By LIZ BUTTON
Rye City police officer and PBA president Franco Compagnone is fighting harassment charges stemming from a physical altercation with a Rye resident outside an Eastchester car show last year. The case is headed to court on April 9.
Compagnone’s Oct. 20, 2013, scuffle with longtime adversary Jim Amico, 51, resulted in charges of second-degree physical harassment, a violation, against Compagnone, a Yonkers resident.
Compagnone’s lawyer, Andrew Quinn, general counsel for the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said it was always the plan for his client to go to trial; pleading guilty was never considered as an option.
Quinn, who emphasized second-degree harassment is not a criminal charge, said Compagnone, 43, continues to maintain he did nothing wrong.
“We always indicated that we would be going to trial. He is looking forward to the opportunity to clear his name,” Quinn said.
Some might view this physical confrontation as a long time coming: The two men have been engaged in a feud for the past decade. The incident on Oct. 20 was preceded by a highly critical letter Amico penned entitled “PBA president not worthy of support,” which ran two days earlier in the Rye City Review.
Over the years, the men have both brought harassment cases against one another: In 2012, Amico filed a formal harassment complaint with the Rye Police Department against Compagnone in connection with an incident in which the officer towed Amico’s car, and had since sent multiple emails to then Police Commissioner William Connors urging him to investigate and fire the officer.
In 2012, Compagnone, who took over as PBA president in 2008, brought a harassment accusation of his own to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, which he said failed to investigate his claims against Amico, a fourth generation Rye resident. Inaction was also the case when he brought his concerns to the police department’s administration, run then by Connors, Compagnone said.
A letter sent to members of Rye’s Police Benevolent Association written by one of its officers, which was obtained by the Rye City Review, calls for PBA members to stop by Eastchester Town Court to show support for Compagnone. The letter also takes the opportunity to criticize the district attorney’s office for its lack of attention to previous incidents involving Amico, compared to its attention to the recent scuffle.
The letter states that, through the actions of Amico, Compagnone was “baited into a situation that led to a harassment accusation against him. The DA’s office chose to entertain this baseless complaint.”
According to the Oct. 20 police report from Eastchester Lt. George Barletta, the fight between the two men, who were attending a charity classic car show at Lake Isle, started after Compagnone walked by Amico, who was standing at a hot dog truck. In recounting the incident to police, who were called to the scene outside of Lake Isle on White Plains Road, at around 2:47 p.m., Amico said Compagnone, off-duty at the time, attacked him without provocation, pushing him into a fence.
Compagnone said he pushed Amico against the fence in order to defend himself from an onslaught of punches.
The letter from the Rye PBA went on to state that, although the union has provided documented instances of harassment and threats against several officers by one individual in the Rye community, these had gone unaddressed by the police department administration and the district attorney’s office. This inattention, the letter claimed, has “further emboldened this individual.”
Amico is never mentioned by name in the letter.
“No officer, on or off-duty, should be forced to defend themselves, their families and jobs against abusive citizens who believe they are above the law,” the letter read.
Compagnone was arraigned in Eastchester on Nov. 8, 2013, and released without bail, upon which date Judge Domenick Porco signed off on a one-year order of protection for Amico against Compagnone.
According to Amico, Compagnone has been abiding by the restraining order, but, he said, the PBA letter proves it is reasonable to be worried about retaliation from Compagnone’s fellow officers.
The incident on Oct. 20 resulted in investigations by Rye and Eastchester police and a 30-day suspension from duty for Compagnone. One week after his suspension ended, the officer sustained an injury on the job and went out on disability; as of Feb. 20, he is still not at work, according to police officials.
The case will be heard at Eastchester Town Court with Judge Porco, according to Quinn. After his client’s arraignment on Nov. 8, 2013, Quinn said he immediately talked to the district attorney about scheduling a trial date.
Amico said he is happy the case is going to trial and that the charges were not dropped by the court. “It shows that they are not going to play favorites just because he’s a police officer,” he said.
Amico said he has retained his own private lawyer for further legal action that will begin after this case concludes.