Paulo Lima, Staff Writer
January 14, 2001, Sunday
Copyright 2001 Bergen Record Corp.
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
January 14, 2001, Sunday; All Editions
(HACKENSACK, NJ) -- Jurors in Hackensack on Friday acquitted a North Bergen police officer on charges of selling the drug Ecstasy in a Fairview night club, but they convicted him on a more serious count of official misconduct, which probably will lead to a state prison sentence.
Marc Corso, 28, had been a police officer for about two years when he was arrested in April 2000 for allegedly selling the popular designer drug to an undercover officer in the Drama Club on Broad Avenue.
Undercover detectives testified that Corso was with another man, Giovanni Gallo, who exchanged the two Ecstasy tablets for $50.
Investigators arrested both men minutes later.
In a split verdict, the jurors acquitted Corso on both drug charges distribution and possession of Ecstasy, but voted to convict him of official misconduct.
Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph explained that the jury didn't have to believe that Corso actively sold drugs in order to convict him of official misconduct. But his position as a police officer bound him to take some action, which he did not, Ralph said.
"Having knowledge that another person was distributing drugs and not doing anything about it was part of the indictment," Ralph said.
Official misconduct is a second-degree crime punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. Given his previously clean record, it is unlikely that Corso will receive the maximum, Ralph said.
However, it is almost a certainty that Corso will go to prison.
Sentencing guidelines mandate incarceration for anyone convicted of a second-degree offense, except under extraordinary circumstances, Ralph said.
The conviction means that Corso automatically forfeits his job as a police officer. He has been on suspension without pay since his arrest last year.
Corso's attorney, John A. Young Jr. of Jersey City, said he was "very upset" about the verdict.
"I have a lot of concerns about it," Young said. "We have a verdict that comes in at 4:15 in the afternoon. It came an hour after the jury had announced they were at an impasse." The jurors had begun their deliberations Thursday afternoon and deliberated most of the day Friday. When the jurors announced they were stuck, Superior Court Judge John A. Conte instructed them to resume their deliberations. An hour later, they had reached a verdict.
Young said his client was "frustrated and confused." "What you have here is a jury that found reasonable doubt of whether Marc Corso was involved in a drug transaction," Young said. "Yet somehow they sorted through and found he was guilty of misconduct for observing that transaction." "The evidence was either that he was there and was involved, or he wasn't." Young said he planned to file motions seeking to have the conviction overturned.