Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cops Who Abandoned 14 Year Old in SI Swamp Plead Guilty to Lesser Charges

Two Staten Island police officers who found a teen throwing eggs at cars on Halloween in 2007 and subsequently dumped him in a swampy area to fend for himself have pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in the case after the teen refused to testify against the officers. The cops avoid prison time altogether and only have to pay $95 in court fees and serve a conditional discharge (meaning they will not have to check in with the Department of Probation). The incident occurred on Halloween in 2007 when the two officers came upon the teen being a teen and throwing eggs at cars. Instead of driving him home to be dealt with by his parents or to the precinct to fill out the proper paperwork and allow the DA's office to do their job, the two officers, Thomas Elliassen, 28, and Richard Danese, 26, both of Great Kills, thought that they were qualified to be judge, jury and executioner. In what they called "teaching the teen a lesson" they drove him out to a swampy area and abandoned him after hitting him a bit. Their original 33 count indictment has now been whittled down to a simple DIS/CON.

Now many people have a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to criticizing Elliassen and Danese. They hide their lack of an argument behind the accusation that those who criticize the officers are wholeheartedly defending the teenage victim. Was the teen in the wrong by throwing eggs at cars? Yes. Were the officers in the wrong to not deal with him by the book? You bet. There are no winners here (especially because it sounds like this kid has some issues as he was arrested for bringing a boxcutter to school a year after this incident). But what's unbelievable is that the taxpayer has continued to pay Elliassen's and Danese's salary this entire time. There is no word that these officers have been released from the force despite having pleaded guilty to committing a crime on duty, in uniform, and violating NYPD directives. Maybe the cops will be let go tomorrow, but one more day of taxpayer-funded salary for these two would be embarrassing.

We expect police officers to rise above the fray of criminality when we give them badges, guns, and cars with shiny lights on them. We expect them to keep order, stay objective, and know the legal limits of their job which involves arresting people and testifying in court when needed and NOT to dole out punishment. But cops are human just like the rest of us and are prone to mistakes like this, which is when they need to be let go. It's like any job; if I showed up to work and did something that involved me pleading guilty to a misdemeanor because of my performance, I don't think I'd be at that job very long (I probably would not be paid for doing less while the outcome of the prosecution was pending, either). Again, bad cops tarnish the badge for the good cops. If I were a cop who played by the rules and did my job dutifully, I would be pissed at these two for giving my profession and my employer a bad name; I would not defend them nor would I try to cover up for them because what they did was wrong and in life, there are appropriate consequences to your actions. If these two officers were allowed to continue their employment with the NYPD after this admission of guilt, it would be a major shame for the entire force. Peace.

Photo - Officers Thomas Elliassen (left) and Richard Danese leaving State Supreme Court last year (SI Live)

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