Ithaca Police officer Kyle Paolangelli was terminated today after pleading guilty to one count of perjury.
Mayor Svante Myrick announced the news today in a press release. Paolangelli had been under investigation for the last several months by Chemung County DA Weeden Wetmore, who had been brought in as a special prosecutor for the case.
The perjury charge was a misdemeanor and will carry with it 100 hours of community service and a $500 fine.
The situation appears to be in relation to the case against Ithaca resident Jonathan Sanchez, who was arrested in early January 2018 on multiple drug possession felonies and weapons charges. But those charges were later dropped in October 2018, and Sanchez's attorney went public with allegations that Paolangelli had overstepped the warrant that Ithaca police had obtained during the search by going into a different apartment that Sanchez owned.
Sanchez spent 10 months in jail as a result of the arrest before being freed in October when the charges were dropped, his defense attorney Jeff DeRoberts said.
It's unclear if Paolangelli's perjury plea will impact any other cases, although Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten said he personally reviewed all "open-ended and unresolved" cases involving Paolangelli from the last few years and found no reason for concern with them.
"We did look at other cases [...] to see if there was any evidence of impropriety," Van Houten said. "I am confident that there are no other cases out there."
Van Houten said he had handed Paolangelli's case over to Chemung County to ensure that the review would be handled by someone without regular interaction with the Ithaca Police Department to reinforce impartiality.
In previous interviews, Tompkins County Assigned Counsel's Supervising Attorney, Lance Salisbury, said that his office is reviewing cases involving Paolangelli for a variety of different complications that could result from the perjury allegations. He said in a statement that the situation had cost his office thousands of taxpayer dollars in hours spent reviewing Paolangelli's cases for misconduct. Salisbury said in at least three or four cases, new offers had been made to arrested individuals as a result of the Paolangelli reviews, some of which have been accepted, to "either a plea to a new reduced charge or a new reduced sentence or a combination of both." That number may grow, he said.
"Now that Mr. Paolangeli is a convicted criminal it is to be expected that former clients will be contacting their attorneys, and our office, to seek a review of their case where the former officer was involved to see if some remedy is appropriate," Salisbury wrote. "This will most likely incur further attorney costs for the program."
Salisbury called it a "sad and unfortunate day for the criminal justice system in Tompkins County."
"While opinions may differ, we will never really know if someone who spent 10 months in jail was guilty–if they were, they walked due to the malfeasance of the officer," Salisbury said in a statement. "If not they were incarcerated for ten months needlessly."
According to the statement from the mayor, it also appears that Sanchez has filed a civil lawsuit as a result of the situation that is still pending. DeRoberts confirmed that a suit was in progress.
The statement from the mayor is as follows:
"Today, Officer Kyle Paolangeli pleaded guilty to perjury, and the City immediately terminated his employment as an IPD Officer. IPD holds itself to the highest standards, and I am proud to affirm that our officers place right at the top of that list following the law and telling the truth. When we find the rare exception to that rule, we act swiftly to ensure the integrity of the high quality policing that Ithacans expect and deserve.
Today's plea was obtained by the Chemung County DA, who at the request of Tompkins County DA Matt Van Houten served as Special Prosecutor in this case. Because this disturbing situation is also a personnel matter, and because the City is still working to resolve a related civil lawsuit, I am unable to speak to the particulars of this situation."