The women were charged with false incrimination after they told police a neighbor hurled a racial epithet at them.
JERSEY CITY — Lawyers for a longtime Jersey City community leader and her sister are arguing that statements the women gave to police regarding an alleged incident of bias intimidation should be thrown out and the indictment against them dismissed.
Prosecutors allege Tinia and Vera Bland, along with a third woman, Deborah Alston, lied to police when they claimed one of their neighbors uttered a racial slur at them during a February court proceeding. But attorneys for the women say their statements to police, which led to false incrimination charges against them in May, were obtained improperly.
The women have been involved in a yearslong feud with the neighbor, Glen Trickel, and the man he lives with, Fidel Hernandez, one that has resulted in numerous court hearings, a simple assault conviction against Hernandez for biting Vera Bland during a fight in August 2016 and assault allegations against Vera Bland’s son, Richard, who authorities allege paid two men to assault Trickel in October 2017. Trickel alleges his attackers hurled a homophobic slur at him while they beat him.
All the parties live on Astor Place in Jersey City. Tinia Bland is the head of the Astor Place Neighborhood Association.
In Hudson County Superior Court Judge Sheila A. Venable’s courtroom on Friday, lawyers for the women grilled the police detective, Jessica Fernandez-Cruz, who took their Feb. 12, 2018 statements. The roughly two-hour hearing was a pretrial proceeding, one attorneys for the women hope will lead to Venable dismissing the charges.
Videos of the February statements the women gave police were played Friday. In them, they offer slightly different versions of the alleged incident. Alston says Trickel mouthed the words “I will kill you” followed by the racial slur. Vera Bland says Trickel used the slur first, adding, “I’m going to kill you.” Tinia Bland says Trickel used the slur first, then said, “I will kill you … and if you report it, I’ll kill the police too.”
Lawyers for the women say those statements should be quashed, arguing that because the detective who took their statements knew that prosecutors believed they were lying, she should have told them they were potentially targets of an investigation. The detective “tricked” at least one of them into giving a self-incriminating statement, the lawyers say.
“Did you tell them that it is a crime to falsely incriminate another individual?” Alston’s attorney, Sarah Seelig-Walsh, asked the detective. “Did you tell any of them that?”
“Not on the video but I’m pretty positive I mentioned that to them,” Fernandez-Cruz said. “I’m pretty sure they’re aware of that.”
“You’re pretty sure that they’re aware of that?” Seelig-Walsh asked her, in an incredulous tone.
“I think most people are,” Fernandez-Cruz said.
No decisions were made Friday on the motion filed by attorneys for the women to suppress their police statements and dismiss their indictment. The parties are due in court again in about two months.
Asked to comment, Trickel noted the “inconsistencies” in the statements the women gave to police.
“Once again, they get away with telling lies,” he said.
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