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Thread: Touched by an Officer
01-24-07, 11:58 AM #1
Touched by an Officer
Judge: Pair falsely accused cop
A judge ruled Tuesday that an Emerson couple falsified charges of sexual harassment and racism against an Emerson police officer, ending a trial that at times appeared to have as much to do with politics as crime.
Judge Roy McGeady in Central Municipal Court in Hackensack questioned Charles and Patrice Caiola's credibility, pointing out discrepancies in their testimony and their consumption of alcohol before the incident in question.
The couple had accused Officer Mark Savino of inappropriately touching Patrice and making a bigoted comment after the off-duty cop caught Charles and another man urinating near Ackerman Park in April 2005. Savino was out driving with his family.
Patrice Caiola -- then Patrice Gruver -- is Hispanic. The couple and three others were driving back from the Jersey Shore when Patrice Caiola said she felt nauseated, forcing them to pull over.
McGeady pointed out that Savino's wife and children remained in the car after Savino pulled over and said he doubted Savino would touch Patrice Caiola with his family so close to the scene -- even if he were inclined to believe Savino capable of sexual assault.
"I don't find the Caiolas credible," he said flatly. Each defendant will pay more than $800 in fines and fees, barring an appeal.
Their lawyer, Denis Driscoll, said his clients have not yet decided whether they will challenge the ruling. They have 20 days to do so.
The trial's end seemingly closes one of the more infamous chapters in the prolonged feud between former Mayor Steve Setteducati -- who lost a tight election in November to Lou Lamatina -- and Police Chief Michael Saudino.
Savino has been a recurring character in that ongoing saga. In February, Savino issued two traffic tickets to Councilman Frank Milone -- Setteducati's brother-in-law -- and Councilman Brian Todd, days after they voted to lay off a police officer. The councilmen said the tickets were payback.
The mayor also accused Savino of harassing him after the vote. During the Caiolas' trial, Setteducati was called as a witness and said he has heard numerous complaints about Savino's behavior.
Savino would not comment after the trial Tuesday. Saudino called the Caiolas' actions "disgusting" but said that he believes they were pressured by the mayor to sign their names to the statements against Savino.
"It's horrible that the mayor and council took their statements as gospel before they even talked to me," Saudino said.
"He's absolutely incorrect," Setteducati said. He accused the chief of politicizing the incident by referring to it in an open letter to residents that was heavily critical of the mayor days before last spring's primary.
The council voted to bring charges of misconduct against the chief in response to the letter. The chief then sued the borough for violating his rights. The charges are on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
The Caiolas' affidavits were prepared by Borough Attorney Bill Smith's office based upon a prior statement they wrote, according to trial testimony. Todd, the chairman of the police committee, then brought the affidavits to the Caiolas' to have them reviewed and signed.
The certifications were sent to Saudino along with affidavits from other residents -- including Setteducati -- about Savino's behavior and a letter ordering that Savino undergo a psychological examination to determine whether he was fit for duty.
Savino was put on paid medical leave for several months before returning in November.
The Police Department investigated the claims and found no evidence to support them, leading to the charges against the Caiolas. Videotape of the incident from two patrol cars that responded was used at trial, and McGeady said the video showed no evidence of inappropriate behavior from Savino or any of the officers.
He also said the tape contradicted some of the Caiolas' testimony, including their claim that Patrice and her cousin, Manuel Gruver, who was the other man arrested for urination and was driving the car, were not intoxicated.
link"When I'm driving along and I see a sign that says, CAUTION: SMALL CHILDREN AHEAD,
I slow down, and then it occurs to me, I'm not afraid of small children"!
01-24-07, 11:12 PM #2
I'm glad the judge saw through the lies... but does anyone think it's a particularly good idea for an off-duty cop to identify himself over a public urination?"I'm not a coward,
I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was,
I would pass"
~Mighty Mighty Bosstones~
01-25-07, 12:57 AM #3
I'm happy to see the result. It must of been one hell of a time for the Officer involved. He'll probably never approach a UIP while off-duty again!Calm Like A Bomb...
“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
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