Retired Trenton cop offended by admitted killer’s cop brutality claim

It wasn’t enough that Robert Bartley shot retired Trenton cop Luddie Austin’s son to death in 2013.

The admitted killer had to get in another shot Thursday at Austin, and his brothers in blue – some of whom have testified at the trial of a man suspected of conspiring with Bartley to kill Austin’s son, 18-year-old James, on Feb. 26, 2013.

(left to right) Amanda Austin holding Jakalya, one of James Austin's twin daughters, Kim Bellamy, and Luddie Austin holding the other twin Janalya.

(left to right) Amanda Austin holding Jakalya, one of James Austin’s twin daughters, Kim Bellamy, and Luddie Austin holding the other twin Janalya.

Bartley, who has accepted a 25-year plea deal from prosecutors for his cooperation, took the stand and testified against his cousin, Raheem Currie.

During his testimony, he was asked about his arrest on the morning of Feb. 27, 2013. He claimed that he was brutalized by police prior to being taken to an interrogation room at Trenton Police headquarters, where he later confessed to the murder.

When he was asked by Assistant Prosecutor James Scott whether he gave a statement to police about James’ murder, Bartley responded, “Yeah, after they beat me up.”

The emotionally charged courtroom fell dead silent. Austin’s death touched the Trenton Police department, which Luddie Austin worked for over 18 years. A K-9 officer, Drew Astbury, testified this week that police lost “one of our own” – which led to a tense legal squabble and a request for a mistrial from the defense.

Bartley did not elaborate about who “they” were, or if he was referring to Trenton Police officers. He was captured by the U.S. Marshals NY/NJ Regional Task Fugitive Task Force, which is comprised of several law enforcement agencies including Trenton Police.

Trenton Police spokesman Lt. Stephen Varn, when reached by phone by The Trentonian late Thursday evening, said he wasn’t prepared to address the allegation.

It was unclear if Bartley reported his allegation to officials.

Caroline Turner, Bartley’s attorney, declined to comment, saying her discussions with her client about his alleged beating were privileged. She also would not address whether she lodged a formal complaint against police.

Former Trenton police officer Luddie Austin, Austin’s father, told The Trentonian in an interview that while he found most of Bartley’s testimony believable, he was taken aback by the allegation of police brutality and found it appalling and self-serving.

“To make an allegation like that it has no bearing on the case,” he said. “The bottom line is, I guess you want compassion because you say you got beat up. You just took somebody’s life. Three years later, you can sit here and complain that you got beat up. But my son can’t laugh or play with his daughter, or do anything.”

Luddie Austin said he has seen Bartley’s mugshot online and it appear to undercut his claims. He does not appear to have any injuries to his face, he said.

“That would have been taken within hours of him being arrested,” Austin said. “If there would have been any allegations that would have come out from the beginning. He’s been in numerous status hearings. I don’t think any of the guys that I worked with would have done anything like that.”

Luddie Austin, who spent time on the fugitive task force, said he never witnessed acts of police brutality while he and colleagues pursued some of Trenton’s most violent felons.

Police officers, he said, are trained to use as much force necessary to make an arrest. He said he never expected special treatment from his brothers in blue or knew of a police pact that encouraged retaliation against someone accused of killing a cop’s child.

“What one may interpret to be abusive may not be,” he said. “As an officer, you can meet force with a greater level of force. You don’t have to meet with the same level of force. [Bartley] has nothing to lose. I don’t know what his motivation is. I don’t know if he was just saying that just to say enough to try to discredit something. Whether in law enforcement or in life, you can’t spend all your time trying to figure out what he was thinking.”

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