Two former Asbury Park police officers on Tuesday admitted to vandalizing two cars belonging to a man who filed an internal complaint against them, authorities said.
The cops Stephen M. Martinensen, 31, and Thomas A. Dowling, 27, both of Asbury Park, each pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal mischief at a virtual hearing before state Superior Court Judge Vincent N. Falcetano, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release. As part of their plea deals both the officers forfeited their rights to any future public employment in the state.
The prosecution has recommended probation while also paying restitution and damage caused to the victim for the cars. The sentencing is scheduled for October 16.
“Spiteful retaliation from law enforcement officers towards a citizen for any reason is an unacceptable option. This is in no way condoned at any level, for any reason,” Gramiccioni said in the statement. “All members of the law enforcement community must maintain the public’s trust by conducting themselves at the highest level of integrity and decency.”
Martinsen and Dowling were accused of vandalizing two cars, one in Asbury Park and one in Ocean Grove between 3 and 4 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2019. Authorities investigating the case said the two officers wore disguising masks and gloves and rode bikes to avoid being identified.
At the Tuesday hearing, both officers admitted to slashing tires and breaking windows causing $500 in damages. They also admitted to doing so after the owner of the car filed an internal affairs complaint against them, a new press release read.
The vehicles belonged to Ernest G. Mignoli who has been a critical resident of the city’s police department. The 71-year-old had filed an administrative complaint against them days before the incident.
Martinsen, a member of the Asbury Park police force since 2013, was suspended without pay when the charges came to light. Dowling, a Class-II special law enforcement officer, was fired.
Martinsen and Dowling were initially charged with two counts each of criminal mischief, conspiracy, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Asbury Park Police Chief David Kelso in his statement, “These officers were held accountable for their actions and misconduct and we will continue to hold our officers responded to build upon the trust of the community that we serve.”
The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, the director of the office’s Professional Responsibilities and Bias Crime Unit.
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