Thursday, February 5, 2009
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg
Retaliatory Disciplinary Hearings Drag On
Against Detective Sergeant Steve Bonura
Pleasantville Village Board Continues Blindly On
Last Thursday evening, January 29, some 75 Village residents and retired and active police officers from around the County returned to the disciplinary hearings before the Pleasantville Village Board, sitting as police commissioners in judgment of charges, some 60 in all, that have been
lodged against Detective Sergeant Stephen Bonura by Police Chief Anthony P. Chiarlitti, acting under pressure from District Attorney Janet DiFiore.
Chiarlitti is represented by attorney Terry O’Neil and, Detective Sergeat Bonura by Jonathan Lovett. Mayor Gordon called the hearing to order shortly after 7pm, announcing, “I’m joined here tonight by the other members of the Village Board. Once again, although this hearing is
open to the public, it is not a public hearing.” Gordon then said, “I notice that Mr. Bonura is not present tonight; Mr. Lovett, do you want to continue?”
Jonathan Lovett responded, “Oh, sure.”Attorney Terry O’Neil then spoke up, “The last time we were together there was talk about an injunction.
There has been none issued.” O’Neil then went on to discuss a hearing held two days earlier, Jan. 27, before State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella, and then laid out the schedule of the next several days.
He told the Board, “I feel very uncomfortable going forward without the charged party being present. By next Friday, we believe Detective Sergeant Bonura can be brought before you.”
Then, moving in a different direction, O’Neil said, “There’s another tape in which Detective Sergeant Bonura mentions another informant.
We have videos we can play. The videos are in evidence and I believe Mr. Lovett has them.”
O’Neil told the Board, “The presen-tation of evidence in his [Bonura’s] absence is an extreme remedy. I have never proceeded under that circumstance, the first time the charged party failed to show up. Perhaps we can do the housekeeping things we need to do.”
O’Neil alluded to the possibility of a contempt proceeding that might be brought against Bonura if he failed, repeatedly, to show up.
Mr. Lovett responded, “If counsel didn’t want to appear tonight, he could’ve said that in four words.” Lovett then went on to point out O’Neil’s flawed service of process upon his client, declaring, “So there are three problems. I heard the judge say he would have a decision by next Friday. He didn’t say anything about a contempt proceeding.”
Mr. O’Neil went forward with, “We are here representing the Chief, and anything about a stay...”
Mayor Gordon spoke up, asking, “Mr. Lovett, do you know if Detective Sergeant Bonura was coming tonight?” Lovett responded, “I am not a witness, and I see no reason why I should respond to that question.”
The Mayor went further, “The Board is disappointed that Detective Sergeant Bonura is not here tonight.” Lovett snapped back with, “We’re
disappointed that you continue to withhold his pay.”
The Mayor then said, “We have scheduled these hearings at his request. We will continue tonight. Mr. O’Neil, please continue. The hearings
will continue Monday night.”
Actually, the Mayor’s statement was factually misleading. Bonura had certainly not called for discplinary hearings against himself. He had merely
insisted that whatever fact-finding procedure occurred, occur in public. Mr. O’Neil then explained that he would then be playing another audio
tape of Bonura being interrogated by Lieutenant Love, and that he also had videotapes.
Mr. Lovett responded, “We are in a new world here. We don’t need foundation. We don’t need any explanation.”
Mayor Gordon then jumped in with, “We’ll accept it subject to connection.” Mr. O’Neil then played a very scratchy, difficult to listen to, tape for nearly one hour, during which several Board members, and persons in the audience, appeared ready to fall asleep.
Upon completion of the first tape, O’Neil played still another, shorter one, after which he then launched into an extended session of exhibit identification, during which his associate brought out, for inspection by the Board, one exhibit after another. At one point they attempted to display Kahlil Gonzalez’ rap sheet to which Mayor Gordon responded, saying that he and the Board would rather not view it. At that point, Mr. Lovett observed “But you also have uncontroverted testimony that the rap sheet was generated by the Police Department.”
As O’Neil continued to bring out exhibit after exhibit, Lovett again cautioned the Board, saying: “I’d like to put on the record the Village just violated Mr. Gonzalez’ federal rights by revealing his social security number.
You can’t do that.” Moments later, he read off the Social Security number, and took the time to restate the fact that the Board “has no personal jurisdiction,” over his client because of their flawed service of process.
At that point, Mr. O’Neil broke in with, “We haven’t heard from Mr. Lovett, where his client is. Despite his position that he is not a witness he is
an attorney and has a responsibility”.
Climbing on O’Neil’s bandwagon, Mayor Gordon then said, “It seems like a reasonable request, Mr. Lovett. Do you know why he isn’t here tonight?” But Jonathan Lovett quickly shot back with, “Attorney-client privilege. Even if I knew, I can’t tell you.” The hearing adjourned at 9:35pm to be reconvened Monday night, February 2nd.