CAMDEN, N.J. — Charges have been dropped or convictions vacated in 185 drug cases in one of the nation's most crime-ridden cities because information gathered in a criminal investigation of five police city officers suggests evidence could have been tainted, the Camden County prosecutor announced Friday.
One of the officers pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to conspiring with other officers to deprive others of their civil rights. Kevin Parry, who has resigned from the department, admitted he planted drugs on suspects, conducted illegal searches, threatened additional charges for suspects who refused to cooperate and stole drugs and money from suspects.
Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said his office reviewed more than 400 cases involving the officers, beginning five years ago
In 185 cases involving more than 180 suspects, there was reason to drop charges or vacate convictions, Faulk said. It's not clear how many people were released from jail because of the investigation, but 81 received prison or jail sentences in connection with it.
Faulk said his office believes many of the suspects involved were guilty of crimes, but he said they would have been granted new trials had charges not been dropped.
"Since these defendants could not be retried or convicted without the testimony or evidence seized by one or more of these officers, the interests of justice required that we dismiss the charges or vacate the convictions and not pursue a retrial," Faulk said.
The charges have been dropped since December, Faulk said Friday. He decided to publicize the list of cases now to honor the state's open records law. News organizations including The Associated Press made requests for the information.
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The four remaining officers are being investigated by a federal grand jury, Faulk said. They have not been charged with any crimes.