Thursday, December 4, 2008
“It’s Been A Bad Nightmare”
Interviewed at the office of his attorney in White Plains last Tuesday, Nov. 25th, Detective Sergeant Stephen Bonura, a very popular 27-year veteran of the Pleasantville Village Police Dept., told The Guardian that from the moment of District Attorney Janet Di-Fiore’s call in the afternoon of May 19th to Police Chief Anthony Chiarlitti, “It’s been a bad nightmare.” Bonura, who is represented by civil rights attorney
Jonathan Lovett, had filed a $32 million action in Federal District Court, White Plains, the day before.
The suit names Chief Chiarlitti and Village Mayor Bernard S. Gordon, in addition to Trustees Joseph Stargiotti, Jonathan Cunningham, Peter M. Scherer, Mindy Berard, and Michael Gilfeather, Police Lieutenants Richard Love and Michael Wilson, and Village Administrator Patricia Dwyer, all individually, as well as the Village of Pleasantville, New York, and Janet DiFiore, individually, as Defendants.
The civil action, which seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, alleges that Bonura is the victim of retaliatory action by Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore through, and in concert with, Police Chief Chiarlitti, as well as the other named defendants, for having voiced his personal opinion with respect to the handling of a career criminal, who he, and his partner, had arrested, when interviewed by a reporter for a daily newspaper.
Detective-Sargeant Bonura and his partner, fellow Detective Michael De-Maio, with 12-1/2 years on the job, had arrested career criminal Kahill Gonzalez on Wednesday, May 14; prepared search warrant papers the next day to lawfully search Gonzalez’ Mount Vernon
apartment. On Monday, May 19th, a reporter from The Journal News called the Pleasantville Police Dept. to inquire about Gonzalez, and spoke with Bonura as Chief Chiarlitti was out of the office at the time.
According to Plaintiff Bonura, when the chief returned to headquarters he, Bonura, fully revealed to him, in the presence of the Sergeant on duty, the content of the taped conversation he had had with the reporter. including his comments critical of the DA’s office’s repeated
lenient treatment of Gonzalez, an offender with some 30 arrests, including violent crimes and crimes involving a gun.
Bonura told The Guardian that later in the day, after his comments to the reporter had been posted on the newspaper’s website, Chief Chiarlitti received a “vitriolic” telephoned attack against Bonura from DA Janet DiFiore, accompanied by a demand that Chiarlitti take “swift retaliatory action against him with a view towards both silencing him and punitively terminating his employment,” as stated in Bonura’s federal complaint. Chief Chiarlitti, not particularly known for gumption under fire, caved in to DiFiore’s demands, issuing the following directions:
1. You shall not enter Police Headquarters or be on any village property, unless otherwise directed;
2. You shall not contact Police Headquarters by telephone, or any other electronic communication. Any necessary communication will be by this Department to you;
3. You are not to enter any licensed alcohol establishment within the Village of Pleasantville.
Going further, Chiarlitti enlisted Pleasantville Police Lieutenants Love and Wilson to seize all badges, all identification cards, all handcuffs, batons and firearms from Detective-Sargeant Bonura. Additionally, Lt. Love was instructed to commence an Internal Affairs Investigation of Bonura in an effort to turn up anything they could because they knew what Bonura had expressed to the reporter was protected First Amendment opinion, and could not be the basis for discipline or suspension. The Chief and his cohorts were carrying out DA DiFiore’s First Amendment retaliation agenda while satisfying their own.
The Guardian asked if up until DiFiore’s vicious phone call Chief Chiarlitti had shown any particular dislike for, or problem with respect to him (Bonura). Bonura responded that, to the point of that phone call, there had been no problems between them; and, that in fact, it was
Chiarlitti who had promoted him from Detective to Detective Sergeant in 1996, a position he was very comfortable with.
The Guardian inquired about his position as Public Information Officer. Bonura explained that he was expected to speak with the press and the media when the chief was unavailable, as was the case on May 19th. Originally suspended with pay, Stephen Bonura, 53, has not received pay since October 20, and is scheduled to undergo a Disciplinary Hearing on December 17. It is obvious that the Police Department and the Village Board are acting in compliance with the wishes of Janet DiFiore, deliberately tightening the screws. What they are doing
is especially bad for morale within the Department, and is very bothersome to Pleasantville residents.
Not only have local families lost the services of a highly effective and long respected police officer in Stephen Bonura, but also his former partner Michael DeMaio, who was squeezed out following DiFiore’s call, and has gone to work for the Ossining Police Department. More than 60 Village residents had come out to the Village Board to express their displeasure and deep concern on Monday night, October 6, upset as they were with the loss to the community of two fine police officers with nearly 40 years on the job between them; two fine youth
officers admired and liked by high school students and parents alike.
The self-described “bad nightmare” police officer Stephen Bonura, his family, and the Pleasantville Community have been put through for
more than six months now, is shameful and criminal. Unfortunately, it is the all-to-common outcome experienced when DA Janet DiFiore, a disgraceful, self-serving counterfeit, moves to stifle First Amendment rights of police and civilian critics alike. She is unfit to hold office; essentially incompetent and untruthful; brazenly wielding the powers of the DA’s Office to stifle any exposure of her repeated failure to protect the People of Westchester, and discharge the sworn duties of her office.
Asked how he felt about the DA’s retaliatory behavior toward him for having offered a truthful opinion caused by the frustration of arresting a career criminal, time and again, only to find him quickly back on the street at his trade in the Village of Pleasantville, Officer Bonura said, “Based on what I now know, I believe Janet DiFiore should be removed from office.”