DA: 2 from Nassau sheriff's department arrested on perjury charges
Two Nassau correction officers -- one active and one retired -- were arraigned on perjury charges Monday after authorities said they lied to a grand jury and in documents, providing sworn but false statements that an inmate had started a fight with one of the officers at the Nassau jail in East Meadow in October 2011, officials said.
John Andujar, 55, who is retired and lives in Florida, and correction Officer Joseph Donlon, 48, of Ronkonkoma, were arrested Monday by Nassau district attorney's investigators.
"We expect to hold law enforcement officers to the highest standards of honesty and discipline," Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. "When that trust is broken, it unfairly taints the vast majority of law enforcement who serve honorably, and we must act to correct it."
The alleged misconduct by the officers was reported to Rice's office after an internal affairs investigation.
"The Sheriff's Department takes all allegations of inmate abuse very seriously," Sheriff Michael Sposato said in a statement. "In this case the Sheriff's Department Internal Affairs Unit commenced an investigation following the incident and thereafter the department referred this matter to the Office of the District Attorney," he added.
Donlon and Andujar were charged with two felonies and several misdemeanors.
The charges included, first-degree perjury and first-degree making an apparently sworn false statement; and misdemeanors including official misconduct, making a punishable false written statement and fifth-degree conspiracy, Rice's office said.
They were arraigned before State Supreme Court Judge Alan Honorof. They face up to 7 years in prison if convicted and are due back in court Jan. 13.
Rice's office said the charges stem from an Oct. 21, 2011, incident in which an inmate, David Page, fought with Andujar. Both Andujar and Donlon said Page attacked without warning.
Page was arrested Dec. 5, 2011, and charged with three counts of assault, partly based on Donlon and Andujar's statements that Page was the aggressor, Rice's office said. They testified before a grand jury eight days after the arrest, too, saying Page attacked without provocation.
Page was indicted by the grand jury on felony assault charges and arraigned on Jan. 10, 2012, prosecutors said.
The case was later dismissed.
The internal affairs unit of the sheriff's department "conducted an investigation that revealed several witnesses observed Andujar and Page involved in a verbal dispute that escalated, wherein Andujar removed Page's handcuffs and shackles, and the two engaged in a mutual fight," Rice said.
"We intend to examine all of the facts and circumstances and fight the case vigorously," said Michael Annibale of Garden City, Andujar's attorney, who said he entered a not guilty plea.
"The charges are shocking, to say the least, in that the individual circumstances involve a 2-year-old assault by an inmate on one of these corrections officers," said attorney Marc Gann of Mineola, who represents Donlon.
The veteran officers, each with decades of experience, have the full backing of the correction officers' union.
"The Nassau County Correction Officers Board of Governors and I stand firmly behind Correction Officer Donlon and retired Correction Officer Andujar, vigorously defending them and ensuring that their rights are protected to the fullest extent of the law," said John Jaronczyk, president of the union. "We are confident that at the conclusion of this legal process, and once the facts of this case come out, both officers will be proven innocent and exonerated of all charges."