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Kenneth Pitts

Summary of Camden Misconduct
On March 9, 2008, several police officers in Camden, New Jersey, arrested 33-year-old Kenneth Pitts and charged him with four counts of drug possession and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

The police report filed with his arrest said that officers had seen Pitts get out of his car and walk up to a female, who gave him some money in exchange for a “small item.”

Pitts pled guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school in Camden County Superior Court in May 2009. Available records don’t indicate the sentence he received, but he served 11 months in prison and was then released on parole.

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 –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 that relied on the testimony or reports of the officers. As word of the dismissals spread, other potential victims of the officers’ misconduct came forward.

Ultimately, judges threw out convictions and granted dismissals for more than 50 defendants. A judge vacated Pitts’s conviction and dismissed his indictment on December 7, 2010.

Following the indictments, 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 Pitts 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.

Pitts said in his lawsuit that Stetser and Parry searched his vehicle without a warrant, probable cause, or his consent. He said they falsely claimed to have found drugs in the car and told Pitts said they could “sweep everything under the rug” if Pitts would tell them about drug activity in the area. They arrested Pitts after he said he didn’t know anything.

The lawsuits were settled on January 10, 2013, with the defendants sharing $3.5 million. Separately, 16 defendants also received compensation totaling $649,000 from the State of New Jersey for their wrongful convictions. Pitts did not receive state compensation.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 8/29/2022
Last Updated: 8/29/2022
State:New Jersey
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No