Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jan 2000
Source: Home News Tribune (NJ)
Copyright: 2000 Home News Tribune
Contact:  35 Kennedy Blvd. East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Author: David Jefferson Harris Jr.


In an ironic chain of events, admitted drug-dealer Corey Ashford has
become the star witness for both the prosecution and the defense in
the celebrated New Brunswick police-corruption case.

Ashford's recorded conversations with former Hub City detective James
Marshall became the centerpiece in the 1998 grand jury investigation
that resulted in Marshall's indictment for dealing drugs and accepting

Bolstered by astute legal counsel and his former colleagues from the
New Brunswick Police Department, Marshall is winning the battle for
the hearts and minds of potential jurors who will decide his fate on
charges, which also include operating three brothels.

During the 1998 state police investigation that ensnared Marshall,
Ashford agreed to wear a recording device. Since then he has lived
under the microscopic view of the New Brunswick Police Department. As
a result, Ashford has been arrested on a variety of drug charges.

The campaign to destroy Ashford's credibility is a case study on the
inner workings of the "Strong Blue Line." When the members conclude an
outsider has placed "one of their own" at risk of public humiliation,
the rule of law takes a back seat to the perceived need to circle the

In other drug activity, the police have not applied an equivalent
level of commitment and determination they displayed against Ashford.
If they had, the problem of street-level drug-dealing would be
nonexistent in the city.

However, in the final analysis, the motives of the arresting officers
cannot be challenged. Each time the cops ran down Ashford, he was in
places he should have avoided and conducting the same business that
caused him to be arrested more than 12 times since 1998.

The selective prosecution argument fails because of Ashford's
inability to discipline himself sufficiently to finish the job he
started when he volunteered to assist in making the case against Marshall.

Ashford has appeared to labor under the false notion he could act with
impunity as a central figure in an investigation that ended the career
of a street-wise detective with a penchant for making friends in high

Did Ashford believe Marshall would not try to save himself by calling
in any and all outstanding debts? Did he believe the state police and
the Middlesex County prosecutor would protect him from Marshall's
broad network of friends in law enforcement and the judiciary?

Fortunately, in the matter of the State vs. James Marshall, Middlesex
Prosecutor Glenn Berman did not ask the grand jury to indict Marshall
solely on his recorded conversations with Ashford.

As a former Superior Court judge, Berman knows Middlesex County juries
are reluctant to convict police officers. But the fact that Berman
asked for and received a multiple-count indictment against Marshall
means he is confident an impartial jury will also convict him.
Tia Swanson is on leave. David Jefferson Harris Jr. lives in New
Brunswick. His column appears each Monday. Send e-mail  on the Internet. 
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