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Press Release

One Correctional Officer and Two Sergeants Charged with Civil Rights Violation and Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice in Connection with Assault of Pretrial Detainee

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Passaic County correctional officer and two sergeants were arrested today for allegedly violating a pretrial detainee’s civil rights and conspiracy to obstruct justice, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Sergeants Jose Gonzalez, 45, and Donald Vinales, 38, and Officer Lorenzo Bowden, 39, are charged by complaint with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Bowden is also charged with one count of making false statements. Gonzalez, Vinales and Bowden are scheduled to have their initial appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court. 

According to the criminal complaint:

On Jan. 22, 2021, a pretrial detainee at the Passaic County Jail splashed a mixture containing urine onto a correctional officer. The following day Gonzalez, Vinales and Bowden transported the detainee through an area of the jail that does not have a video surveillance camera, which correctional officers and inmates at the jail have referred to as a “blind spot.” While in that “blind spot,” Gonzalez and Vinales assaulted the detainee, while he was handcuffed. They knocked him to the ground and struck him multiple times. Bowden did not intervene to stop the assault. One day after the assault, the detainee was taken to a local hospital, which documented injuries from the assault.

The defendants all were required to submit documentation regarding their use of force.  None of them submitted any such reports. 

In April 2022, after receiving federal grand jury subpoenas in connection with this investigation, Gonzalez, Vinales and Bowden, among others, met to discuss the federal investigation. During that meeting, the group agreed not to cooperate with the federal investigation and also agreed to say that nothing had happened to the detainee (referring to the assault). During an interview with federal investigators in October 2022, Bowden falsely stated that the detainee had not been assaulted and that there had not been any meeting or communication among those who participated in or witnessed the assault.

The count of deprivation of rights under color of law is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. The count of count of conspiracy to obstruct justice is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison. The count of making false statements is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office Division of Internal Affairs, under the direction of Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Levin of the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Civil Rights Task Force in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Updated January 17, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-019