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Appeals court rejects complaint of woman who jumped sheriff’s detective

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: A Teaneck woman who jumped a Bergen County Sheriff’s officer who was arresting her son is guilty of assault, a state appeals court has ruled.

Patricia Whitney claimed that a municipal judge cut the officer a break without considering what other people in the house saw. The appeals panel, in turn, backed the judge.

Sheriff’s Detective Brian Kelly said he knocked on the door and showed his badge when he and his Fugitive Unit partner, Detective Chris Lewicki, went to the family’s house to arrest Courtney Fung on a trio of outstanding warrants.

Fung’s mother, Patricia Whitney, “answered the door but did not open it immediately,” the ruling says. “She gestured to her son who was on the couch in the living room, and after he ran into another room, she opened the door.”

Kelly said he went after Fung, took him to the ground and handcuffed him after Fung resisted. At that point, he said, Whitney “jumped on his back and started punching and hitting him.”

Lewicki pulled her off him and helped subdue Fung, the ruling says.

Kelly — who, with Lewicki, has tracked down several violent fugitives — said he deliberately didn’t arrest Whitney at the time because “it would be unsafe to transport both her and her son in the same car when he and his partner had no additional support.”

He also wanted backup from Teaneck police, he said.

A sheriff’s lieutenant called his Teaneck counterparts, and they went to the house along with two other sheriff’s officers, court papers show.

Whitney claimed she “cracked the door open when Detective Kelly knocked and announced, ‘Teaneck police’.” She said he then “pushed the door open, punched her, causing her to hit the ground, and then charged through the house.

“She stated that the officer was punching her son and she started crying and begging the officer, thinking her son
was dying,” court papers say. “She screamed at him to stop and said that she was “calling the mayor on [him].”

Whitney said Kelly snapped at her, saying, “Call anyone you want, bitch.”

After the officers left, Whitney called Teaneck police “to complain about Detective Kelly’s conduct.”

Two hours later, officers showed up and arrested her.

A municipal judge convicted Whitney of simple assault and obstruction of the administration of law and
fined her $500.

Whitney appealed, claiming she didn’t get a fair trial because the judge “abandoned his role as impartial trier of fact” and convicted her “based on his personal beliefs about reasonable police officers.”

The appeals judges said they’re “satisfied that all of [Whitney’s] arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion” and that the local judge’s ruling “did not result in a manifest denial of justice.”

They deemed Kelly’s testimony “sufficient, credible evidence,” while pointing out that Kelly worked for the sheriff’s department and not Teaneck police.

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