Morristown, NJ

Six Correctional Officers Charged in Inmate Assault at Garden State Youth Correctional Facility

Morristown Minute

Attorney General Platkin announces criminal charges against six correctional police officers over unjustified use of force against an inmate at Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.

*updated 6.5.2022, attribution.

Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced June 3, 2022, criminal charges against six correctional police officers in connection to the unjustified use of force against an inmate of the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Chesterfield Township on April 8, 2020.

Six defendants – including Correctional Police Sergeant Michael Emmert and five Senior Correctional Police Officers – have been charged in an ongoing investigation by the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division (DOC SID) and the Attorney General’s Office, stemming from information obtained by the DOC SID.

The details of the case are as follows:

At approximately 12:05 am on April 8, 2020, DOC officers at Garden State Youth Correctional Facility allegedly conducted a forced cell extraction of an inmate. The 6 defendants forcibly removed the inmate from their cell and filed false reports intended to deceive others within the DOC into believing that the use of force was justified.

On approach to the cell, Sergeant Emmert allegedly sprayed the victim with Oleoresin Capsicum (Pepper Spray), without giving the victim an opportunity to comply, and despite the victim being handcuffed. The five remaining defendants then suited up, and after Sergeant Emmert pepper-sprayed the victim a second time, they stormed the cell and forcibly removed the victim/inmate.

According to complaints filed, the victim/inmate screamed in pain as he left the cell covered in blood. The victim was given an inhaler and oxygen in the infirmary and was treated for lacerations on his face.

DOC policy permits the use of force that is objectively necessary and reasonable; it requires that an inmate be given an opportunity to comply before a forced extraction process.

The following individuals were charged on May 25, 2022, by complaint-summons:

Correctional Police Sergeant Michael Emmert, 37, or Toms River, NJ

  • Aggravated assault (2 counts – 3rd degree)
  • Tampering with public records or information (3rd degree)

Emmert was the leader of the extraction team. When he approached the victim’s cell, the victim offered his hands and stated his intent to be handcuffed, but Emmert did not allow the victim/inmate to leave the cell voluntarily and gave no orders.

Emmert then pepper-sprayed the victim/inmate in the face, promptly left, and then returned with a five-person suited team. One more without offering the victim an opportunity to comply, Emmert pepper-sprayed the inmate again, then supervised as the suited team entered the cell and forcibly removed the victim/inmate.

In Emmert’s preliminary incident report, Emmert falsely stated that the inmate refused orders to be handcuffed, blocked a food port, and attempted an attack to “mule kick” a shield – a report contradicted by video and photographic evidence.

Senior Correctional Police Officer Christopher Toth, 37, of New Egypt, NJ

  • Tampering with public records

After Emmert pepper-sprayed the victim, Toth used a riot shield to hold the inmate/victim in his cell. Toth would then leave and promptly return suited in riot gear with a five-person team; Toth was the first officer in the stack to reenter the cell and forcibly remove the victim.

Toth falsely stated in a report that pepper-sprayed was used “in order to gain compliance, which was not effective” knowing that the victim was not given any opportunity to comply.

Toth also falsely stated, “As I entered the cell, [Victim/Inmate] tried to kick me and turned to hit me.”

Senior Correction Police Officer Raymond Quinones, 43, of Beachwood, N.J.

  • Tampering with Public Records or Information (3rd degree)

Quinones joined the five-person suited team, after the Victim/Inmate was pepper-sprayed twice, that entered and forcibly removed the victim/inmate from their cell.

In his special custody report, Quinones falsely stated that when the team arrived at the Victim’s cell he “refused to cuff up” and “[w]hen the cell door opened, [Victim/Inmate] was combative,” knowing that the Victim/Inmate was not given any opportunity to comply.

Senior Correction Police Officer Michael Gaines, 56, of Willingboro, N.J.

  • Tampering with Public Records or Information (3rd degree)

Gaines was also a part of the five-person suited team that forcibly removed the victim/inmate from their cell after the victim/inmate was pepper-sprayed twice and not given the opportunity to comply.

Gaines also filed a false report, stating that when the team arrived at the Victim’s cell, he “was ordered to comply” and was sprayed, knowing that Victim 1 was not given any opportunity to comply.

Senior Correction Police Officer Mark Sadlowski, Jr., 44, of Sewell, N.J.

  • Tampering with Public Records or Information (3rd degree)

Sadlowski was also a member of the five-person team that forcibly removed the victim from his cell.

In his special custody report, Sadlowski falsely stated that when the team arrived at the victim’s cell he “refused to handcuff” and that “[w]hen the door opened, the inmate was combative,” knowing that the victim was not given any opportunity to comply.

Senior Correction Police Officer Michael Ambrozaitis, 58, of Southampton, N.J.

  • Tampering with Public Records or Information (3rd degree)

Ambrozaitis was the last of the five-person team to forcibly remove the victim from his cell. After the victim is pepper-sprayed twice, Ambrozaitis applied leg irons to the victim.

In his special custody report, Ambrozaitis falsely stated that when the team arrived at the victim’s cell and the cell door opened, the victim/inmate “refused to comply.”

Third-degree aggravated assault charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, and third-degree tampering with public records charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison, including a mandatory two-year term of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $15,000.

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