The Hackensack Chronicle by Mark J. Bonamo - NorthJersey.Com - August 12, 2011
The leader of Hackensack's police union chapter and a key player in the ongoing turmoil within the Hackensack Police Department was charged Aug. 3 with official misconduct, aggravated assault and falsifying records for allegedly striking and injuring a man, according to authorities. Anthony Ferraioli, a 21-year police veteran, is alleged to have struck Andrew Milberg on the head during questioning June 7 regarding an assault outside Houlihan's in Paramus, according to a press release by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. An investigation by members of the prosecutor's office Confidential Investigations Unit resulted in charges being filed against Ferraioli. Milberg sought medical attention later that night "for effects of the injury related to his hearing," according to the release. It is also alleged that Ferraioli filed a police report containing false information. The prosecutor's office also noted that the investigation is continuing and further charges against others are expected. More than a dozen administrative charges were delivered by a city internal affairs officer against Ferraioli on Aug. 4, matching the criminal charges. Patrick Toscano Jr., Ferraioli's attorney, called the charges "preposterous and bizarre." "This alleged 'victim' resisted a lawful arrest, and only the force necessary to overcome that was used by my client," wrote Toscano in an email. "My client complied with all New Jersey State Attorney General guidelines and Hackensack Police Department directives related to the lawful arrest of any defendant." Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli could not be reached immediately for comment. Capt. Tomas Padilla, officer in charge of the 113-member police department, declined comment about the charges, referring all inquiries to the prosecutor's office. Officials at the prosecutor's office offered no additional comments beyond the contents of the office's press release. City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono stated that Ferraioli was suspended immediately without pay from his $129,218-a-year job, and that the city would fully cooperate with the prosecutor's office in investigating the matter. Ferraioli, president of Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 9, has played a prominent role in the legal battles waged within the Hackensack Police Department since June 2009. In that time, 12 lawsuits have been filed against Police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisa, the city and other ranking police officials by 25 current and retired police officers for a range of allegations, including civil rights violations. Ferraioli is one the plaintiffs in the lawsuits. He also named Molinelli and the entire prosecutor's office in an amended federal suit earlier this year, alleging similar acts of corruption. Ferraioli was ultimately found guilty of administrative charges filed by Zisa that accused him of posing as an internal affairs officer on a popular online forum. He received a six-month unpaid suspension in April 2010 following a highly contentious months-long public disciplinary hearing. Ferraioli is currently awaiting a ruling on his appeal before the state Office of Administrative Law (OAL). Chief Zisa was arrested and charged with insurance fraud in April 2010, suspended from his job, then charged with official misconduct in May. He is presently awaiting trial in Bergen County Superior Court. The prosecutor's office monitored the Hackensack Police Department for 11 months following Zisa's initial arrest. With the filing of charges against Ferraioli, there are now eight city police officers who are suspended, with all but one looking at criminal charges, including Zisa. Lo Iacono noted that the legal problems facing the police department continue to be "concerning." "Hopefully, with everyone cooperating to deal with these issues, we'll get back to a position of leadership in law enforcement," said Lo Iacono. Although Ferraioli has been particularly vocal regarding the alleged retaliation directed by Zisa and other police officers inside the police force regarding issues related to political donations and union elections and has sued the prosecutor's office, Lo Iacono believes Ferraioli's arrest is simply a regular, legal matter. "This is something which the prosecutor's office felt a need to investigate, then take the next step," said Lo Iacono. "There has been no local input into this matter. I'm not sure how anyone could make any allegation that this is political. It certainly is not." But Toscano, who represented Ferraioli during his hearing and subsequent appeal, maintained that the charges are "retaliatory in nature." "My client sues the BCPO in federal court, and a few weeks later he is criminally charged by the same entity he is suing," Toscano wrote in an email. "Clearly the charges are politically motivated." Ferraioli was arraigned before state Superior Court Judge Liliana S. DeAvila-Silebi in Hackensack on Aug. 5, where some additional details about the events that led to the charges were revealed. According to Dan Keitel, an assistant Bergen County prosecutor who heads the Confidential Investigations Unit, Ferraioli and seven other officers went to Milberg's home on June 7 to question him about the incident in Paramus. During what Keitel called "an aggressive interrogation," Ferraioli allegedly hit Milberg twice on the head, rupturing his eardrum.