Cioffi was sent letters on July 25 and August 20 demanding the return of the device. The chief apparently gave it to the attorney representing him in the federal case against the borough, according to a letter dated Oct. 26 that was referred to in court Thursday. In the letter, the attorney says he has the recorder and will make it available to the borough’s attorneys to do a forensic examination for that case.

“You can’t just take property and give it to your lawyer and say you didn’t steal it,” Kranjac told Central Judicial Processing Court Judge Anthony N. Gallina.

Gallina heard about 50 minutes of testimony from Kranjac and a cross examination by Cioffi’s attorney, James Patuto, during which tension was high between the two.

Patuto argued that the prices of the recording devices purchased by the borough started at $149, while Kranjac valued the item at $200 to $499. If the recording device were valued at less than $200 the criminal charge would not be indictable and would be a disorderly persons’ offense, Patuto said.

Patuto also said that as a member of the police department, Cioffi had the right to possess the recording device. “He’s the chief of police and it’s police property,” Patuto said.

After a 15 minute recess, Gallina returned to the bench and ruled that there was no probable cause that Cioffi intended to steal the recorder.

“I’ve seen nothing in testimony, documents and the transcript where the chief is saying ‘I’m in possession of the recorder and I’m not giving it back,'” Gallina said.

Outside of the courthouse, Kranjac said the judge “got it wrong.”

“It seems like they’re bending over backwards to protect people who shouldn’t be protected,” the mayor said.

“He had control. He admitted having control and yet we still don’t have our recorder back,” Kranjac said. “What will happen when a police car goes missing in the future — or something else?”

In a subsequent email statement about the ruling, Kranjac said:

“The judge basically said today that a thief must make it known publicly that the thief will deprive the property owner of its property,” the mayor said. “This is not how the statute works and we still do not have the borough’s property back. Cioffi confirmed having it and then once demand was made for its return he hid it with his lawyers.”

Patuto, meanwhile, was pleased with the ruling.

“I think it’s a disgrace that a criminal charge was brought by the mayor of the city against the police chief of the city for theft,” Patuto said. “That’s so serious for a police officer …”

The theft charge, he said, could have put Cioffi’s pension in jeopardy. “Frankly, I think that’s what the mayor wants — to take away his pension for political reasons.”

Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter

A judge on Thursday dismissed a theft charge against Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi.

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A judge on Thursday dismissed a theft charge against Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi that was filed by the mayor over a borough-owned recording device.

Cioffi used the digital recorder to make 120 recordings of himself going about his daily activities at police headquarters, talking to borough employees and other officers.

The recordings were turned over by Cioffi’s attorney during the discovery phase of a federal lawsuit Cioffi filed against the borough and according to snippets played during council meetings contain comments about Republican council members — including that he’d allegedly like to kill former Council President Carroll McMorrow and racist statements about other council members.

Englewood Cliffs was a Democratic strong-hold for more than 40 years prior to current Mayor Mario Kranjac’s election in 2016.

Cioffi was suspended for 120 days without pay from his $234,824 per year job by the council in a unanimous vote on Oct. 10. He is expected to retire early next year.

Kranjac filed the theft charge in mid-September against Cioffi after learning during a July 24 deposition on the federal case of the existence of the recordings and Cioffi’s possession of the recorder. Cioffi apparently said the recorder was at his home, according to testimony Thursday.

Cioffi was sent letters on July 25 and August 20 demanding the return of the device. The chief apparently gave it to the attorney representing him in the federal case against the borough, according to a letter dated Oct. 26 that was referred to in court Thursday. In the letter, the attorney says he has the recorder and will make it available to the borough’s attorneys to do a forensic examination for that case.

“You can’t just take property and give it to your lawyer and say you didn’t steal it,” Kranjac told Central Judicial Processing Court Judge Anthony N. Gallina.

Gallina heard about 50 minutes of testimony from Kranjac and a cross examination by Cioffi’s attorney, James Patuto, during which tension was high between the two.

Patuto argued that the prices of the recording devices purchased by the borough started at $149, while Kranjac valued the item at $200 to $499. If the recording device were valued at less than $200 the criminal charge would not be indictable and would be a disorderly persons’ offense, Patuto said.

Patuto also said …read more

Source:: New Jersey Real-Time News

      

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Judge tosses theft charge against police chief, mayor cries special treatment

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