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Jul 27, 2016 11:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County DA Drops Stalking Charge Against Suspended Westhampton Beach Cop

Joseph Pesapane FILE PHOTO
Jul 27, 2016 1:00 PM

The Suffolk County district attorney’s office on Friday dropped misdemeanor stalking charges that had been filed against a Westhampton Beach Village Police officer who has been out on unpaid suspension for nearly two and a half years.

Joseph Pesapane said this week that he was wrongfully accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend, which led to his 2013 arrest and, five months later, his unpaid suspension from the Village Police force. His attorney, William Keahon of the Hauppauge-based Keahon, Fleischer and Ferrante firm, said the charge was officially dropped on Friday, July 22, because prosecutors had no way to substantiate the allegation.

“I thank them for their good judgment, because it would have wasted a good three to four weeks of trial time when, in fact, they had no ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Mr. Keahon, noting that jury selection for his client’s trial was set to begin on the day the charge was dropped. “He is guilty of nothing.”

Mr. Keahon provided The Press with a copy of the certificate of disposition showing that the staking charge had been dismissed. The order was approved by Suffolk County Criminal Court Judge Karen M. Wilutis.

On Tuesday, Robert Clifford, the spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, said he could not explain why the charge was dropped or offer any comment on the situation, explaining that the case was immediately sealed when the charge was dismissed.

Mr. Pesapane, who was suspended five months after being arrested for stalking, said he wants to return to working for the Westhampton Beach Village Police Department—though village officials are not yet ready to allow it.

According to Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore, Mr. Pesapane still faces undisclosed disciplinary charges from the village that were handed down prior to his suspension, which marked his fourth suspension since his hiring in 2006—with the first three relating to his role in a separate 2009 incident in which a fellow officer’s registered handgun went missing from police headquarters. The village charges were put on hold, at Mr. Pesapane’s request, while he contended with his stalking arrest.

Now, with those charges dismissed, the village intends to take up its disciplinary action, according to the mayor.

“We had disciplinary charges pending against Officer Pesapane that we adjourned our hearing on, pending the resolution of the criminal matter, at his request,” Ms. Moore said on Tuesday. “He has been suspended all of this time without pay, and now that his criminal matter has been resolved I expect we will move forward with our disciplinary hearing.”

“The criminal charges don’t have anything to do with our disciplinary charges,” Westhampton Beach Police Chief Trevor Gonce said on Wednesday morning. “I cannot comment any further.”

It was not immediately clear when the village will schedule Mr. Pesapane’s disciplinary hearing.

Mr. Pesapane was last suspended from the village force in February 2014—five months after he was arrested by Suffolk County Police and charged with fourth-degree stalking, a misdemeanor. Mr. Pesapane had been suspended from the police department three times prior to the current leave of absence following an investigation into his role in a 2009 incident involving another officer’s missing handgun. Mr. Pesapane and former fellow Officer Michael Bruetsch, the latter of whom was forced to retire in 2012, with full benefits, after 15 years of employment or face termination, were charged with lying to Suffolk County Internal Affairs Bureau investigators regarding the missing handgun case.

Mr. Pesapane said he was arrested on the stalking charge on September 29, 2013, in Port Jefferson. The incident allegedly took place three days earlier, on September 26, around 3 a.m. No additional details of that incident were available.

Mr. Pesapane was making $127,285 at the time of his suspension.

Mr. Keahon said he does not see any reason why his client should not be able to return to his village post, adding that his unpaid leave was based on the dropped stalking charge.

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suspended 3 times since 2006? the village should cut their losses and fire this clown.
By mtkfishman (76), montauk on Jul 27, 16 11:58 AM
What about that little thing called "Due Process?"

> "Fleischer and Ferrante firm, said the charge was officially
> dropped on Friday, July 22, because prosecutors had no
> way to substantiate the allegation.

I read earlier this week that the charges were dismissed because the SCPD screwed up the paperwork, so the guy got lucky because of lazy police work, or they decided to cut a fellow officer some slack and fudge the charging instrument.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 27, 16 3:42 PM
Maybe SH BOE will recommend him?
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jul 27, 16 1:25 PM
Hence the rise of Donald Trump. Someone has to (or at least try, raise the question, or stop the political correctness) stop the insanity..
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jul 28, 16 9:01 PM
Why has the BOARD not tried the officer for his misdeeds? Connected??? Sounds like lack of your elected board. Get real people..
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jul 29, 16 6:36 PM