NJ judge refuses to dismiss charges against paralyzed man

CAMDEN, N.J. — A judge has refused to dismiss gun and drug charges against a New Jersey man paralyzed during his arrest almost five years ago, saying he believes the defendant could probably make it to court — and if not, he could appear via video feed.

The attorney for 25-year-old Xavier Ingram had argued earlier this month his client is too injured to leave his hospital bed, but NJ.com reports the Superior Court judge rejected that contention after prosecutors produced Facebook posts showing Ingram had left in a motorized wheelchair in past years.

“Mr. Ingram is not inextricably bound to his rehab center,” Judge Morris Smith said earlier this month in court. “When he wants to get out, he can get out.”

Camden police suspect Ingram, who was 20 at the time, ditched a gun while weaving through parked cars and arrested him in June 2014. Ingram fell on the wet roadway while fleeing from officers. Authorities say the fall broke his neck, but Ingram has alleged in a federal lawsuit that police caused his injuries by stepping on his back and neck, and he also accuses officers of planting the gun and drugs. A police spokesman has called the suit “baseless and frivolous.”

In February, defense attorney Robert Dunn argued that trying Ingram in court would require daily ambulance rides, a hospital bed and monitors in the courtroom, and nursing staff to reposition him frequently, administer medication and change his colostomy bag.

Assistant prosecutor Matthew Spittal, however, cited Facebook photos of Ingram, in a motorized wheelchair, hanging out with “family, friends and fellow gang-members” in Camden.

Dunn said the photos were all taken between June 2016 and December 2016, and his client hasn’t been able to leave his nursing facility for non-medical reasons for more than two years.

Ingram’s cousin, Muneerah Abdur-Rahmaan, said in a sworn statement that Ingram was only able to leave seven times, usually for a period of hours, to attend funerals or memorial gatherings for relatives or friends, or to worship at a local mosque. Both she and Dunn said his condition is deteriorating.

Smith said that would be an even better reason to move forward with the trial, although “it may be harder in 2019 than it was in 2016.” He said he could not find that Ingram “physically can’t ever come out of the rehab center.”

“I find just the opposite, that he can get out of the rehab center, albeit with difficulty,” the judge said. He also said there’s no legal reason Ingram could not appear via video conferencing, but Dunn argued that would violate his client’s civil rights because he is not voluntarily absenting himself from court.

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