EDITORIAL: Whatever Fairview Police Chief John Pinzone was thinking when he went to bat for a convicted mobster doesn’t matter. What does is whether higher authorities consider that reason for some form of discipline.
A federal prosecutor already had her say: The chief insulted the very people he’s sworn to protect, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Marie Colone told a judge who sentenced Giovanni DeMaio to more than four years in prison Monday for having a sanded-down pistol equipped with a silencer, even though he’s a convicted cocaine trafficker and counterfeiter.
She also noted that the 55-year-old chief’s gushing letter omitted the fact that he’s been dating DeMaio’s 33-year-old daughter, Angela, the past couple of years.
If that weren’t enough, Pinzone CAME TO FEDERAL COURT in Newark on Monday, wearing a law enforcement pin on his blazer, in a show of support.
Everyone who knows me is clear on my bias: I am a friend of law enforcement. Always have been, always will be. My list of references is as long as the law’s arm. I wear it on my sleeve.
And that’s why I say: This just can’t be ignored.
It’s now got me wondering: Did Pinzone take time off from his $175,000-a-year job to go to Newark, or did taxpayers get stuck with the check?
Did he use a private vehicle or his taxpayer-funded chief’s car? If he used a borough car, did anyone not connected to law enforcement go along for the ride?
DeMaio had two priors, for counterfeiting and for conspiring to distribute cocaine by the kilo — both at the behest of the Licciardi Crime Family of Naples — when detectives raided his Cliffside Park home, his company warehouse in North Bergen, and a private home in Palisades Park last year looking for counterfeit merch.
While collecting hundreds of knockoffs, they turned up five handguns — including a sawed-off .22-caliber pistol equipped with a silencer — along with blasting caps, hollow-nosed bullets, handcuffs and a wig attached to a hat (you read that correctly). Oh, and a bunch of maps of Long Island.
Convicted felons can’t even have starter pistols, much less defaced weapons. Yet DeMaio kept what Colone called “the tools of an assassin” close by, complete with the disguise and the maps. His bail was initially set at a half-million dollars.
Pinzone nonetheless joined nearly 100 others in writing letters to U.S. District Judge Joseph A. Greenaway seeking leniency for DeMaio, who those from East Bergen might remember as the local sports-boosting former owner of the since-shuttered Vesuvius Bakery on Anderson Avenue in Fairview.
You might also remember that Pinzone, who has been with the department for a quarter-century, was chief in 2006 when then-Attorney General Zulima Farber rushed to her boyfriend’s side at a Fairview Avenue traffic stop, convincing officers to void summonses against him.
Farber’s driver even crossed into oncoming traffic with his overheard lights on to get her there in time.
I know that story well. I was the editor whose team discovered — a month later — that the cops had cut Farber’s companion a break. I remember Pinzone refusing to comment on why it had been kept hush-hush for so long and why we needed a tipster with reliable information to get us on the trail.
Instead, he delegated all media inquiries to his deputy.
Farber ended up resigning and Law & Order team member Carolyn Salazar went on to win “Reporter of the Year” from the New Jersey Press Association.
Now, as then, I believe Zulima was dead wrong.
And if you strip away whatever biases you have and look at Pinzone’s outward support of DeMaio for what it is, I think you’ll agree that the chief is wrong, too.
Let’s see what higher authorities think. Something must be done, whether it’s by the lame-duck Corzine administration or that of incoming corruption-buster Chris Christie.
While he was U.S. Attorney, Christie reached out to Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli and took the case federal.
Molinelli was more than happy to hand over DeMaio, who, records show, contributed to the campaigns of former Bergen County Sheriff Joseph Ciccone, an East Bergen Democrat who also left office in disgrace after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
Colone was able to build a successful “Triggerlock” prosecution that led to a plea bargain, saving taxpayers the expense of a trial.
Which reminds me: Authorities aren’t through with the middle-aged mobster, who apparently bawled at his sentencing like a schoolgirl with a skinned knee.
He still must answer charges that he was dispatched by the Licciardis — a faction of the dreaded Camorras in Italy — to lead a crew of Italian nationals who sold counterfeit electronic goods and clothing at flea markets and on street corners in the tri-state area. Molinelli’s investigators were collecting some of the evidence when they found the mini-arsenal.
Which makes you wonder: If there’s a trial, do you suppose Pinzone will attend?
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