Following the testimonies of JCPD Capt. David Brown and P.O. Giovanni Bove, Charles Sciarra, Officer Michael O’Neill’s attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the charges against his client – putting the HCPO’s case against all three cops on the brink of over.
The 12th day of The State vs Joseph Ascolese, Kelly Chesler, and Michael O’Neill started with shocking testimony. By the end of the 13th day, a motion was made to dismiss the charges against Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Officer Michael O’Neill – putting First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma’s case against all three officers in jeopardy.
And it all started with a BOOM…
The testimony of JCPD Lt. Lorenzo Tosado – a member of the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) – felt like it was set to detonate upon cross-examination. Unfortunately, due to the length and complexity of Tosado’s testimony, the video and breakdown will be posted at a later date.
Following Tosado, in what was possibly the shortest testimony of the trial so far, K-9 Unit Officer Donald Williams spoke about his favorite New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) off-duty job – the Jersey Ave./Grand St. post. Williams testified to working the detail on 6/9/14, 6/11/14, and 6/16/14, though he had no independent recollection of the dates beyond his pay vouchers.
Notably, Williams stated he knew Officer Michael Maietti, but that he had no independent recollection of working an NJDOT off-duty post with him.
Maietti is a former co-defendant of retired Capt. Joseph Ascolese, Lt. Kelly Chesler, and O’Neill. 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 an August 15, 2018, settlement agreement for $80,000 with the City of Jersey City to settle his lawsuit and provide favorable testimony for the Fulop Administration.
Ascolese is accused of signing Maietti’s pay voucher knowing the officer didn’t perform the work on the dates Williams testified, but is not accused of stealing money himself. Maietti, who hasn’t testified yet, is the HCPO’s star witness.
On cross-examination by Jeffrey Garrigan, Chesler’s attorney, Williams said that he knew Ascolese to be the main supervisor of the NJDOT Skyway Rehabilitation Project. The K-9 officer stated that he wasn’t sure about any Motorcycle Squad activities during the time, including the management of the Grand St. detour route.
VIDEO OF OFFICER DONALD WILLIAMS TESTIMONY BELOW:
Day 13 focuses on 6/3/14, Capt. Brown & P.O. Bove recollections
The 13th day started with the testimony of Capt. David Brown, who was questioned regarding the NJDOT Skyway Project, his own off-duty procedures, and the day of June 3, 2014.
Like Lt. Robert Majury, by the time Brown got off the stand it wasn’t clear whether he was a witness for the state or defense. Stoma literally asked Brown, apparently a close friend of O’Neill, whether he had communicated with defense attorneys regarding his testimony – which the captain denied.
Under direct examination from Stoma, Brown testified about the chaotic nature of the Skyway Project, specifically how things would change from “hour to hour.” Stoma went through the off-duty master sheet from 6/3/14, comparing it to Brown’s patrol log and corresponding pay vouchers, to build the credibility of the then-lieutenant’s paperwork.
Though the master sheet didn’t mention P.O. Giovanni Bove, Brown booked Bove into his patrol log and signed his pay voucher for working the Routes 1&9/Sip Ave. post. The captain had no independent recollection of Bove working an NJDOT off-duty post, nor did he have an independent recollection of O’Neill ever working an NJDOT off-duty post.
Ascolese is accused of signing O’Neill’s pay voucher knowing the officer didn’t perform the off-duty work on the 6/3/14 date, but is not accused of stealing money himself. Brown offered no independent recollection of working with Ascolese as an NJDOT off-duty supervisor.
On cross-examination, defense attorneys grilled Brown on his meetings with investigators from the HCPO and JCPD IAU, as well as multiple anomalies related to his off-duty paperwork.
VIDEO OF CAPT. DAVID BROWN TESTIMONY BELOW:
Similar to Officer Williams, Bove provided a rather brief testimony. Similar to Brown, he testified to working on June 3, 2014. The officer also testified to working on May 29, 2014, on the Routes 1&9/Duncan Ave. post.
The officer had no independent recollection of the dates beyond his pay vouchers.
Bove testified that he didn’t know O’Neill at the time, but didn’t say O’Neill didn’t work the post. Ascolese is accused of signing O’Neill’s pay voucher knowing that O’Neill didn’t perform the off-duty work on the 6/3/14 date.
On cross-examination, Charles Sciarra, O’Neill’s attorney, and Garrigan, questioned Bove extensively about multiple vouchers he submitted that weren’t signed by a supervisor.
VIDEO OF OFFICER GIOVANNI BOVE TESTIMONY BELOW:
Sciarra pushes for O’Neill dismissal
Following the testimonies of Brown, Bove, Officer Joseph Torre, and provisional-Deputy Chief Neil Donnelly, the only evidence apparently left against O’Neill is the testimony of former Motorcycle Squad Officer Anthony Ruocco.
Given the legal situation, Sciarra filed a Reyes motion to have the charges against his client dismissed – which Stoma agreed to under the stipulation that Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina would review Ruocco’s statement to investigators.
Specifically, the statement Ruocco provided alluded to a potential voucher-as-refund scheme to payback O’Neill for fixing a woman’s car damaged by another Motorcycle Squad officer – now-Sgt. James Pollack – after an apparent hit-and-run.
In total, O’Neill stands trial for $400. Sciarra argued to the court that the HCPO had failed to provide enough evidence to convict his client. Stoma contended that the state was entitled to the most favorable inferences from their witnesses, and that there were commonly accepted procedures in place which were violated.
Additionally, Robert Lytle, Ascolese’s attorney, argued that any charges against his client related to O’Neill be dismissed as well.
VIDEO OF MOTION TO DISMISS BELOW: