Trenton cop and former colleague face federal charges in 2017 traffic stop

David Madden
April 23, 2019 - 12:00 pm
Trenton Police Department body cam video of arrest of Chanzie Washington.

Trenton Police Department via Trentonian

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UPDATED: 12:43 p.m.

TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A Trenton police officer and a former colleague are facing a six-count federal criminal indictment stemming from the arrest of a driver during a traffic stop two years ago.

The indictments against Officer Drew Inman and former Officer Anthony Villanueva came from a grand jury last week. The 13-page report contends the officers they violated the civil rights of the driver who fled on foot after being stopped.

The two defendants are accused of tackling and punching the driver several times after he turned around and put his hands up, then filing false police reports to make it appear as if the driver was fighting with them.

Villanueva’s attorney, Jerome Ballarotto, disputes that, contending the incident followed a call on police radio about shots being fired in the area.

"There was a real concern that this individual who was running from the police had already assaulted a police sergeant, jumped into the canal and was being chased by the police," Ballarotto said. "There are generally reasons why someone does that in response to a simple traffic stop."

New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, in a press release, said police officers “cannot resort to excessive force in performing their duties. Incidents like these erode the public’s confidence in law enforcement.”

Ballarotto says that the officers did not go too far in arresting the driver. He said the man "was ordered to get down on the ground. He didn’t get down on the ground. It was a volatile, dangerous situation." So the officer "brought him to the ground, and he cuffed him."

Villanueva is also accused in a separate incident in which he allegedly used pepper spray on an inmate in a holding cell and filed a false report on that. 

Ballarotto says his client was removed from the force after an administrative hearing and an appeal has been filed.

Each count in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted.