‘Case Closed’: Ospina rips Stoma for dismissing HCPO’s case against Ascolese, Chesler

Peter Stoma dismissed the rest of his pitiful case against Capt. Joseph Ascolese and Lt. Kelly Chesler, but not without a rebuke from Judge Mirtha Ospina for citing the court’s decision to dismiss all charges against Officer Michael O’Neill as the reason.

Judge Mirtha Ospina (left), Hudson Prosecutor Peter Stoma (center), Lt. Kelly Chesler & attorney Jeffrey Garrigan (top right), and Capt. Joseph Ascolese & attorney Robert Lytle (bottom right).

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: As usual, video from court is at the bottom of the article. It figures that, on the last day of the trial – and by far the shortest video of the trial – a major fail occurred as I repositioned my camera due to lighting issues.

On the 15th day of the The State vs Joseph Ascolese, Kelly Chesler, and Michael O’Neill (sans O’Neill), First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma dismissed the remaining charges against retired Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Capt. Joseph Ascolese and Lt. Kelly Chesler from the original 107-count indictment.

Even more embarrassing, Stoma made a pathetic attempt to shift blame for his pitiful case onto Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina – citing the judge’s decision to dismiss the paperwork aspect after Officer Michael O’Neill’s attorney successfully argued a Reyes motion.

“Having fully analyzed the remaining evidence in this case,” Stoma said on behalf of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO). “In the context of the court’s October 12th decision, under the State vs. Reyes standard, the state has concluded that this case can not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“As such, the state is compelled to dismiss the remaining charges in the indictment against Joseph Ascolese and Lt. Kelly Chesler,” Stoma concluded. Without objection from the defendants, Ospina accepted the state’s dismissal with prejudice, but not without a response.

“First, Mr. O’Neill sits in a different position than the two defendants,” Ospina responded from the bench, in front of a courtroom gallery that included O’Neill himself, former JCPD Chief Robert Cowan, and fabled JCPD cop Michael Kolodij, Ascolese’s father, among family and friends.

The judge reminded Stoma that “there are three separate and distinct trials occurring at the same time,” and that the proofs are “independent of each other” for the defendants. Ospina stated it was a “simpler task” to prove Ascolese and Chesler, as supervisors, knowingly signed fraudulent pay vouchers for officers to get paid than it was to prove O’Neill didn’t work certain New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) off-duty jobs.

Furthermore, the judge said “the more compelling reason” for the state to continue its case was that the “star witnesses” had yet to testify. Ospina specifically referenced Ascolese, Chesler, and O’Neill’s former co-defendant, Officer Michael Maietti.

Eighteen months after all four of the officers were indicted and lost their incomes, Maietti agreed to a plea deal which defense attorneys have characterized as generous – including a recent $80,000 settlement agreement with the Fulop Administration to cooperate in legal matters.

Officer Michael Maietti Settlement Agreement

Beyond the trial, Maietti’s critical testimony centers around a racially-charged JCPD Motorcycle Squad report, which includes the “n-word and c-word,” that Public Safety Director James Shea covered-up to maintain Fulop’s good relationship with the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association (JCPSOA). The agreement is signed by Police Division Director Tawana Moody of “who the hell is that” infamy.

As for the trial, Ospina noted that “Maietti could have testified to things that other witnesses would not have” related to the alleged no-show NJDOT scheme. The judge added that the state’s decision to dismiss the case was “misguided” if it was solely based on the O’Neill ruling, which primarily dealt with official misconduct charges.

Finally, as Ospina concluded her statement and dismissed the matter, she wished Ascolese and Chesler “good luck” moving forward. Both Chesler and O’Neill have since been reinstated to the JCPD.

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