Sentenced to 33 months behind bars for leading a band of rogue New Jersey cops, convicted ex-Paterson Police Sgt. Michael Cheff won’t back down.
In an email to Coffee or Die Magazine, Cheff’s attorney, John Lynch, insisted that the 51-year-old “Cheff maintains his innocence, as he has since day one, and he intends to appeal.”
A federal jury convicted Cheff on May 26 of conspiring to deprive citizens of their civil rights, plus a sole count of falsifying a police report. US District Judge Katharine S. Hayden sentenced him Monday, Sept. 12, in Newark. He had faced up to 30 years in prison, if the sentences on both crimes were served consecutively, plus a $500,000 fine.
“Whether local, state, or federal, those of us who carry a badge have to prove ourselves worthy every single day,” FBI Special Agent in Charge James Dennehy, Newark Division, said in a prepared statement Monday. “This defendant not only betrayed his badge and the public who entrusted him with it, he led his subordinates down a path of self-destruction and left his fellow officers to deal with the fallout. We value the strong partnerships we have with our local and state counterparts. Officers who betray their oath are few and far between and we are committed to protecting the integrity of the badge to benefit those who work hard to protect it, as well as protect the general public.”
Cheff joined the force in 1996. He was the last of six Paterson officers to get sentenced on the federal anti-corruption charges.
The others netted by the FBI public corruption probe in 2018 pleaded guilty after confessing to routinely frisking bystanders on the street, initiating traffic stops, or searching residences to seize cash, firearms, and narcotics and then covering up their crimes by lying on official police reports.
Frank Toledo, 33, Eudy Ramos, 35, and Jonathan Bustios, 33, will spend two years in a federal penitentiary.
Daniel Pent, 35, drew an 18-month sentence. Matthew Torres, 33, got three years of probation.
Throughout Cheff’s five-day trial, federal prosecutors painted him as a corrupt cop who let the misconduct of his rogue officers go unchecked and sometimes took a more direct role in their shenanigans.
Prosecutors pointed to the Nov. 14, 2017, traffic stop of Jose Acevedo. After stealing cash from his coat, the cops drove him in a police cruiser to his apartment, where they tricked Acevedo’s mother into consenting to a search of his room.
Authorities said Ramos and Bustios watched Cheff pull $2,000 and drugs out of a home safe while Torres stood guard over Acevedo outside the building. They detailed how Cheff then gave Bustios $319 to log into evidence, which he wrote was found on a shelf, not inside a safe.
Acevedo estimated the cops stole $2,700 in cash and narcotics from his flat. Jurors reading text messages exchanged by Bustios and Torres learned that Cheff “got us for over a stack today” because their sergeant “grabbed the cash.”
“It’s a sad day when we have to announce the sentencing of a law enforcement official who has violated his oath, as we do today,” US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in a prepared statement on Monday. “This defendant preyed on the public he had sworn to protect and violated the rights of citizens in the process, all to line his pockets and those of the officers he was supposed to be supervising. We work hand-in-hand with our local law enforcement partners, and those partnerships are critical to our work. We will not tolerate the few bad officers who tarnish the badge.”