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A.C. officer cleared in excessive force case arrested in Pennsylvania assault

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An Atlantic City officer awarded more than $323,000 in back pay after he was cleared in an excessive force case last year is back on unpaid suspension.

Sterling Wheaten, 39, was arrested Tuesday, after he allegedly assaulted a woman, according to charges out of Bucks County in Pennsylvania.

Wheaten, who lives in Margate, is charged with second-degree felony strangulation, along with simple assault and harassment, according to court document obtained by BreakingAC.

The Yardley Borough Police Department "contacted the Atlantic City Police Department regarding an active investigation and arrest warrant being issued for Officer Sterling Wheaten in their jurisdiction," said Lt. Kevin Fair, spokesman for the ACPD. "Wheaten was immediately suspended without pay pending the outcome of the matter."

Wheaten was released on $5,000 bail the day of his arrest, records show.

His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Wheaten also faced a similar charge in 2019, when he allegedly assaulted the mother of his son in front of the child in Margate. Police at the time declined to release details in the incident. The charge no longer appears in a public search of court cases.

Sources tell BreakingAC that the alleged victim is the same woman, who is now Wheaten's ex.

The police detective was previously suspended without pay after a 2018 federal indictment came five years after he was involved in an alleged excessive-force case whose video went viral.

Connor Castellani needed 200 stitches to close up the wounds caused by Wheaten’s K-9 partner during an altercation outside the Tropicana Atlantic City in 2013. The city paid a $3 million settlement in the case four years later.

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Wheaten and the five other officers involved in the arrest were cleared by a grand jury in Superior Court.

But five years later, a federal indictment accused only Wheaten of violating Castellani’s rights and falsifying his report.

Jurors took less than four hours to acquit him of those charges in February 2022.

Attorney Lou Barbone then fought for more than four years of backpay his client missed.

City Council approved a $323,631.04 settlement at its Jan. 18 meeting, and the state signed off on a week later with an additional $50,000 for attorney’s fees.

author

Lynda Cohen

BreakingAC founder who previously worked in newspapers for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

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