Cowan Investigations communicated with the “missing witness” from the Denzel Suitt trial, according to a report obtained by Real Garden State.
As community leaders rallied in support of him on April 27, 2021, Denzel Suitt, a convicted cop that maintains his innocence, retained the services of private investigators with deep roots in the Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) and Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO).
Suitt faced trial in February 2020 for allegedly robbing Jermaine Palms during a motor vehicle stop in Jersey City’s Bayside Park on March 25, 2018. Despite being accused of stealing $600, a Hudson County jury found Suitt guilty of Theft by Unlawful Taking ($500 or less) and Official Misconduct (directly related to the theft) with a benefit not greater than $200.
Without any direct evidence, HCPO A.P. Christina Krauthamer secured a guilty verdict by presenting a case to the jury filled with problematic evidence and missing key witnesses – especially Palms’ ex-girlfriend, Kennyatta Brown (who was financially responsible for the $600 allegedly stolen).
Contrary to Krauthamer’s presentation to the jury, a statement given by Brown to the HCPO regarding the night of the alleged robbery conflicted with the state’s timeline of events. Brown also indicated that one of two promissory notes used as evidence during the trial was forged.
Cowan Investigations report, Real Garden State follow-up
The report generated by Cowan Investigations – written by former JCPD Chief Robert Cowan and retired HCPO Capt. Brian Duval – has uncovered new revelations that will only add to questions surrounding the investigation & prosecution of Suitt. Details from the report include:
- Duval spoke with Brown for fifteen minutes on May 2, 2021, via phone conversation. Brown expressed to Duval that “no one cared about her financial loss” and “everyone else involved in the case was able to testify at the trial and tell their story, but that the prosecutor’s office never called her to testify,” according to the report. Of note, Brown’s phone number was obtained by Cowan Investigations via a background check.
- Brown had supposedly agreed to contact Duval sometime after May 16, 2021, but never followed through and declined to answer phone calls from Cowan Investigations around the same time, per the report.
- Background checks indicate Brown & Palms have been living in neighboring apartments in Elmira, NY, since at least February 2021, per the report. Records indicate they previously lived in the same building, in separate apartments, on Grant Avenue in Jersey City, too.
- According to the background check, Brown was identified as having established utility services at the Grant Ave. address on December 21, 2014 and last verified on July 9, 2020. Upon further investigation, Cowan and Duval visited the apartment associated with Brown and found a woman living there. The woman claimed to be residing at the address for several years, but didn’t know Brown or people believed to be Brown’s relatives, per the report.
- Both Brown (in her statement) and Palms (in his testimony) claimed she was staying at her mother’s house, on Ocean Avenue in Jersey City, on the night of the alleged robbery. Upon further investigation, Cowan and Duval went to the Ocean Ave. address given by Brown to the HCPO. Long-time residents of the property had no recollection of her or a woman believed to be her mother, per the report.
- On May 31, 2021, after being unable to contact her via phone call, Cowan sent a text message to Brown asking if she could help with “sorting something out” regarding the Elmira and Grant Avenue addresses. Within five minutes of that text, Brown called Cowan and had an eight-minute conversation, according to the report.
- During that conversation, Brown 1) allegedly told Cowan “I am not going to be able to talk to you” when asked why she didn’t answer Duval’s calls; 2) stated she was aware Suitt was set to be sentenced (without being asked); and 3) hung up the phone when asked if she’d spoke with the HCPO. Notably, Brown claimed to be living in Pennsylvania and was supposedly irritated with questions related to the possible residencies of both her and the woman believed to be her mother.
- According to the report, on the afternoon of June 1, 2021, Duval spoke with a lieutenant from the Elmira Police Department (EPD). When asked, the lieutenant said he was familiar with Palms & Brown and stated that the JCPD had recently contacted the EPD inquiring about the residency of Palms. The EPD lieutenant notified JCPD officials that Palms no longer resides in Elmira, but Brown still does, per the report.
Of note, it’s believed that the Cowan Investigations probe remains ongoing at this time. Furthermore, Real Garden State has made subsequent discoveries since obtaining the report cited in this story.
A police blotter obtained by Real Garden State via a public records request with the City of Elmira indicates that on May 25, 2021, EPD twice visited an address associated with Palms for an “assist agency” (at 12:54 AM and 12:15 PM). Additionally, on January 4, 2020, approximately one month before Suitt’s trial, Palms and Brown were involved in a traffic stop conducted by the EPD.
According to Jersey City Municipal Court records, on February 4, 2020, the day before Suitt’s trial started, a vehicle registered to Brown received a street-sweeping ticket about two blocks away from the Hudson County Courthouse. A source close to Suitt claims Palms had a pre-trial meeting with the HCPO that same day. The current status of the parking ticket is Failure to Appear/Pay.
The sentencing of Denzel Suitt
Sentencing in Suitt’s case has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and proposed legislation which would’ve ended mandatory minimums for Official Misconduct. After Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed the aforementioned legislation, Superior Court Judge John A. Young was on the brink of sending the former cop to prison on April 28, 2021.
However, on April 27, 2021, Blacks in Law Enforcement Servicing the Community (B.L.E.S.C.) and Jersey City Council candidates Chris Gadsden & Frank Gilmore hosted a press conference calling on Gov. Murphy & Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to halt Suitt’s sentencing and review the HCPO’s handling of the case.
In light of the press conference, Judge Young ordered that briefs be submitted by the state and defense regarding waiving the mandatory minimum for Official Misconduct.
A sentencing hearing is currently set for June 16, 2021, but it remains to be seen if Young will make a decision on Suitt’s fate by then. Given the revelations uncovered by Cowan Investigations, the judge has serious issues to consider in the next few days – including whether or not the HCPO was truthful about being unable to contact Brown to testify.