Kelly Cruz faces federal indictment in long-running police-brutality case
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Nearly four years after being accused of using excessive force during a drug bust, a veteran state police narcotics investigator has been indicted by federal authorities.
The indictment against Kelly Cruz, 43, of Oxford, follows a complex series of legal procedures involving the same incident in Exton that dates back to Aug. 19, 2009, and includes a private criminal complaint, a civil lawsuit, and a state grand-jury probe.
Cruz’s attorney Christian J. Hoey said Cruz “remains steadfast in defense of his actions.” Hoey said the evidence has not changed. He said the only difference between the state and federal grand juries was that the state panel, which did not recommend charges, heard testimony from Cruz. “He’s anxious to get this behind him,” Hoey said.
Cruz, who was promoted to corporal in October 2012, has been working as a patrol supervisor in the Avondale barracks. He will be suspended without pay when he returns from his arraignment on Monday, said Trooper Adam Reed, a state police spokesman. Cruz has been charged with one count of deprivation of civil rights.
The indictment alleges that on Cruz, “while acting under color of law, kicked Z.B. … in the back of the head while Z.B. was laying face down on the floor in handcuffs.” As a result, Z.B. suffered bodily injury that required surgery to repair his teeth, the indictment said.
In October 2011, when the state grand jury did not recommend charges, Hoey hailed the decision as a total vindication while Joseph P. Green, the attorney for Zachary W. Bare, identified only as Z.B. in the indictment, deemed it a “whitewash” that essentially protected a state trooper from a corroborated assault.
On Monday, Green said that “if there’s any vindication, it’s vindication of hard-working, honest West Whiteland Township police officers, who saw wrong and did the right thing.” The testimony of officers from West Whiteland did not support Cruz’s contention that the assault was justified, according to court records.
Green said that the private criminal complaint was dismissed without explanation; he said the civil litigation was settled. Cruz was placed on desk duty in the wake of the private criminal complaint, which accused Cruz of breaking Bare’s nose and pushing four teeth into his gums with his foot, but he returned to regular duty after the state declined to pursue charges.
According to court records, the alleged assault – witnessed by one police officer with others in close proximity – occurred during a drug raid. Bare was taken into custody because he matched the description of a man who had fled a suspected methamphetamine lab in Exton. Bare was never charged in connection with the raid. Medical reports showed Bare had two facial fractures, court records said.
Hoey said Cruz, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves who has performed “over 50 years of public service” through both his military and police work, remains upbeat and positive and eager to get before a jury. “We think the jury will agree there’s no criminal culpability whatsoever,” Hoey said.
If convicted, Cruz faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It said the case was investigated by the FBI-Newtown Square Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys L.C. Wright and Maureen McCartney.