Hoboken SWAT Debacle Continues
411 told you so: SWAT Cops get $2 Million from Zimmer
Back on May 2nd, Hoboken411 exclusively reported Mayor Dawn Zimmer was ready to throw two million dollars at five Hispanic officers who accused former SWAT team leader Angelo Andriani of being a racist.
Today at noon, attorneys for the officers will hold a press conference announcing terms of the deal at a Newark hotel, where they’re expected to confirm Hoboken411’s original story. Here’s 411’s report of the settlement nearly two months ago:
5/2/2011 HOBOKEN411 EXCLUSIVE:
$2 Million settlement proposed in Hoboken SWAT case,
Dawn Zimmer protects Andriani and Roberts while taxpayers pay
The lawsuit that brought national attention to the Hoboken SWAT Team is about to be settled. Hoboken411 has learned Mayor Dawn Zimmer is asking the City Council to approve a $2 million dollar payout to five police officers who sued the city over treatment by former Lieutenant Angelo Andriani.
The rub? Zimmer’s settlement will relieve Andriani and former Mayor David Roberts of any burden they faced in the lawsuits related to the SWAT case. The $2 million would be split among the five Hispanic officers who brought the case.
How this all started, and the SWAT scandal that followed
Back in October 2007 (see original reporting on the case after the jump), Sgt. Edwin Pantoja, Det. Cesar Olavarria, Det. James Perez, Det. George Fonseca and Det. Mario Novo filed suit against the city charging Angelo Andriani was a white supremacist who discriminated against them because of their ethnicity.
After the suit was filed, Hoboken411 showed the world the pictures of the post-Hurricane Katrina exploits of Andriani and his SWAT team. As a City Council member, Dawn Zimmer voted (along with Peter Cunningham) to allow former Police Chief Carmen LaBruno to retire with a $525,000 cash payout and full pension of $148,000 a year (plus full benefits for life) rather than face an investigation for his management of Andriani and the department.
Zimmer and Cunningham allowed LaBruno to leave with a golden parachute rather than shine light on the problems of the department. Now, Zimmer is again looking to settle a case without further exposure to the people who may have been most culpable.
EXCLUSIVE: Terms of the $2,000.000.00 Settlement
Here’s a look at what each of the players would get as part of the settlement:
- The 5 plaintiffs: $2,000,000.00 to split between themselves and their lawyers with no admission of liability by any party, and the City will dismiss all preliminary notices of retaliatory disciplinary action against the officers.
- Angelo Andriani: In exchange for the city footing the bill for the settlement, Andriani drops his counter-suit against the 5 officers, and releases the City and former Mayor David Roberts of any claims regarding actions PRIOR TO the October 24, 2007 filing of the original lawsuit.
Andriani does NOT release the city from his pending appeals of his firing and disciplinary actions, which so far he has been winning.
Thanks to Zimmer’s knee-jerk firing of Andriani for political headlines, he very likely will get to retire with a full pension.
- David Roberts: The former Mayor’s fight to avoid being deposed under oath about his time as Public Safety Director overseeing LaBruno and Andriani is successful, and he will face no further legal jeopardy under the Zimmer settlement. The plaintiffs agree to provide a full release to Roberts, who will also face no further action from Andriani.
This is the second time Zimmer has protected Roberts from exposure.
The first was when she voted to allow the golden parachute for LaBruno.
- Hoboken Taxpayers: They get the added burden of higher insurance rates after the city’s insurance carriers make the $2 million dollar payout to the 5 officers. They also lose out on the opportunity to get more facts of the case. One by one, the players in this drama are getting out better than they came in while the taxpayers foot the bill.
A resolution to settle the case is on the agenda for Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Hoboken SWAT Headaches
Want to read your very own copy of the leaked Hoboken Police misconduct report?
Graciously provided by internalaffairsNJ.com, a new site dedicated to “review and discuss the process and investigation of citizen complaints against police officers.” Thanks!
The internal report on the investigation of the Hoboken SWAT Team scandal has leaked to FOX 5 News. It paints an embarrassing picture of a SWAT Team commander given free reign to act however he pleased thanks to his friendship with Police Chief Carmen LaBruno, who stepped in to protect his pal when others complained. The report essentially says LaBruno let Lieutenant Angelo Andriani set up his own dues paying club and allowed him to do what he pleased with no benefit to the people of the City of Hoboken.
For this (and the national embarrassment that went along with it) Chief LaBruno will be allowed to retire with a one-time payment of up to $375,000 for unused sick pay and 1 $150,000 contract termination fee, plus an estimated $148,000 annual pension and benefits for life. At 59 years old LaBruno could get millions of dollars out of the deal even though the city’s own report appears to show what could be an abuse of the Chief’s position that at best deserves further investigation by an outside agency such as the State Attorney General or U.S. Attorney’s office. If LaBruno were charged and convicted of a crime he could lose the multi-million dollar pension and settlement payments.
Among the many allegations in the report prepared by city labor attorney David Corrigan and leaked to FOX 5 News:
- The SWAT Team served no purpose, and was a waste of money and time that led to alleged acts of misconduct by Andriani
- Chief LaBruno allowed Andriani to work from home in Verona, leading to SWAT Team members engaging in private work on the Unit Commander’s home.
- There was alleged hanky-panky with a deal LaBruno struck with Andriani to let the HPD use Andriani’s boat (which they never did) and city taxpayers paid $15,000 in docking fees for no purpose
- LaBruno allowed Andriani to collect SWAT dues without exercising oversight on the money, and many, many more…
Corrigan’s report uses words like “secret” and “illegal” to describe the activities of LaBruno and Andriani. Critics of Chief LaBruno say this report is just a small glimpse at how the department has been run over the last several years. Many police officers have sued the city over the years (with several suits still outstanding) while others decided to take their careers elsewhere.
Should the city council approve the Golden Parachute that Mayor Roberts has put together for Chief LaBruno?
Post your thoughts in the comments section.
Charles Hack from the Journal today reported that (as we all predicted) no indictments will be pursued at a County level against the Hoboken Police Chief or Lieutenant, who were accused by the five Latino officers of racism and “house cleaning.”
Hudson County Prosecutor Ed DeFazio said there was “not enough evidence” against Carmen LaBruno and Angelo Andriani to warrant a case, and sent the matter back to Hoboken for “administrative action.”
A grand jury had been selected to help with this process, but were not involved in the decision not to pursue the case. Louis Zayas, attorney for the five officers suing the city said “It leaves us with the fox guarding the hen house, and the decision in the hands of the fox.”
Hoboken411 can’t be everywhere (especially with so many businesses dropping like flies) and wasn’t in court yesterday for the latest wrinkle in the HPD scandal. However, through our sources (and the Journal) here’s what we hear went down:
Attorneys for five Hoboken Police Officers suing the city failed to get the Hudson County Prosecutor removed from a criminal investigation into time they may have spent working on their superior officer’s home. The officers are suing the city claiming they worked on SWAT Lt. Angelo Andriani’s home on police time. They also claim they were told to remove building materials from Chief Carmen LaBruno’s basement.
The Journal’s Charles Hack reports a judge dismissed a motion to remove Prosecutor Edward Defazio from the investigation because of his long-standing ties to LaBruno, who served as the chief of investigators at the prosecutor’s office 18 years ago, when DeFazio was an assistant prosecutor. The attorney for the officers – Louis Zayas – claims DeFazio can not fairly investigate the charges involving LaBruno, but the judge found the officers had “no standing” according to Hack:
Zayas said his clients arrived for their evening shift last Tuesday and were ordered by the Hoboken Police Department Internal Affairs to answer questions the charges as part of DeFazio’s investigation.
Zayas also told (the judge) he was upset that DeFazio planned to have internal affairs officers present during the questioning of the four cops but would not allow him to be present. (The judge) said that DeFazio is not obligated to allow witnesses to have an attorney during questioning, saying only defendants have that right.
The officers were compelled to testify to the Grand Jury. Meanwhile the city continues it’s internal investigation into the matter as the county prosecutor does the same.
I got wind that four Hoboken officers are scheduled to testify in front of a grand jury today at 1:30pm. More details to follow (if I get to it.)
Do you think this might be a reason why the Latino officers chose not to meet with DeFazio’s investigators?
Apparently there were Internal Affairs (IA) members which were hand-picked by Chief Labruno present on two occasions when they went to meet with them. Jersey law specifies that IA isn’t supposed to be present while the Prosecutor probes a complaint.
Page 11-22 of this PDF you can download here.
New Jersey Attorney General Police Internal Affairs Policy and Procedure:
Where preliminary investigation indicates the possibility of a criminal act on the part of the subject officer, or the investigation involves the use of force by the officer which results in serious bodily injury or death, the county prosecutor must be notified immediately. No further action should be taken, including the filing of charges against the officer, until directed by the county prosecutor.
Latino cops subpoenaed
The Hoboken Police officers suing the city for discrimination and intimidation are now being ordered to testify in front of a grand jury on December 18th.
Up to now, the officers were not willing to be interviewed by Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio without their lawyer Luis Zayas present. Some say they were concerned about the close relationship DeFazio has with others in Hoboken, including Chief Carmen Labruno, and have requested an independent investigation. DeFazio denies any “conflict of interest” exists, and say interviewing without counsel present is “general protocol”.
One of the big debates about this whole case is whether a “fair” investigation can take place if it’s done within Hudson County, which many say is wholeheartedly corrupt and will not be handled properly. Besides the officers suing, even Councilwoman Beth Mason recommends that an unbiased and outside investigation take place.
Today’s Journal has an “exclusive” interview with the Hooters bimbo that essentially adds nothing to the story that we didn’t already presume.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama must be a rather boring place if Hoboken cops coming in to drink and play with guns is considered “One of the wildest moments at Hooters”… and have you ever heard the phrase “touchy craziness”?
The waitress was thrilled to think she looked like a video game character: “I really love that picture of me holding the gun,” she said, referring to a picture the Journal never obtained. “I look like (Tomb Raider video game heroine) Laura Croft.”
She added that she didn’t know what time they left, and assumed some phone numbers got exchanged. Also in this shocking interview, was her realization that they tipped well, and “had a good time”. I’m speechless! I’ve never heard of such things happening at a bar!
She’s since moved on to bigger and brighter things, from “food coordinator” at Hooters, to down the street as an “advertising coordinator” at a local paper.
The (former) Hoboken SWAT team is now getting scrutinized by TV tough guy’s show Anderson Cooper 360°.
Cooper is on assignment for the next two to three weeks (he arrived in New York this evening), and had another anchor take his place
On the “What were they thinking?” segment of tonight’s show (which airs Monday – Friday at 10pm), correspondent Erica Hill reported:
“Remember the Hoboken SWAT team partying with Hooters waitresses in Alabama? That wasn’t really the big issue. It’s the fact that these guys let the ladies pose with high powered weaponry! After that got out, Hoboken’s Police Chief said the photos were embarrassing to the city, and the SWAT team was disbanded, but it didn’t end there, oh no!
There are more racy snap shots of the CHIEF HIMSELF! On the same trip, but in New Orleans, with a woman that appears to be flashing, looking for some beads apparently, and another which shows two women “cozying up to the chief” if you will. Yeah.”
The anchor responds:
“And they say that’s embarrasing.. I think.. how do they define humiliating?”
Some other pre-clip sound bites:
- “This isn’t a Halloween photo, and those aren’t toy guns… Wait till you here who’s doing the posing…”
This thread should be renamed: “Vacation pictures gone bad”, or “Why I hate digital cameras & the internet”.
Now more pictures are surfacing with the top cop of Hoboken, too.
Today, Charles Hack, from the Jersey Journal reported this about Chief Carmen Labruno:
Just last week, LaBruno called pictures of Andriani’s SWAT team members partying with Hooters girls in Alabama, “embarrassing to the city.”
Andriani, who’s on desk duty now, denied the allegations yesterday and said his lawyer would be providing evidence to defend him.
“The accusations being made by these guys are outrageous and unconscionable,” Andriani said. “Now they are trying to bring the chief into it.”
Even CNN has run a video about this story.
Reader “bornandrazedinhobo” mentioned that Lt. Andriani has been assigned desk duty, and the SWAT team has been disbanded.
See his comment here for full details.
Another reader writes in:
“No one is addressing the most important issue:
How will this affect Hoboken’s chances of getting a Hooters franchise?”
11/15/2007 Update 2:
Story is getting picked up by other networks.
Apparently at 10pm on Fox 5 News, there will be a report about some “tape” that shows Hoboken’s finest taking a little R&R break while on their trip to New Orleans in 2005. Having fun with cute Hooters girls isn’t a big deal to me (I’d do the same, although I never really liked the Hooters girls for some reason.. maybe the ones here in the Northeast are lame compared to down south). Some people feel it was improper behavior to allow these girls to hold actual weapons.
The Journal said:
“Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said he’s seen the tape and that he saw “nothing criminal” on it.
He refused to go into detail about what was on the tape. When asked if it’s true that the waitresses are shown holding SWAT weapons, DeFazio said “If they were, there was no evidence of criminal intent.”
One person sent me email with some photos:
I’ve been advised that your site is frequently by concerned residents of Hoboken. In case you were not present at the public gathering last week I have attached several photographs that were the center of discussion.”
Here are the pictures I received. Criminal, or just men having a harmless good time?
Rally wrapped up at City Hall (I’m under the weather here), but it sounds as if there’s a bit of a commotion. They’re currently marching to Police Headquarters, and the HPD has put plenty of officers in place at various detail points in the surrounding area.
Anyone with pics can send them in. Otherwise, “just another day in Hoboken”.
News conference / Rally tonight at 6pm
Down in front of City Hall, the NJ State National Latino Peace Officers Association, the Latino Leadership Alliance of NJ, and the NAACP (Hoboken Chapter) will speak about the racisim charges the five latino officers are bringing against the HPD. They’re requesting that AG Anne Milgram begin an investigation into the Hoboken Police Department.
You can contact Carrie Gilliard, Head Hoboken chapter NAACP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update from 1010wins:
Five Hoboken Police Officers Sue Department, Claim Discrimination
HOBOKEN, N.J. (1010 WINS) — Five Hispanic police officers have filed a lawsuit against the Hoboken Police Department, claiming they’ve been discriminated against because of their ethnicity.
Their federal lawsuit claims a commanding officer is a white supremacist and that bosses have fabricated charges against Hispanic officers.
Police Chief Carmen LaBruno has not issued a comment.
A spokesman for Hoboken Mayor David Roberts says they haven’t seen the lawsuit and have no immediate comment.
Photos issued from lawyers for plaintiffs.
Top photo: Plaintiffs (l-r) Det. Cesar Olavarria, Det. James Perez, Det. George Fonseca, Det. Mario Novo, Sgt. Edwin Pantoja.
Insert photo: Lt. Angelo Andriani
From the newswire:
5 Hispanic officers claim discrimination by Hoboken department
Five Hoboken police officers are suing their department, charging they have endured constant racial slurs and intimidation because they are Hispanic.
The federal lawsuit claims a commanding officer is a white supremacist and that superiors fabricated charges against the Hispanic officers.
Police Chief Carmen LaBruno did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A spokesman for Hoboken Mayor David Roberts says they have’ seen the lawsuit and have no immediate comment.