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School board member goes before judge on drug charge

Hempstead school board member Melissa Figueroa.

Hempstead school board member Melissa Figueroa. Credit: File photo / Barry Sloan

A judge on Thursday said he will dismiss a marijuana possession charge against a Hempstead school board member after a year, provided that she is not arrested or charged with other crimes during that time.

First District Court Judge William Hohauser in Hempstead granted Melissa Figueroa’s application for an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which means the criminal case against Figueroa will be suspended for one year from Thursday.

“This is not an admission of guilt on her part,” Figueroa’s attorney, Olivier Roche of Hempstead, said in an interview.

The Nassau district attorney’s office — which is prosecuting Figueroa, 37, of Hempstead — did not object to her request to have the charge eventually dismissed and the record sealed.

In a brief court proceeding Thursday morning, Hohauser asked Figueroa a few procedural questions, including whether she understood the conditions he imposed.

“Yes,” she replied.

Figueroa was arrested May 11 as she was driving in Lynbrook, when a village police officer pulled her over for not wearing her seat belt.

The officer “smelled marijuana in the car and found a used marijuana cigarette,” Lynbrook Police Chief Joseph Neve said at the time of Figueroa’s arrest.

She was charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana. The officer, however, did not issue Figueroa a ticket for not wearing her seat belt — the reason she had been stopped. At the time, Neve did not address why the officer did not cite Figueroa for the seat belt violation. Neve did not return a call Thursday for comment.

The arrest happened at about 10:30 p.m., two hours after Figueroa and other school board members met to vote on a contract for a new superintendent. Figueroa was one of three school board members who voted to approve the new contract for incoming Superintendent Shimon Waronker.

Figueroa’s arrest also came five days before residents went to the polls to elect school board members. Figueroa, who was running for re-election, was defeated by candidate Randy Stith. Her term ends June 30.

At the time of her arrest, Figueroa said in a text message sent to Newsday that she was “set up.”

On Thursday, Figueroa and her attorney declined to say who she believed set her up or why.


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