Judge releases Morristown teen held since weekend arrest by Dover police; Dover mayor schedules ‘Day of Healing’

Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor lays down the law to Crypian Luke at detention hearing, May 24, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor lays down the law to Crypian Luke at detention hearing, May 24, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Cyprian Luke, whose violent arrest by Dover police last weekend has spurred a state investigation, was ordered released Friday from the Morris County Jail to an aunt’s home — with strict conditions and a warning from the judge.

“The moment you violate anything, even if it’s a minor violation, you’re going to  end up back in jail. You understand?” Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor told the 19-year-old, who nodded in agreement.

Luke awaits trial on an aggravated assault charge involving a girlfriend. Dover police picked him up early Sunday on warrants alleging he violated conditions of his pre-trial release.

Crypian Luke, center, at detention hearing, May 24, 2019, with Public Defenders Elizabeth Cervenak and Thomas Belsky. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cyprian Luke, center, at detention hearing, May 24, 2019, with Public Defenders Elizabeth Cervenak and Thomas Belsky. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Three officers were placed on paid leave while the state Attorney General’s Office investigates the arrest. Videos show Luke pinned to the ground by his neck and jabbed in the face by police, while being commanded to stop resisting arrest.

Activists from Black Lives Matter marched outside the police station on Thursday night. Dover Mayor James Dodd has declared a “Community Day of Healing” next Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

Responding to “the recent unfortunate events of the past week,” Dodd issued a statement announcing Tuesday’s aldermen meeting has been pushed back a week to allow a special gathering “to hear residents’ concerns, communicate and come together as a community to begin the healing process.”

Crypian Luke, center, pledges to obey pre-trial release conditions, May 24, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cyprian Luke, center, pledges to obey pre-trial release conditions, May 24, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Attorney General’s Office and Morris County Prosecutor’s Office have been invited, along with religious and civic leaders.

“Divisiveness and hate in any shape or form has no home in the Town of Dover,” stated Dodd, who has mandated “unconscious bias training” for all municipal employees.

At Friday’s detention hearing, carried over from lengthy arguments on Thursday, Judge Taylor reluctantly released Luke to Rachelle Cruz, an aunt from Mine Hill.

“He knows the rules. I’m tough,” Cruz, a nursing student, said of Luke, assuring the judge she would supervise the teen closely.

Public Defender Elizabeth Cervenak addresses judge as Crypian Luke bows his head and listens, at detention hearing, May 24, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Public Defender Elizabeth Cervenak addresses judge as Cyprian Luke bows his head and listens, at detention hearing, May 24, 2019. Public Defender Thomas Belsky is to Luke’s right. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Luke must wear an electronic monitoring device, and only may leave Cruz’ home for court- or medical appointments, under supervision. If Luke lets the battery die on his ankle bracelet, or fails to obey his aunt’s rules or perform household chores like taking out the garbage, Taylor vowed to lock Luke up.

A psychiatric evaluation was ordered, along with a social services plan by Caring Partners of Morris & Sussex, a nonprofit in Mt. Arlington.

Alcohol and drugs are forbidden, and so is any contact with “S.H.,” the girlfriend Luke allegedly roughed up twice. Luke already is charged with breaking a prior court order banning contact with the woman.

“Not phone calls, not text messages, not emails, not social media postings, not through third parties. I mean, no contact whatsoever,” Taylor said.

Rachelle Cruz, left, agreed to supervise defendant Crypian Luke, at detention hearing, May 24, 2019. Public Defender Elizabeth Cervenak listens. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rachelle Cruz, left, agreed to supervise defendant Cyprian Luke, at detention hearing, May 24, 2019. Public Defender Elizabeth Cervenak listens. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

S.H. was not in the courtroom on Friday. A day earlier, she brought her 18-month-old daughter–she says Luke is the father–and told Luke she loved him as he was being led out in handcuffs.

Midway through that hearing, S.H. burst from the Morristown courtroom sobbing after the judge reprimanded her for blurting, “It’s not true!” as he was restating testimony about her. Public Defender Elizabeth Cervenak told the judge that S.H. had recanted recent statements about Luke placing his hands on her neck.

Taylor expressed reservations about releasing Luke; the prosecutor’s office and a pre-trial release program both advised continued detention, asserting Luke could pose dangers to others and was a risk to flee.

The judge cited Luke’s lengthy criminal and juvenile record, a history of drug- and alcohol abuse, and a disregard for probationary terms and court orders.

“He is what his record says he is, and it’s not a good record,” Taylor said.

But Luke may be struggling with mental health issues, including periods of homelessness, acknowledged the judge, noting that family members had come to court to show their support.

“I’m very happy he was released,” said Luke’s mother, Mary Luke. The Morristown resident said she looked forward to giving her son a “great big hug.”

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