BLOOMFIELD — A Newark suburb whose police department has been accused of targeting minority drivers has agreed to pay $1.6 million to a man who was severely beaten and wrongly arrested at a traffic stop years ago.

The settlement with Marcus Jeter caps a legal saga that resulted in criminal convictions against three police officers, two of whom were sent to prison.

It’s also the latest settlement against the township and police department.

Jeter’s case goes back to June 7, 2012, when he was pulled over on the Garden State Parkway. Cops had followed Jeter from his home, where he had been arguing with his girlfriend, prosecutors said.

The officers said Jeter tried to grab one of their guns. Jeter was charged with eluding police, resisting arrest and assaulting police — crimes that could have landed him five years or more in prison.

But after nearly a year of legal wrangling, Jeter’s attorneys got hold of a dashcam video that they said completely contradicted what the police claimed.

Prosecutors dropped the charges, for which Jeter had been indicted, and instead went after three officers.

Officers Sean Courter and Orlando Trinidad were convicted in November 2015 and sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison. Officer Albert Sutterlin pleaded guilty in 2013 to tampering with records and was sentenced to probation in 2015.

Jeter’s federal lawsuit claimed he was the victim of unreasonable and excessive force and said officers showed a deliberate indifference to his medical needs, racially discriminated against him, engaged in a conspiracy to violate his civil rights and maliciously prosecuted him.

“What happened to Mr. Jeter sounds like something we would expect in some far-away totalitarian regime with no regard for truth or due process—not the great state of New Jersey,” his attorney, Tracey Hinson, of the Princeton firm Hinson Snipe, said Friday in a statement. “The vast majority of police officers in New Jersey and across the country faithfully serve their citizens. But some are not fit to be police officers.”

In a statement, Jeter says he still struggles “with anxiety whenever I see a police car or see instances of police brutality on the news.”

"I hope that my ordeal sheds light on this kind of unlawful conduct by law enforcement officers and empowers other people falsely accused of crimes—and prosecutors—to take a public stand against such conduct.”

Rodolfo Crespo settled his legal complaint for $243,000 after claiming that he was beaten at police headquarters in March 2013. Crespo had to be hospitalized and his lawsuit said officers tried to cover up what happened.

Crespo’s lawsuit said Trinidad had been involved in nearly 40 use-of-force incidents over a 10-year period.

A 2016 study by Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy & Research found evidence to suggest that township police were targeting minority drivers because more than 80 percent of Municipal Court defendants were black or Hispanic and from neighboring Newark or East Orange. The study's conclusions, the focus of a Vice News documentary, “Driving While Black,” were disputed by township officials.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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