Newark top cop’s ticket is upheld. After Palisades. Police ticket him.

14 11 2007

Newark’s top cop suffered another loss in his nearly three-year court dispute over a traffic ticket when an appeals panel upheld his conviction Wednesday.

Police Director Garry McCarthy was fined $230 for obstruction of traffic after a February 2005 incident in which he was involved in a scuffle with two Palisades Interstate Parkway police officers

His wife, Regina, received a similar penalty after bein

g convicted of making unreasonable noise by yelling at the officers.

Bergen County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma handed the McCarthys their second defeat last year by upholding the convictions in a stinging 12-page opinion. A three-judge panel on Wednesday agreed with Roma.

“I think they made the right decision,” said Douglas F. Doyle, the prosecutor who handled the McCarthys’ case. “[The judges] found there was substantial credible evidence.”

McCarthy’s attorney, Jeffrey Steinfeld, said he was disappointed.

“The violations are not supported by the testimony,” he said. “We were not able to get anyone to address what we thought were significant issues.”

Garry McCarthy did not reply Wednesday to a request for comment.

The incident started when two PIP officers ticketed the McCarthys’ 19-year-old daughter, Kyla, for parking in a handicap spot at a rest area on the parkway.

The teen then asked one of the officers, Thomas Rossi, to speak to her father, whom she had called on her cellphone. Rossi refused, even after he was told McCarthy was a deputy police commissioner in the NYPD at the time.

Kyla McCarthy then drove off while her parents, who were on the parkway, headed for the rest area. Garry McCarthy then parked his Ford Explorer next to Rossi’s patrol car, got out and began arguing with Rossi and his partner. Prosecutors said his car blocked the exit lane and forced other drivers to back up.

Regina McCarthy stayed in the Explorer and hurled obscenities at the officers, prosecutors said.

As the argument got heated, Rossi and his partner disarmed Garry McCarthy and placed him in handcuffs. They also handcuffed his wife after she grabbed her husband’s gun from their patrol car, prosecutors said.

One of the McCarthys’ arguments was that the charges were propped up by the testimony of Rossi, whose credibility had once been questioned in another appeals court ruling.

But the panel ruled that even without the testimony of Rossi or his partner, there is sufficient evidence that McCarthy blocked the exit lane.

“I think the judge did a very good job,” said Sgt. Walter Siri of the Palisades Interstate Park Police. “[Rossi’s] credibility stands. It was supported by the other witnesses.”

Defense attorneys also argued that Regina McCarthy couldn’t be charged with “making unreasonable noise” under a “vague” law that was meant to prohibit loud music and other disturbances. Penalizing speech as unreasonable noise infringes on free speech, they said.

The judges disagreed.

“The circumstances under which the defendant’s wife shouted profanities at the police officers was likely to escalate the confrontation to a breach of the peace and thus clearly removes her ‘speech’ from constitutional protection,” they wrote.

Steinfeld said he is not yet sure whether the McCarthys wish to pursue further appeals.

“This is a very distinguished and highly decorated police official,” he said. “I don’t think this case was ever about the penalty, but the way he was treated. I think it was a point of principle for him.”

E-mail: markos@northjersey.com

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