Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale resigned Thursday following a district attorney’s office probe investigating whether he instructed officers to arrest a witness in a politically connected case.
Dale resigned Thursday morning after meeting with County Executive Ed Mangano “regarding questionable influence within the Nassau County Police Department,” a statement from Mangano’s office said. He could not be reached Thursday evening for comment.
District Attorney Kathleen Rice will not pursue criminal charges against Dale after her office conducted an investigation into the matter. In a letter she sent to Mangano, Rice said 29-year-old Randy White, or Roosevelt, was targeted after testifying in a politically-related civil case.
White had testified in a civil case that the campaign of former Freeport Mayor and recent County Executive candidate Andrew Hardwick was paying him $1.25 for each signature he collected on a designating petition, a form used to collect signatures to run for office. By law, signature gatherers can only be paid per hour and cannot be paid per signature. Hardwick denied White’s allegations.
Hardwick’s campaign operatives later allegedly taped a phone call with White, in which they said he admitted that he was being paid on a per-hour basis, but were unsuccessful in attempting to admit the alleged tape into evidence in the civil hearing. The tape, Rice said, was later found to be inaudible.
A few hours later, a financial underwriter of the Hardwick campaign called Dale and said Hardwick’s campaign wanted to file a perjury charge against White, Rice’s said in the letter. Dale, acting in his capacity as police commissioner, allegedly assembled a team of senior police personnel and reportedly told the Hardwick supporter to file a report at the First Precinct in Baldwin. He then instructed Chief of Detective John Capece and a police department lawyer to meet campaign operatives at the police station, officials said.
Police found insufficient evidence to charge White with perjury, but a First Precinct sergeant filed “an Unusual Occurrence Report” and ran a criminal background check on White, the letter said. Rice said cops learned he had an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a $250 fine after a recent misdemeanor conviction for selling bootleg DVDs. After learning about the warrant, Dale is alleged to have ordered his subordinates to locate and arrest White.
Dale told the district attorney’s office that a “confidential source” gave him up-to-the-minute information about White’s whereabouts. He allegedly tasked two detectives and a sergeant to board a Nassau Inter County Express bus in Roosevelt and arrest White on the “failure-to-pay” warrant.
After White was arrested, he was brought to the department’s processing and detention facility at police headquarters in Mineola. It was there, Rice said, that an off-duty sergeant, identified as Sal Mistretta, allegedly arrived at the facility and served White with a civil subpoena. According to Rice’s letter, the subpoena was drafted by Hardwick’s attorney and ordered White to appear in a civil courtroom.
White was held overnight in police custody and was released after facing a judge the next day. He has since missed another court appearance and a judge has yet again issued a warrant for his arrest, the DA’s office said.
“The case of Mr. White has obvious political overtones,” Rice said. “The fact that Mr. White was served a civil subpoena while in police custody is a deeply troubling aspect of this case and is still under investigation by this office.”
A police department spokesman referred all inquiries to the county executive’s office. In a statement released Thursday, Mangano said Dale has been replaced by Victor Politi, the Deputy County Executive for Public Safety, during a transition period. There was no word Thursday on any candidates being considered for the post.
In her letter to the county executive, Rice said Mistretta, the sergeant who allegedly served the subpoena, “has resigned in the wake of this series of events.” The other individual named in the probe, John Capece, the department’s ex-Chief of Detectives, has retired and will be replaced by Inspector Kevin Smith.
Dale’s sudden resignation is the latest in a series of very public headaches for the department, including allegations of misconduct and criminal convictions of officers and high-ranking officials.
In July, the department’s ex-deputy commissioner, William Flanagan, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and community service after a conviction for official misconduct. A Nassau County police officer, Richard Hefferon, was sentenced earlier this month to a conditional discharge after he admitted to pointing his gun at a bartender. Another officer, Michael Tedesco, is awaiting trial after being accused of having a series of sexual trysts while on duty.
A woman last month also filed a federal lawsuit claiming a Nassau police officer sexually abused her in the back of a police vehicle and just last week, a Nassau County cop accused her fellow officers of racial bias when they arrested her in West Hempstead.