|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a former Newark police officer who was convicted at trial in May was sentenced today for conspiring with other officers to steal cash, drugs and weapons from suspected drug dealers and others.
Darius Smith, 41, of Newark, was sentenced to three years of probation by Superior Court Judge Peter V. Ryan in Essex County. He was ordered to pay a fine of $5,000. Smith, who was previously terminated from his job on the police department, was ordered by Judge Ryan to be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. The Division of Criminal Justice will refer the conviction to the board of the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System for any appropriate action regarding Smith’s pension.
On May 11, an Essex County jury found Smith guilty of conspiracy, official misconduct, and theft following a trial before Judge Ryan. The indictment against Smith charged him with second-degree conspiracy, which carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison. The jury found him guilty of that count, but Judge Ryan ruled that because the jury returned a third-degree verdict on the underlying offense of official misconduct, the conspiracy verdict also had to be treated as a third-degree conviction. The state intends to appeal that ruling. Under New Jersey law, there is a presumption against imprisonment for a third-degree crime if the defendant has no prior convictions for indictable crimes. Smith has no prior convictions.
Deputy Attorneys General Cynthia Vazquez and Philip Mogavero tried the case for the Division of Criminal Justice. It resulted from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the Newark Police Department. The prosecution was conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Smith, who had been a Newark officer since 1993, was indicted on Oct. 1, 2004. He was suspended upon indictment. The indictment charged that from April 2003 to March 2004, Smith and other Newark officers engaged in criminal acts, including official misconduct and theft, as part of a conspiracy to “shake down” criminal suspects. The jury found, by its verdict, that Smith, while on duty in Newark’s West District, stole money, drugs and weapons from purported drug dealers, criminal suspects and others. However, the jury found that the benefit he obtained from that conduct was under $200, making the official misconduct charge a third-degree offense and the theft charge a disorderly persons offense.
The investigation was conducted by Lt. Umar Hakeem and Sgt. William Thomas of the Newark Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau, and Lt. Joseph Waters of the Division of Criminal Justice. It was coordinated by Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, Chief of the
Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Additional detectives and staff from the Newark Police Department and its Internal Affairs Bureau assisted in the investigation.
Deputy Attorneys General Vazquez and Mogavero were assisted at trial and in trial preparation by Detectives Kevin Weinkauff and Toni Petreski of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau and Analyst Kathleen Ratliff of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Attorney General Chiesa and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline for the public to report corruption and other illegal activities: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division Web site at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tipline or webpage will remain confidential.