911 case spawns legal battles

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    SPARTA-A 911 call after a child allegedly "kicked in the front door" has turned into a legal battle and public relations skirmish among a Sparta attorney, the police department and local prosecutors' offices. The case stems from a 911 call from Sparta attorney Leo Desmond's home on Sept. 16, 2003. Since then it has mushroomed into separate court cases and a series of advertisements in this newspaper (see page 30). Upon receiving the call, Sparta police officers, including Sergeant John-Paul Beebe, responded to the 911 call. According to court records, Attorney Desmond refused to allow the officers to enter his home. He was then informed that under the regulations governing emergency calls, the officers could enter without a warrant. According to court records, after consultation with Sparta Municipal Prosecutor Andrew Fraser, Desmond was subsequently charged with obstructing justice and providing the officers with false information. Desmond denies the charges. Police filed no other charges connected to the 911 call. In June, Desmond filed a Sparta court complaint against Sparta Police Sergeant John-Paul Beebe, accusing him of filing "false reports" and violating Desmond's civil rights. According to Desmond, the officers conducted an "illegal search" of his home and adds "This was a complete vindictive witch hunt." The Sussex County Prosecutor Office, however, reviewed Desmond's complaint against the Sergeant and dismissed it. "The prosecutor's office has decided not to pursue prosecution and the case is now closed," states the July 14 letter from the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office to Desmond. Desmond is now challenging that ruling, claiming the county prosecutor's office made its decision after only an "administrative review without any investigation." He requested that the State Attorney General examine the case. In a recent ruling, the state did not find grounds for reviewing the decision. Desmond has taken his campaign public, beyond the courts and into this newspaper. In the month of October, he ran a series of advertisements seeking information about possible misconduct by Sparta Prosecutor Andrew Fraser and Sergeant John-Paul Beebe. "I cannot comment on the pending case, but I can comment on the ads and I feel the ads are misleading because they don't inform the public that he (Desmond) is the defendant in the case," said Sparta Municipal Prosecutor Andrew Fraser. "The ads are absolutely misleading," said Fraser. He pointed out that government officials, including himself, are being targeted by Desmond simply because they are involved with his case. Also in response to the ads, Sparta Police Chief Ernest Reigstad sent The Sparta Independent a press release (see page 8) which said, in part, that Desmond's allegations against the police officer were examined by the county prosecutor's office and found to be "without merit." Desmond is not giving up. Desmond is seeking permission to present his case to a state grand jury. Judge Theodore Bozonelis of the New Jersey Superior Court has temporarily halted Desmond's case, awaiting the outcome of a case presenting similar legal issues pending before the State Supreme Court. In the meantime, the case State vs. Desmond, which accuses Desmond of obstruction of justice and providing false information is still weaving its way through the courts. Because the case involves Sparta officials, the case has been moved to Vernon where it will be heard next month.