COP: JUDGE’S RULING ‘DISGUSTING’

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Today’s Asbury Park Press has more details about the ruling by Red Bank Municipal Court Judge William Himelman in a case in which a Wall Township police captain was found not guilty yesterday of drunken driving.

The case had been moved to Red Bank from Wall to avoid appearances of conflict of interest.

Himelman found Capt. Bernard Sullivan not guilty despite testimony from the arresting officer, Patrolman Todd Verrecchia, that Sullivan had run a red light, nearly hit another car, was driving on the wrong side of the road and gave a Breathalyzer test that showed his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

Afterward, breaking a gag order imposed on him by his superiors, Verrecchia said the verdict was “the most disgusting and disturbing possible outcome” for the case, according to the Press.

From the story:

Following a 10-minute recess, Himelman returned to the courtroom with his verdict. In giving his ruling, the judge described Verrecchia as “someone who enjoyed his job a little too much.”

Himelman also discredited Verrecchia’s testimony about his own movements prior to spotting Sullivan’s car and his claim that he didn’t recognize Sullivan’s vehicle.

From the story:

Himelman also discussed an hourlong DVD [defense attorney James] Fagen had submitted into evidence containing footage from a surveillance camera showing Sullivan in the processing room of Wall police headquarters after his arrest.

“I didn’t see (Sullivan) staggering, I didn’t see him falling, I saw him walking around,” Himelman said. “What I saw on that surveillance tape was a man who had five beers, not someone who had 10 beers.”

Verrecchia expressed outrage afterward.

“For four months, I’ve had to deal with my integrity being questioned and now a judge questions it,” he said.

Sgt. Frank Lancellotti said he and Verrecchia have received very little support from both police administration and the Township Committee since the arrest.

“With 18 years on the job, the justice system has failed me . . . and the town has failed me,” Lancellotti said.

“I honestly don’t want to be a cop anymore,” Verrecchia said, “because I now know that I don’t make a difference.”

Lancellotti said he would feel “like a giant target” returning to work on Monday. And although both officers were under departmental orders not to speak to the press, they decided to answer reporters’ questions following the trial.

“What are they going to do to me now?” Lancellotti said. “They already called me a liar in court.”

Himelman said it was the first not-guilty ruling he’d made in the last five years.

Red Bank Municipal Prosecutor James N. Butler said he was “shocked” by the judge’s decision. “To me, it set the criminal justice system back a long way, because what it said is, “Don’t arrest a cop,’ ” Butler said.

Sullivan had been tapped to become Wall’s police chief in early January, but the promotion was pulled after his Jan. 27 arrest.

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