Three Passaic County correctional staff members, including two sergeants, were arrested for allegedly assaulting a pretrial detainee in a surveillance-free jail area and conspiring to obstruct justice, according to the U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger’s Office.
Sergeants Jose Gonzalez, 45, Donald Vinales, 38, and officer Lorenzo Bowden, 39, are charged with deprivation of rights under color of law and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Additionally, Bowden faces a charge of making false statements.
On Jan. 22, 2021, following an incident where a pretrial detainee splashed a urine mixture onto a correctional officer, the three officers are accused of transporting the detainee to a “blind spot” in the Passaic County Jail, an area lacking video surveillance.
It is alleged that while in this spot, Gonzalez and Vinales assaulted the handcuffed detainee, knocking him to the ground and repeatedly striking him, with Bowden failing to intervene. The detainee required hospitalization the following day for injuries consistent with the assault, authorities said.
In the aftermath, none of the officers filed mandatory use of force reports. During a federal grand jury investigation in April 2022, the accused, along with others, purportedly conspired to not cooperate with federal authorities and to deny the assault.
Bowden subsequently provided false statements to federal investigators in October 2022, denying both the assault and the existence of any related meeting or communication.
The charges carry severe penalties, including up to 10 years in prison for deprivation of rights under color of law, up to 20 years for conspiracy to obstruct justice, and up to five years for making false statements.