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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ An appeals court panel on Monday reinstated guilty verdicts against five police officers whose convictions for beating a suspect had been thrown out by a federal judge.

A federal jury in December had found the officers from the city of Orange were guilty of conspiring to deprive Earl Faison of his civil rights by beating him and spraying him twice with pepper spray.

Faison, a 27-year-old aspiring rapper from East Orange, was arrested in 1999 during the search for the man who shot and killed a police officer three days earlier.

Faison died in police custody of an acute asthma attack, though the officers were never charged with causing his death.

In May 2001, U.S. District Court Judge John Lifland overturned part of the December 2000 jury verdict. The action cleared two officers, Paul Carpenteri and Tyrone Payton, and reduced charges against three others: Andrew Garth, Lt. Thomas Smith, who has since retired, and his brother, Brian Smith.

The U.S. attorney's office in Newark appealed, arguing the five officers didn't have to make a plan in advance to be guilty of conspiring to deprive a suspect of his civil rights.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and said the trial judge erred because ``reasonable jurors could have found the existence of a conspiracy among the officers beyond a reasonable doubt.''

Another man later pleaded guilty to killing the officer, 38-year-old Joyce Carnegie.

Lawyers for three of the officers said they were considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The others did not immediately return messages Monday.

``Regrettably, it seems the circuit court considered justice a group concept,'' said Robert Galantucci, lawyer for Carpenteri.