The needler in the haystack.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sergeant who filed report on Hellwig demoted, suspended. Time for Christie to intervene.

The Plainfield police sergeant who wrote up the report concerning Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig's alleged escapade 'hooking up' with a male prostitute has been demoted and suspended (see media coverage of the Hellwig incident here, copy of report here [PDF], a note that News12 picked up the story here, with video of News12 coverage here).

I am told that Sgt. Frederick Walz, who filed the July 27, 2009, report was demoted on Friday from sergeant to officer and served with 90 days suspension.

The report he evidently submitted through the chain of command last summer detailed documentary evidence of Hellwig's use of his city computer on city time to solicit an assignation with a male prostitute who advertised on Craigslist based on copies of emails Hellwig left in a vehicle. The report further states that Hellwig used that vehicle, an unmarked police vehicle, to travel to the alleged assignation (a further infraction since a civilian police director is not supposed to use a police vehicle).

I am told that Hellwig was subsequently interviewed by the State Police and stated that the assignation was 'not consummated'. His city computer was seized last summer and sent to the State Police lab for forensic analysis, from which it was returned to the city about a month ago.

It is also said that then-AG Anne Milgram kicked the matter down to Union County Prosecutor Romankow's office, from which nothing has ever been heard.

Hellwig was subsequently suspended for three days by Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs for 'using a work computer for personal purposes', as reported in the Ledger on February 13 (see here) and the Courier on February 16 (articled is archived here), where Robinson-Briggs alludes to an investigation as to how the report became public.

Meanwhile, two Plainfield cops have subsequently been busted for soliciting prostitutes. Though there were no allegations they used city computers or cars or were on duty at the time of the alleged solicitations, they have been suspended without pay, and may be facing official misconduct charges which could mean the loss of their jobs and pensions as well as potential prison sentences.

Whatever you may think of the propriety of soliciting hookers, the two have ALREADY SUFFERED MORE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES THAN HELLWIG FOR LESS EGREGIOUS BEHAVIOR.

Further, an administrative law judge upheld the dismissal by the Park Ridge police department of a police captain who used his work computer to visit dating sites for --
"...misuse of public property, conduct unbecoming of a public employee and violation of the department's rules and regulations."
(see story here, or my related post here).

The situation in Plainfield stinks to high heaven.

We cannot have a situation where -- depending on one's rank or political connections -- different penalties are administered for similar situations, where one gets a little slap on the wrist and others face severe penalties.

It is high time for Gov. Christie to instruct Attorney General Dow to get to the bottom of the mess in Plainfield's police division and the Mayor's featherweight 'punishment' of Hellwig.

If SOLICITATION subjects officers to arrest, charges and potentially severe penalties, then Hellwig's
SOLICITATION should be treated the same way. Whether or not it was 'consummated' is beside the point.

And, as if enough weren't enough, I am also given to understand that A FURTHER TWO COPS are facing imminent charges for soliciting prostitutes. That would make a total of FOUR.

Plus Hellwig.

Christie needs to intervene in Plainfield in the name of justice now.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Rob said...

I know the "MORALISTIC" crowd as well as the Jerry and Sharon fans will have a problem with this comment, but I HONESTLY feel bad for the officers. Right or wrong, they are being treated differently than someone and the Mayor, who very little shames her anyways, makes no attempt to make this right. I hope the news media has a field day with this one. Good Luck to ALL the officers in the Plainfield Police Department. Look no further than Sharon and Jerry for why your department is a mess.

Bob said...

It's time this mayor and Hellwig go and are stopped from ruining our city and our good police force. How can I help get the state in here and investigate the funny business that is poisoning Plainfield.

Anonymous said...

Dan, you should contact Arnold Diaz to do an expose (ek spo za) on the matter. Maybe then Christie will get involved.

Bob said...

When is this mayor and the criminal Hellwig going to get justice. How do we get the state to investige this incident and the mismanagement of city money by this mayor.

Anonymous said...

And that's the million dollar question. How do we, as regular citizens, with no influential power, can get the governor to listen to us? How can we get the proper authorities to take a look at the mess this mayor is putting this city through? HOW???

Anonymous said...

Would have been nice if you knew what the charges against the Sgt. were. Isn't a suspension served after a hearing is held? I'm sure the charges were unrelated to the Helwig incident because the PBA would have had a field day if the were.

Hopefully, if you find out, you will provide an update.

Anonymous said...

In my heart and soul, I feel that Hellwig's intention was to receive far more than just a massage. I found Hellwig's assumption that Jason's business being an "a.m." business to be curious.

However, after reading the police report and attached e-mails, I can see the legal problem the Mayor faced and the difference between Hellwig and the other police officers arrested for illegal solicitation. It is my understanding/assumption that the other officers were caught IN THE ACT of soliciting a prostitute. Hellwig wasn't "caught" in the act of solicitation of prostitution; apples and oranges when comparing Hellwig's treatment/punishment to the other officers and not a double standard.

Assuming the e-mails are the only evidence in regards to the alleged solicitation or assignation, I couldn't find anything in the e-mails that was prima facie or smoking-gun evidence of solicitation of prostitution or even an assignation (tryst between lovers). Note: If there is other unpublicized evidence that clearly proves illegal solicitation, on Hellwig's part, consider my response a moot point and accept my mea culpa.

All the e-mails PROVE is solicitation for a massage (which is not illegal) and the improper use of city computers plus the main report provides evidence to substantiate the improper use of a police vehicle. The e-mails, as the sole evidence, do not rise to the following standard to prove solicitation of prostitution, i.e., no direct or indirect references to soliciting sexual acts of any sort in exchange for the $80 plus tip:

Most prosecutors say: 'Forget what you think or suspect - it's what you can prove in court'; which is probably why Hellwig was not criminally charged with illegal solicitation and the Mayor could only take action on the improper use of a city computer and police vehicle charges.

Anonymous said...

I know a person that was given 6 yrs jail time for using her computer to do personal work to the tune of ready ( drum roll).... 250.00

Anonymous said...

the state should take over the prosecuters office... does anybodie remmber what was done to that lady in hillside who challanged the machine? they sent her to jail for 7 years.. i heard the entire trial was crazy..our porsecuters office an our court system is politically involved ... it just too much that poor woman

Anonymous said...

To June 14, 2010 10:34 am

Since when is it necessary to claim 6.5" if one is just soliciting a massage?

Rob said...

To anonymous at 10:34AM --- You are, according to prosecutors, CORRECT. There is no doubt about what you say as they even repeat it on Law & Order. You forgot though....CITY TIME as well. Much like Mr.Burney NOT distancing himself from Jerry Green, the Mayor didn't distance herself from Hellwig. So, she can now hold onto him and enjoy the ride. If she were smart...she would have raked him publicly across the coals and then tossed him overboard. This is why she has the problems to deal with now. The Mayor is a hot mess, and a hot mess is what she has on her plate...someone turn up the heat in the kitchen !!

Anonymous said...

To 8:27am: Since when? Never. But as 10:34am said, that tidbit and the other plainly odd-sounding parts of the email exchange couldn't be used to absolutely prove anything.

Hellwig gets to walk around free and easy -- albeit with the knowledge that, as he goes about his business, appears at meetings, shakes hands with residents, everybody who looks at him now sees with fair certainty a guy who solicited a sex act from someone who appears to be a prostitute.

Anonymous said...

To all who responded to my 6/14, 10:34 a.m. response, all your points are well taken and appreciated. The 3-day suspension was too light but, to be fair, I will give the Mayor credit for at least doing something when she could've very easily done nothing. At the minimum, Hellwig should've been forced to pay back all the State, County and City expenses incurred investigating the allegations to include the cost of using and maintaining the police vehicle for the day in question; a lot more than 3-days pay.

Hellwig is also guilty of placing himself in a position that reeks of the 'perception/appearance of impropriety'. Leaders need to be held to a higher standard in regards to conduct and judgement. Even though he is a civilian, Hellwig is viewed as Plainfield's "Top Cop" and he got caught violating rules he's professionally obligated to uphold and personally follow, engaged in behavior that could be construed as criminal and brought embarrassment to the Mayor's office and Plainfield Police Dept. specifically, and Plainfield in general. Leaders lead by example and Hellwig blew it along with his credibility. On this point alone, Hellwig should've resigned his position with the Mayor immediately accepting it.

Anonymous said...

I find this demotion and 90-day suspension to be outrageous in light of the punishment Hellwig got. Yeah, a good lawyer could probably get him off in court, but in the court of public opinion, we all know what he was doing. The Mayor knows and the Council knows, but no one is outraged about it. Politics is a dirty game that these people play with little shame and no discretion. They just throw it in our faces as if we are ignorant to what they are doing. I often feel disenfranchised in this town because voting doesn't seem to matter. Why can't we vote in people with intelligence and courage. While the City Council members may not have the power to make the Mayor do certain things, they do have the power of influence and voice that none of them are using. I expect more of them around this issue. In the real world, he would not have his job anymore, but I am realizing that Plainfield is not the real world. Disgusting!!

Anonymous said...

If this had occurred just north of Plainfield, Hellwig would have been charged with Official Misconduct, a second degree crime. We are in a county run by politics. Very disappointing!

Anonymous said...

To 6/16, 7:38 p.m., you make an interesting point. Please note the following:

"In State v. Phelps, 187 N.J. Super. 364, 375 (App. Div. 1983), aff’d, 96 N.J. 500 (1984), the Appellate Division held that official misconduct is a crime of the second degree ....

....the Appellate Division has also affirmed a conviction for second-degree official misconduct of a volunteer firefighter who repeatedly called in false fire alarms in order to experience the joy of responding to them and possibly to give the volunteer fire department enough work to justify its existence, holding that “[b]ecause there was no pecuniary benefit, the misconduct was second degree. [State v. Quezada, 402 N.J. Super. 277, 286 (App. Div. 2008)]".

This could be applied to Hellwig's unauthorized use of a city computer and police vehicle. However, since Hellwig's case was examined by NJ's AG office and Union County DA with no indictment being rendered, I have to assume that Hellwig's case did not rise to an indictable level - a legal, not political decision. If an indictment was rendered, the Mayor would've had no choice but to ask for Hellwig's resignation or terminate him which, by the way, would've been a political decision - a POLITICAL decision YOU WOULD'VE SUPPORTED.

As guns don't kill people, people using guns kill people and since a natural component of human interaction is "politics" (....the total complex of relations between people living in society b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view ), what's disappointing is not "politics" but rather the questionable decision-making of people who have political influence - a small but important distinction.