Troy, NY – They broke into an apartment in what was called a drug raid. The Troy cops however, did not have a warrant for the search and seizure. Instead, the officers forged an incident report covering up the warrant-less search of the home. Cocaine was reportedly found in the home BUT it was not seized by the officers. This debacle has led to the disbanding of Troy’s undercover drug unit, the Firearms Interdiction and Narcotics Suppression Unit.
Troy cops, Sgt. Ron Epstein and Detective John A. Comitale Jr., were given conditional discharges Tuesday after pleading guilty to concealing their illegal entry into an apartment containing drugs in June 2017. Epstein plead guilty to official misconduct on October 16. Comitale plead guilty to attempted official misconduct. By pleading guilty both officers admitted to violating their oaths of office. The conditional discharges were imposed by Acting State Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch. The sentence will leave the men with clean records if they avoid future legal problems.
The special prosecutor in the case, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, said he was satisfied with the sentences.
Lynch described the incident as “an aberration from an otherwise distinguished career” in regards to Epstein.
“The judge did what judges should do, which is look at the total picture of someone’s life,” Michael Koenig, Epstein’s attorney said. “There’s no question (Epstein) made the streets better and the community safer.”
According to the Times Union:
The warrant-less entry June 9, 2017 into an apartment at 112 Oakwood Ave. led to suspensions of the former Firearms Interdiction and Narcotics Suppression Unit, the formal name for the drug unit, while the city department and State Police sorted out what happened.
The cover-up unraveled when two other detectives came forward. That led to the State Police investigation and Czajka’s appointment as special prosecutor.
The plea agreement does keep the officers from finding law enforcement work in other cities. Cops that bounce around after leaving one department under a cloud of suspicion are regularly called gypsy cops.
“A large part of this was to end this sad chapter in the Troy Police Department’s history. It was appropriate to resolve the matter this way,” Czajka said when the pair pleaded guilty.
The guilty pleas come just as they pair was heading to trial. Jury selection was already underway for Epstein’s trial while Comitale was scheduled for trial on the 13th of November. The Troy cops avoided having to go to trial and facing several felony convictions by pleading guilty.
Both officers faced misdemeanor counts of second-degree criminal trespass for entering the apartment, and official misconduct for their intent “to conceal their unauthorized and unlawful entry into 112 Oakwood Avenue.”
Epstein was also indicted on four additional felony counts including bribery, offering a false instrument for filing and two counts of falsifying business records. He was indicted on six other misdemeanors,criminal mischief, official misconduct, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.
Lynch dismissed two felony counts of criminal facilitation in July in response to defense motions. These charges were related to the officers’ alleged failure to seize cocaine found in the Oakwood Avenue residence.