Public Notices and Press Releases

Passaic County Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice in Assault Case

A Passaic County correctional officer has admitted to conspiring to obstruct justice related to a civil rights investigation following the assault of a pretrial detainee, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger confirmed today.

NEWARK, NJ - Lorenzo Bowden, 39, entered his guilty plea in Newark federal court before U.S. District Judge Michael E. Farbiarz, acknowledging his role in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. The case centers on an incident from January 22, 2021, at the Passaic County Jail, where a pretrial detainee was assaulted after a confrontational act against another officer.

Lorenzo Bowden, a correctional officer, admitted today that he helped transport a detainee to an area where there were no video cameras and stood by while other officers repeatedly hit and assaulted the handcuffed detainee who posed no threat. The vast majority of law enforcement officers understand the trust placed in them by our community when they wear the badge. But when law enforcement officers abuse the trust the community places in them – when they violate the constitutional rights of the people of New Jersey, including prisoners, they will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Sellinger.

Court documents reveal that following the detainee's act of squirting a mixture containing urine at a correctional officer, Bowden, along with Sergeants Jose Gonzalez and Donald Vinales, transported the detainee through an unsupervised area of the jail, known among inmates and staff as a "blind spot." It was here that the detainee was handcuffed, thrown to the ground, and repeatedly struck by Gonzalez and Vinales, while Bowden failed to intervene.

The situation escalated when, in April 2022, the officers received federal grand jury subpoenas related to the assault. Bowden, along with Gonzalez, Vinales, and others, convened to strategize their response to the federal investigation, agreeing to withhold cooperation and to falsely claim that the detainee had not been assaulted.

Bowden's deceit continued into an October 2022 interview with federal investigators, during which he falsely stated there had been no assault or subsequent discussions among the involved officers.

The conspiracy charge against Bowden could result in up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is set for September 5, 2024. Meanwhile, the allegations against Sergeants Gonzalez and Vinales remain pending, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This case highlights ongoing concerns about misconduct and accountability within correctional facilities.

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