NJ Police Chief Awaits Trial for Nearly 7 Years

By Brian Thompson
|  Friday, Apr 8, 2011  |  Updated 5:46 PM EDT
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Police Chief Waits for His Turn in Court

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Police Chief Waits for His Turn in Court

In New Jersey, a police chief who protected Hispanics in his town now awaits trial on official misconduct charges. But the charges date back six and a half years, and he still can't get a trial.
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A trial on official misconduct charges for the suspended police chief of Bound Brook, N.J. has been pending for six-and-a half-years, and there is still no date in sight according to an official in the Somerset County Court administrator's office.

Chief Kenneth Henderson calls himself "Mr. Mom."  He's a stay at home dad for his two boys and he says he "cleans the house. I vacuum, I do the dishwasher."

He was arrested on October 19th, 2004 after a sting operation by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office allegedly caught him tipping of a businessman friend that his nightclub was about to be raided by agents from Alcoholic Beverage Control.

"You hear the expression 'you can indict a ham sandwich' and that's true," Henderson said while claiming he is ready to go to trial and has been for years.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office explained that they cannot comment on pending criminal cases but the office has made clear it wants to try the chief's businessman friend first.

In fact, Rafael Rosario, owner of the now defunct Cafe Imperial in downtown Bound Brook, did go to trial nearly two years ago on charges he evaded taxes.

The only problem: The state's star witness, a New Jersey tax official, admitted on the stand that his numbers and analysis were wrong, and the prosecutor had to stop the trial after just a few minutes.

"They was looking for something for me to say that will imply some wrongdoing of the chief of police," Rosario claimed. He still faces official misconduct counts for his conduct with the chief that night.

Joe Occhipinti, of the National Police Defense Foundation, said his organization is supporting Chief Henderson in his legal battle.

"If there was a smoking gun and they had any bit of evidence that would sustain a conviction they would have gone to trial within that first year," Occhipinti said.

Chief Henderson and his brother Bob Henderson, a private investigator who has devoted much of his time to the case, believe former Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest had a personal grudge against the chief.

"There is no doubt it's prosecutorial abuse and it's a personal vendetta by Wayne Forrest," Bob Henderson charged.

They cited the chief's opposition to Forrest's plan to merge several police departments a decade ago.

And then there was a consent decree Bound Brook signed with the federal government to prevent the town from discriminating against a growing Hispanic population that needed places to live.

Chief Henderson said he had a reputation for trying to help Hispanics who were hassled by housing code officials at one or two in the morning.

Bound Brook Mayor Frank Ryan told NBC New York that those things happened before he was in office and that Henderson "had a bad reputation for a long time.

"He should never have been chief of police," the former mayor said.

The actual sting on the chief came as he was off-duty, doing security work outside the nightclub.

There is surveillance video of the chief without sound outside the club and experts say that evidence is inconclusive.

There is a recording of the state ABC agent's phone appearing to give Henderson the go-ahead to tip off Rosario about the raid.

And there is no recording of the chief's cell phone and what he said to Rosario afterward, though Private Detective Henderson believes the chief's phone was tapped based on early evidence given to the grand jury, but then allegedly denied in court.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office could only say "no comment" when asked about the difficulty in bringing this to trial.

Former prosecutor Forrest said "it would be inappropriate for me to comment," though he added "I was not personally involved in the case."

Another status hearing on the case is set for mid-April but six and a half years after his arrest, there is still no trial date.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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