Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 3
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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Emann Case Closes With Three Resignations

Ellen Gilbert

Mark Emann was admitted last week into a pretrial intervention (PTI) program that requires a 12-month period of supervision, 40 hours of community service, and restitution to Princeton Township. The 52-year-old former police chief appeared in court to enter a plea of not guilty to an accusation charging him with “third-degree theft by deception.”

The accusation charged that Mr. Emann “committed theft by purposely obtaining two weapons, valued at $2,400, by deception.” The transaction in question took place in June of 2007, and was described as involving “the trade of an antique weapon owned by the department for a rifle and revolver for the chief in his personal capacity, in addition to several rifles and other equipment for the police department.”

“Where did the gun in question come from?” wondered Township Committeewoman Liz Lempert.

“And how much did the investigation cost county taxpayers?” she added. “What did it cost the Township? It was expensive to us, but we had no choice in the matter. The prosecutor has a lot of power.”

On October 1, 2010, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office superseded Mr. Emann and assumed control of the daily operations of the Princeton Township Police Department. Lieutenant Michael Henderson and Corporal Arthur Villaruz were also suspended from duty at that time. Chief William Straniero of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was designated as the officer in charge of the supervision and management of the police department.

“My Internal Affairs Unit pursued an immediate and thorough investigation, while Chief Straniero conducted an audit of the department’s armory and inventoried all of its evidence,” said Mr. Bocchini. “The investigation revealed that this was an isolated incident, and the audit and inventory showed that all department weapons and evidence were accounted for properly.”

“The Prosecutor didn’t tell us anything,” observed Ms. Lempert. While a release from the Prosecutor’s office gave conclusions regarding Mr. Emann, who was brought up on criminal charges, no documentation was required in the cases of Mr. Henderson and Villaruz, who were served with administrative charges.

Mr. Emann has resigned from his position as chief and submitted his retirement papers. His participation in the PTI program requires him to forfeit all future government employment. In making restitution, Mr. Emann will return one weapon that the police department “has a use for” and pay for the other weapon “that was a custom-made firearm that the department cannot utilize.”

Mr. Henderson and Mr. Villaruz resigned from the police department on December 1, 2010, in lieu of further disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution.

“Throughout my tenure as Mercer County prosecutor, government corruption cases have been zealously prosecuted in an effort to serve the best interests of justice,” Mr. Bocchini said. “In my judgment, justice in this case will be achieved by foregoing the criminal prosecution of a non-violent offender with a 32-year history of service to his community in favor of diversion into the PTI program, particularly in light of the fact that this defendant came forward and admitted his wrongdoing without the prompting of law enforcement.”

“The punishment doesn’t really fit the crime,” commented Ms. Lempert. “Township Committee was kept in the dark for the duration of the investigation” and, she added, “we really assumed it [the crime] would be something bigger than this.”

“People know the difference between a crime and a bookkeeping error,” observed former Princeton Regional Board of Education member Joshua Leinsdorf.

With the resolution of the criminal investigation, decisions with regard to the police department’s leadership are back in the hands of the mayor and the Township Committee.

“We are relieved to see this development come to a close and recognize the stress that it has placed on our department and the community,” said Township Mayor Chad Goerner. “While it is too early to discuss staffing, we have formed a subcommittee to determine appropriate staffing levels considering the ongoing work of the Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission. We need to balance flexibility with the goal of reducing overtime costs and maintaining a high level of service to the community.”

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