Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Suspended Cop Trying to Regain His Job

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Suspended Cop Trying to Regain His Job

Article excerpt

MIDLAND PARK -- A borough police officer who was suspended after he crashed an all-terrain vehicle on a Wyckoff street and was charged with driving while intoxicated is trying to be reinstated to his patrol duties.

Officer Joseph B. Gaeta pleaded guilty to driving an all-terrain vehicle down Godwin Avenue while intoxicated in 2011 and was suspended without pay.

Gaeta's attorney, Joseph P. Rem, said his client is challenging the suspension on the grounds that it was too harsh.

"His position is that the offense did not warrant the drastic remedy," said Rem.

A hearing last week began the appeal process, which is expected to continue for several weeks before a hearing officer makes a decision in August. At that point, the Midland Park Council can vote on the reinstatement. Gaeta or the Police Department can appeal the hearing officer's recommendation.

Gaeta was arrested a few hours after he had participated in DWI enforcement training at the Bergen County Police Academy on Dec. 15, 2011. He drank alcohol at the training as part of an exercise that allowed other officers to perform sobriety tests on him. While off duty a few hours later, Gaeta drove his all-terrain vehicle down Godwin Avenue in Wyckoff. He overturned and crashed the ATV when he turned onto Greenhaven Road. His blood alcohol content was measured as 0.135 percent, Rem said. The state limit for driving is 0.08.

After the 2011 incident, the Wyckoff police investigated the case and issued summons, which included a DWI charge. Gaeta was fined $306 and court costs, his driver's license was suspended and he was sentenced to participate in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center's driver safety program. On appeal he argued that because he was driving an ATV, the maximum sentence he could receive was a $200 fine under state law. He won the appeal and was resentenced to lesser charges and a $150 fine in July 2013. …

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