Mom Says Son Allegedly Beaten has Mental Disability

The Star-Ledger
By: Kinga Borondy, Star-Ledger Staff
July 3, 1999

The man who was allegedly beaten up by police officers and inmates after he was taken into custody on charges of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy is one of three brothers who have a mental disability, the suspect's mother said yesterday.

Manuel Aldea, 23, who was arrested June 14, had never before been in trouble with the law, his mother, Marta Mercado said.

Newark police officials were continuing their investigation into the actions of nice police officers accused of beating Aldea or standing by while inmates attacked him in a precinct holding cell.

The nine officers - including two ranking superiors and three rookies - have been suspended without pay, but have not been charges with any crimes. Police also are reviewing the possibility of filing charges against the inmates involved in the attack.

Meanwhile, the suspect's family is considering taking legal action against the police and the individual officers, said Shelley Stangler of Springfield, an attorney for the family.

"Based on what (the family) is telling me, there were a lot of problems with police procedures and protocol that makes me believe there is the basis for a case," Stangler said.

Aldea, of Summer Avenue, was arrested as he allegedly attacked a boy in the bushes adjacent to the Boys and Girls Club on Arlington Avenue.

A pedestrian alerted police in the North District Precinct to the alleged attack and a number of officers raced outside, arresting the suspect.

The suspect's attorney said he was falsely accused of the assault, and was merely urinating at the place he was arrested.

Stangler adds, "Regardless of what the (alleged) crime may be, in this country police do not have the right to make decisions about justice...that is up to juries."

Police officials claim Aldea was beaten after being taken into custody in the North District Precinct. He was also attacked by inmates in one of the holding cells, with the most sever damage inflicted by other inmates.

Aldea's mother yesterday said her son is mentally retarded and has been since birth. He has attended special education classes all his life, but has no training because he has difficulty following rules.

The women, who lives in a second-floor walk-up in Newark's North Ward, has three sons, all mentally retarded, she said.

"God helps me," she said simply. "He's the only one."

The suspect pleaded not guilty to aggravated sexual assault at his arraignment June 16 and a cash bail was set at $1,000 with the condition that he have no contact with the boy, said Ray Weiss, a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor.

Police officials said the case will be referred to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

The suspended officers included Lt. Dennis Tassie, a 10-year veteran of the department; Sgt. Anthony Caruso, a 10-year veteran; Michael Turner, 10-year veteran; Wendell Harper, nine-year veteran; Michael Clegg, six-year veteran, and Marisol Gonzalez-Cardona, two-year veteran. Three probationary officers, all with less than a year on the job, also were suspended. They are Chris Gialanella, Anthony Venancio and Silas Smith.