Sparta, local attorney face off in court again

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    VERNON-A Vernon Township Municipal Court judge last week denied a motion by the state to reconsider an obstruction of justice charge against a Sparta attorney. Leo Desmond had been charged with obstructing justice and providing false information to police following a domestic disturbance at his Sparta home. The obstruction of justice charge was dismissed in court back in November, but earlier this month, the state motioned the court before judge Koprowski to reconsider its previous decision. Koprowski ruled that the state could proceed against Desmond on the second count of hindering his apprehension by giving false information to Sparta police about the whereabouts of his son. The trial awaits scheduling. "The state doesn't want to cut its losses; the fact that it's looking to bring this up on appeal, a count that was defective from the very beginning," said Desmond. Sparta police, including Sgt. John-Paul Bebe, responded to a 911 call, Oct. 26, 2003, after a child allegedly "kicked in the front door at Desmond's home on Fairway Trail. According to court records, Desmond refused to allow officers to enter the home. He was then informed that under regulations governing 911 calls, the officers could enter his home without a search warrant. Desmond has denied the charges. Police have filed no other charges connected to the 911 call. Robert Correale, Vernon assistant municipal prosecutor, said the state opposed dismissal of the obstruction of justice charge against Desmond because police said he thwarted them from talking to his wife about medication their son may or may not have been taking. In representing Desmond, Gerald Hanlon, of Hanlon & Dunn in Morristown, said his client had called police and told them the matter had been resolved and that there was no need for them to appear at his home. Hanlon argued that Desmond was acting "as a parent" by preventing his wife from giving police personal information about their son. Desmond's wife also serves as his legal secretary. "This was hostile," said Hanlon, in court. "Mr. Desmond didn't want them (Sparta police) there and by God, they weren't about to leave." After the charges were filed, Desmond sued one of the witnesses involved, said Ernest Reigstad, Sparta chief of police. In June, Desmond filed a criminal complaint in Sparta court against Bebe, accusing the sergeant of filing "false reports" and violating his civil rights. The charges were dismissed by the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office as being without merit, said Reigstad. The State vs. Desmond was then transferred to Vernon Municipal Court for prosecution. In court, Correale called the proceedings "a test of will between Mr. Desmond and Sgt. Bebe." "I would never plead guilty to anything I didn't do, especially being an attorney," said Desmond. "The accusations are that I did something that would blemish the profession of law, which I have great regards for. I have nothing, but good things about the law and I want to continue in that track so I would never plead guilty." Desmond has taken his campaign public, beyond the court and into the newspapers. In October, he ran a series of advertisements seeking information about possible misconduct by Bebe and Sparta Prosecutor Andrew Fraser. "The police officers, especially officer Bebe who wrote this, may have a very different problem than being able to just cut their losses; especially in light of the fact that he (Bebe) made certain statements under oath in drafting the complaint that have been shown and will be shown not to be true," said Desmond. Correale and the Sparta police officers declined further comment.