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Nathaniel Ballard

Summary of Camden Misconduct
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On September 19, 2007, police officers in Camden, New Jersey, arrested Nathaniel Ballard, and charged him with two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

Ballard would later say that the officers ordered him to the ground and told him that he looked like someone who would sell illegal drugs. An officer then said he had found drugs on Ballard.

Ballard, who was now 26 years old, pled guilty to a single count of possession of a controlled substance on January 4, 2008, and was sentenced to four years in prison.

On March 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice began bringing indictments against five Camden officers, charging them with a wide range of crimes and civil-rights violations, including planting evidence, falsification of reports, perjury and theft.

The indictments followed an investigation by the FBI into the department after the Camden County Office of the Public Defender asked the Camden police department’s Internal Affairs unit to examine complaints about officer misconduct more vigorously. In later litigation, plaintiffs alleged that the officers’ actions went undetected because of a breakdown in internal affairs, which was understaffed and used antiquated systems.

Three of the officers – Kevin Parry, Jason Stetser, and their supervisor, Dan Morris – pled guilty. The other two –Antonio Figueroa and Robert Bayard – went to trial. Figueroa was convicted; Bayard was acquitted.

Even before the first indictment against the officers, the Camden County Prosecutor had begun filing motions to vacate convictions and dismiss charges against defendants whose convictions were tainted by the apparent misconduct. Rather than waiting for individuals to come forward, the prosecutor’s office audited cases and then dismissed those if they determined that it was not possible to retry the case or proceed without the testimony of these officers, the evidence they had gathered, or the reports they had written. As word of the dismissals spread, other potential victims of the officers’ misconduct not identified by the prosecutor's initial review came forward. Ultimately, judges threw out convictions and granted dismissals for more than 50 defendants.

A judge vacated Ballard’s conviction and dismissed his charge on May 26, 2010. Ballard was released from prison.

Following the indictments against the officers. defendants began filing lawsuits against the city and the officers for violations of their civil rights. The lead lawsuit was filed on July 29, 2010 by the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Joel Barnes. It was eventually joined with lawsuits filed in state and federal court by Ballard and 86 other persons, including several who were never convicted and had their charges dismissed after the misconduct by the officers was brought to light.

In his lawsuit, Ballard said he was walking down the street at the time of his arrest and not in possession of any controlled substances. He said he pled guilty because he knew a jury would not believe that the officers planted evidence on him.

The lawsuits were settled on January 10, 2013, with the defendants sharing $3.5 million. Separately, 14 defendants also received compensation totaling $516,000 from the State of New Jersey for their wrongful convictions. It is not known if Ballard received state compensation.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 7/24/2022
Last Updated: 7/24/2022
State:New Jersey
County:Camden
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2008
Exonerated:2010
Sentence:4 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No