The Journal News by Jonathan Bandler - November 8, 2011
TUCKAHOE, NY — Two village cops were suspended without pay for their handling of an accident last year involving a New York City police officer who may have been drunk, police Chief John Costanzo said Monday night. Costanzo issued a press release indicating that the department's investigation into the April 18, 2010, accident concluded with Sergeant John Cuccinello and police Officer Vincent Pinto accepting the suspension as "command discipline." The chief could not be reached for comment and the press release did not reveal the duration of the suspension or whether it was ongoing. Last week, Costanzo and the Westchester District Attorney's Office indicated there would be no criminal charges in the case. The investigations began in May of this year after www.DNAinfo.com posted a wiretap recording of a phone conversation in which one New York Police Department union delegate told another about the aftermath of the Tuckahoe accident and the effort to cover-up the fact that the officer in the accident had been drunk. The caller, officer Chris Letizia, discussed how Cuccinello, a friend of his, went to his Tuckahoe home just after the accident to solicit his help in convincing the "bombed" driver to accept summonses for property damage. The NYPD officer Letizia called was Joseph Anthony, one of the PBA's top-ranking delegates in the Bronx. The call was taped as part of a lengthy investigation by the Bronx District Attorney's Office into ticket-fixing by police. Anthony was among 16 NYPD cops indicted two weeks ago in the case. The driver in the accident, Michael Lazarou, had smashed his SUV into a decorative light pole and parking meter on Sagamore Road around the corner from his home. When Cuccinello and Pinto got to the scene, the car was gone. But Pinto followed a fluid trail and found the car, with Lazarou nearby, on Dante Avenue half a mile away. Lazarou's property damage summonses were dismissed last fall after his insurance company paid the village $17,600. Neither Tuckahoe officer agreed to be interviewed by the public integrity bureau of the District Attorney's Office, protecting their right against self-incrimination. But they were required to answer questions as part of the police department's internal probe and Costanzo said both men were interviewed. Costanzo's press release did not reveal what departmental rules the two officers violated. "The integrity and reputation of the Tuckahoe Police Department is paramount to every member of the department," Costanzo wrote in the press release. "I am proud of the service that each member provides and their involvement in addressing the needs of our community. Every day our members strive to earn the public's trust while providing first rate police services."