopers encountered and identified the victim as the individual who had been described by the caller, and she appeared to be inebriated, walking in the middle of the road.
After the victim was stopped, troopers determined she needed a medical evaluation, and they called for medical personnel as additional troopers, including Trooper Hogan, arrived.
According to the OPIA investigation, the victim became increasingly distraught that she was being detained and she began weeping. The victim repeatedly protested her detainment and attempted to walk away, resulting in troopers handcuffing and placing her in one of the troop cars, where she asked multiple times for a tissue but was never given one. The victim was detained but not under arrest. Prior to being placed in the vehicle, the victim was spitting on the ground, apparently because she had been upset and crying, and body-worn camera footage shows fluid and mucus on her face and falling from her mouth.
At one point, while in the back of the police vehicle, the victim spat in the direction of a trooper standing near the open rear passenger door. Trooper Hogan was standing on the other side of the car, outside the rear driver’s side. He opened the door and warned the victim, “If you f***ing spit on a trooper,” as the victim turned toward him and spat again, this time in his direction. Trooper Hogan then punched the victim in the face while holding a flashlight in his hand. At the time, the victim’s hands were in handcuffs behind her back and she was secured in the vehicle’s backseat.
“The vast majority of New Jersey’s law enforcement officers exhibit professionalism and extraordinary restraint in the course of their duties and while dealing with trying circumstances,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We will not allow situations like this one, in which, as alleged, force was used disproportionately and without justification against a vulnerable civilian in police restraints, to damage the reputation of our hardworking and admirable law enforcement community.”
“This alleged use of force appears to have been completely avoidable, and the degree of force used was unreasonable,” said Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of OPIA. “We cannot have police officers assaulting people in distress while they are restrained and posing no threat. It is uncalled for, unhelpful, improper, and unlawful.”
Deputy Attorneys General Brian Uzdavinis and Niccole Sandora are prosecuting the case for OPIA, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione and OPIA Director Eicher.
Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The charge in the complaint-summons is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Anthony Pope, Esq., Newark, New Jersey