NEWARK – After the jury sent three notes to the judge and individually expressed a verdict could not be reached, a mistrial has been declared in the police brutality cover-up case against a Bayonne cop.
Francis Styles was greeted with hugs from about a dozen family members, friends, and fellow police officers outside the Walnut Street federal courthouse after U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty’s decision.
Styles could have spent more than two decades in prison if he had been found guilty of falsifying records and misprision of a felony. The charges stem from the Dec. 27 arrest of Brandon Walsh at his Avenue C home. Authorities allege Styles intentionally omitted from his incident report that fellow officer Domenico Lillo struck Walsh in the head with a flashlight.
Defense attorney Jack Arseneault adamantly opposed a mistrial, saying he didn’t think the jury deliberated long enough to determine a verdict could not be reached. He also feared one of the jurors experiencing a financial hardship may not have been actively engaged in the discussions.
The government, represented by Assistant U.S. attorneys Lee Cortes and Jacques Pierre, said it felt a mistrial was necessary to avoid a coerced verdict.
“A mistrial makes nobody happy,” McNulty said after accepting the juror’s deadlock memo.
The government will now have to decide if it will retry the case. Arseneault declined to comment after the mistrial was declared. He has motioned to have the case dismissed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also declined to comment.
McNulty asked jurors not to speak about the trial publicly because the case may be retried.
Police were executing an arrest warrant for Walsh out of Sussex County on the night of the incident. Officers struggled with Walsh before the commotion spilled inside the home.
Much of the trial centered around Lillo’s testimony against Styles and a video that captured the disgraced cop’s attack on Walsh. The government argued Styles was within inches of Lillo when he struck Walsh over the head and the two discussed not reporting the assault.
The defense, however, said Styles was impaired by pepper spray he came in contact with during a struggle with Walsh and he did not see the attack. Attorney argued Styles had nothing to gain by lying on the reports because he and Lillo barely knew one another.
Walsh’s family sued the Bayonne Police Department after multiple people fell ill from the pepper spray exposure. The case was settled, but the terms of the settlement have not been released. The Jersey Journal has sued Bayonne for a copy of the legal settlement.
A Bayonne spokesman said Styles remains on the city’s payroll.