Khari Noerdlinger was fully vindicated inside the Bergen County Courthouse today: a manslaughter charge which had been dismissed in September by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office due to prosecutorial misconduct and perjury by the case detective in the grand jury, led to today’s agreement by the prosecutors to dismiss the remaining weapons and obstruction of justice charges once Khari completes six months of pretrial intervention which includes some community service and drug testing. Khari will be left with no criminal record from the incident of January 31, 2016 in which he was attacked by three armed men outside his home, two with knives. In addition, we will initiate a lawsuit on behalf of Khari against the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer and Detective James Costello of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. Furthermore, Khari’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman will seek the disbarment of Grootenboer and will request a criminal investigation of Grootenbeor and Costello for their misconduct and perjury. Sworn to uphold the law, Grootenbeor and Costello will now be forced themselves to face justice.
Nearly Two Years Later, Khari Receives Justice
Today’s court action ended nearly two years of a legal nightmare for Khari which began when he was attacked by three armed men in Edgewater, New Jersey. Khari was lucky to survive the attack; while one of the attackers was killed as Khari defended himself, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office did the unthinkable: it treated Khari as a criminal and charged him with the homicide of one of his attackers – while simultaneously charging his attackers with armed robbery of Khari. Of course, this inconsistency made little sense and it was not until the grand jury minutes were released did we learn how the seemingly impossible occurred: the grand jury was misled by Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Detective James Costello. During his grand jury testimony, Costello stated that Khari was attacked by three men carrying just a single, “long, cylindrical object” as a weapon – and that Khari was not injured at all, that he had not a scratch on his body from the attack as evidenced by pictures taken of Khari’s body following his arrest by members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.
Of course, these lies were easily disproven by the State’s own evidence: first, a surveillance video from a nearby building clearly revealed that all three attackers had weapons, including two knives, and they were in the midst of beating Khari when one of the attackers was stabbed in the leg. Second, one of the attackers – Richard Jean-Pierre – confessed the night of the attack on videotape that all three of the attackers had weapons that night and that two of them carried knives. Lastly, the pictures of Khari’s body after he was arrested instead revealed significant bruising on his back and arms, bruising so severe that rulers were placed under them in the pictures to provide an idea of their sizes. These lies of Costello and suborned by Grootenboer served a purpose: they negated any belief by the grand jury that Khari was in danger during the attack – as such, Grootenboer and Costello prevented a finding by the grand jury that Khari was justified in using force or deadly force to “protect himself against death or serious bodily harm ….” NJ Rev Stat § 2C:3-4 (2013). And because of that Khari was indicted on a manslaughter charge and falsely slandered as a drug dealer for 19 months. Once the lies were revealed, however, the case fell apart and the Bergen County Prosecutor dismissed the manslaughter charge.
The Prosecutor and Case Detective Lied in the Grand Jury — and Lied While Explaining Their Lies
Incredibly, both Grootenboer and Costello later claimed in sworn statements that the reason they did not inform the grand jury of Richard Jean-Pierre’s statement in which he claimed that two of the other attackers possessed knives, is because neither of them listened to Jean-Pierre’s taped statement. What was never explained in the sworn statements of Grootenboer and Costellos was that if neither of them knew anything about this taped statement of Jean-Pierre, how could it be that Grootenboer questioned Costello for five pages of the grand jury transcript specifically about the details of this confession??
Regardless, even assuming Grootenboer and Costello were telling the truth regarding their failure to review the Jean-Pierre statement prior to the grand jury presentation — which as noted above they clearly were not — their negligence and incompetence is breathtaking. What prosecutor’s office would continue to allow the prosecutor presenting the evidence to a grand jury as well as the sole witness/case detective to continue to have their jobs when they admitted they failed to review the most important piece of evidence, the confession of one of the attackers, in a case like this? And what are the odds that both the lead prosecutor (with the position of “Senior Assistant” prosecutor) and a highly experienced homicide detective would BOTH not have reviewed this crucial piece of evidence prior to the grand jury presentment? It’s impossible. That both did not immediately lose their jobs due to at the very least sheer incompetence is telling: a coverup was clearly afoot.
Of course, the only way to fully expose the nefarious conduct of Grootenboer and Costello is through a public lawsuit. Grootenboer’s misconduct is not limited to this case; last year manslaughter charges were dismissed in another of her cases due to her failure to provide exculpatory evidence to the defendant – for two years. A public lawsuit will allow Khari’s attorneys to shed light on Grootenboer’s pattern of illegal and unethical behavior while employed by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. If you have any questions about this case or any other New York or New Jersey assault, manslaughter or weapons case, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman at (212) 581-1001 today.