Thoughts on ‘Tan Mom’ lawyer John Caruso bailing on Denzel Suitt trial

Attorney John Caruso wasn’t camera shy when representing “Tan Mom,” so it’s odd that he bailed on the Denzel Suitt trial after realizing it was going to be filmed and publicized.

John Caruso - Esther Suarez - Tan Mom

HCPO Asst. Prosecutor John Caruso with Tan Mom (left, 2012) and Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez (right, June 2019 swearing-in).

John Caruso was sworn-in as an assistant prosecutor with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) on June 24, 2019, with no press coverage. In retrospect, it might’ve been worthy of a local news story if someone knew that he was once the defense attorney for Tan Mom.

Back in 2012, Caruso was hosting press conferences attended by national media outlets and wasn’t scared to be quoted on behalf of his infamous client. That’s why it feels so odd that he bailed on the trial of Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Officer Denzel Suitt after he realized it was going to be filmed and publicized.

As mentioned in part 1 of Real Garden State’s multi-part story covering the State vs. Denzel Suitt, HCPO A.P. Christina Krauthamer was “abandoned by her original trial assistant minutes after they saw me (and my camera) in the courtroom.” Caruso told Krauthamer he’d be right back, but never returned to Judge John A. Young’s courtroom after exiting.

Real Garden State has since learned that there was friction between Krauthamer and Caruso at the time. The underlying issue for that friction is unknown, yet it certainly adds to the mystery regarding why the HCPO felt so strongly about prosecuting Suitt. Watch Krauthamer mention lack of assistance during opening statement (starts at 12:30 mark):

Suitt was accused of 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.

So far, the multi-part story has highlighted a deceptive statement about the jury’s guilty verdict, questioned key evidence presented to the jury during the trial, and exposed the false prosecution used to convict Suitt.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and proposed legislation that would’ve eliminated mandatory minimums for Official Misconduct, Judge Young had postponed Suitt’s sentencing. After Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed the legislation on April 19, 2021, Suitt was supposed to be sentenced to prison by Young on April 28, 2021.

However, on April 24, 2021, part 4 of Real Garden State’s multi-part story – The false prosecution of a black cop explained in 10 points – was published. Shortly thereafter, Bruce Alston boosted the article from the Hudson County Chronicles Facebook page.

On April 25, 2021, Frank Gilmore – a 2021 Ward F Jersey City Council candidate – hosted Suitt, Cynthia Blue of Blacks in Law Enforcement Servicing the Community (B.L.E.S.C.), former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden, and yours truly on his Facebook live show to discuss the case.

On April 27, 2021, the day before Suitt’s sentencing, Gadsden, Gilmore, and leaders of B.L.E.S.C. hosted a press conference that drew local media coverage. Collectively, they questioned the integrity of Suitt’s conviction and called on Gov. Murphy & Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to halt Suitt’s sentencing and investigate the prosecution.

Later that night, a Hudson County legal source texted, “I’d be shocked if [the article and press coverage] effected Judge Young at all.” To that source’s shock, Young postponed the sentencing again (until June 2, 2021).

It’s possible the judge may waive the mandatory minimum for Official Misconduct in Suitt’s case – which would be directly at odds with Murphy’s veto and Grewal’s recent directive regarding sentencing for non-violent crimes – because he doesn’t want to send a falsely accused person to prison.

Ultimately, when considering all of the post-trial revelations, it’s plausible Caruso knew the Suitt case was filled with holes and didn’t want to get caught up in a potential scandal. Maybe there’s a much simpler, uncontroversial explanation for his sudden disappearance.

Unfortunately, whether it’s The Missing Witness, The Missing Detective, or The Missing Prosecutor, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez refuses to publicly comment about the case and provide answers to basic questions.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Watch yours truly, Michael Shurin, on the B.L.E.S.C. podcast discussing State vs. Denzel Suitt below:

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