The cops accused of extending Mercer County corrections union boss Donald Ryland a “professional courtesy” are under investigation.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed it’s looking into the actions of Hamilton cops Russell Newborn and Thomas DeVictoria during an Aug. 13 late-night traffic stop of Ryland.
The stop remained under wraps for months because the township stalled in turning over redacted body-camera footage that blurred out the faces of Ryland, the president of PBA Local 167, and his female passenger, who was found with drugs.
The MCPO investigation was initiated after The Trentonian published body-camera footage showing Ryland being pulled over near the Hamilton-Trenton border with Jenna Markee of Trenton who cops suspected of being a prostitute.
Markee, who was a passenger in Ryland Chevrolet Equinox SUV, was charged with drug possession after officers found heroin in her handbag. Ryland was allowed to leave once a drug sweep of his vehicle turned up empty.
Hamilton Police Lt. John Feltes confirmed his department provided unredacted body-camera footage of the stop to the prosecutor’s office, which also demanded the officers’ investigative reports.
“There is an active internal affairs investigation into the Donald Ryland matter. Because of that, I can’t provide any further details at this time,” MCPO spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said Wednesday.
The Trentonian has learned Ryland is also being looked at as part of the internal affairs probe after he was pulled over a second time, three days later, in a part of Chambersburg known to Trenton cops as “prostitution alley.”
A county spokesman referred questions about Ryland’s job status to the MCPO. The MCPO wouldn’t say whether Ryland is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the IA probe, calling it a “personnel matter.”
The Aug. 16 stop of Ryland, initiated by Trenton’s street crimes unit, happened just after midnight, at the intersection of South Clinton Avenue and Bayard Street, about a mile and a half from the CO’s Hamilton Avenue home.
Trenton street crime detectives do not wear body cameras, so the stop was not captured on video.
Sources told the newspaper that Ryland was by himself and was not ticketed and cut loose after initially being pulled over for having illegally tinted windows.
The repeated car stops drew the attention of Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, whose office charged Ryland in two sexual assault cases in 2017.
Newborn and DeVictoria had been cleared by their department of any wrongdoing following in initial inquiry into the Ryland stop, according to sources.
But Onofri decided to take a second look at the case after former cop and internal affairs expert Richard Rivera reviewed the cops’ body camera footage at The Trentonian’s request and found it apparent that DeVictoria and Newborn extended Ryland a “professional courtesy.”
Ryland identified himself as a corrections officer and union president 90 seconds into the stop.
After that, the officers didn’t press up Ryland and seemed to accept his story that he was giving the woman a ride home even after finding Markee with a knife, drugs and a condom.
At one point toward the end of the car stop, Newborn appeared to cover the microphone of his body camera and whispered something to DeVictoria, who responded, “We can deal with her. How about that?”
DeVictoria apologized to Ryland during a drug sweep of his SUV.
“We don’t need anything to come back on you. It looks like she’s a, you know,” DeVictoria said without finishing his sentence.
“OK, yup,” Ryland responded.
“I understand what she is,” DeVictoria said. “I think I’ve dealt with her before. I just want to make sure she didn’t try to toss something on you because she seen us coming.”
“I definitely don’t need it in my vehicle,” Ryland said.
“Looks good,” DeVictoria said. “If you do find anything, just get rid of it.”
Officers weren’t as nice to Markee. They pulled her out of Ryland’s SUV after DeVictoria said her story “didn’t make sense” and grilled her about whether she was soliciting sex.
Markee admitted on the body camera that she didn’t know Ryland’s name and that she wasn’t wearing a bra or panties. The officers noted she had apparent track marks on her body from apparent drug use.
Court records showed Markee has multiple prior arrests for possession of Percocet, Oxycodone, heroin and crack cocaine.
She was also arrested Oct. 24 and charged with making a false report to police, according to court records.
She does not appear to have arrests for prostitution despite police officers’ suspicions, which were based off information in their system about prior contacts with Markee.
Toward the end of the stop, Newborn asked DeVictoria whether he still had his body camera on. Newborn turned off his body camera before telling Ryland he was free to go.Play Video
The Hamilton stop proved another black eye for the highly visible corrections president and married father, who insisted during an interview this month with The Trentonian in which he repeatedly lied that he did nothing wrong.
Ryland was just exonerated in February 2018 and restored to his corrections position with full back after his attorneys said the sex assault allegations were a case of mistaken identity.
Ryland had surveillance footage proving his alibi for one of the sex assaults.
During an interview with the newspaper, the corrections officer denied being stopped by Hamilton Police on Aug. 13, or another time this year.
Then he claimed he may have been pulled over for having “tinted windows” or a broken headlight.
Ryland denied having a female passenger with him when he was pulled over, until the newspaper confronted him with additional details of the stop. That’s when he finally acknowledged being with a woman named “Jenna.”
He didn’t know Jenna’s last name, had difficulty explaining how he met her and couldn’t explain why she didn’t know his name, according to the body camera footage.
“I didn’t mean to lie or anything of that nature,” he said. “There were conflicting dates, and I do apologize for that. I’m getting the call. It’s kinda startling.”
Ryland claimed he picked Markee up at the 7-Eleven on the 500 block of Lalor Street after getting a meal at the Wendy’s on the 2400 block of South Broad Street in Hamilton Township.
He said he was giving her a ride home and denied patronizing prostitutes when confronted with officers’ suggestion that the area was known as a hang-out spot for sex workers.
The corrections officer claimed he knew Markee for “some time” and then “two years,” but said they didn’t hang out “regularly” and hadn’t spoke since the stop. They’re also not friends on Facebook.
“How do I know her?” Ryland asked. “She’s from the area, and I’m from this area. So I just know of her. I do know her.”