A Nassau highway patrol officer whose recent arrests are being investigated by the district attorney's office has retired from the force, a police spokesman has confirmed.
Police Officer Joseph Lynch, 57, left the force effective June 19, police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said.
Lynch was assigned to desk duty in 2005 after an investigation by the district attorney's Special Investigations Bureau showed he was stopping suspected drunken drivers without probable cause, usually late in his shift so that he could earn overtime. He was put back on highway patrol in 2008. In 2010, he earned more than $190,000, about $52,000 of which was in overtime, according to the Nassau County comptroller's office.
After similar allegations arose again earlier this year, Lynch's 2005 internal affairs report was released publicly and prosecutors said they would investigate the 13 open cases in which Lynch was the arresting officer.
Meanwhile, Lynch is set to testify Monday at a hearing in one of those open cases: This one to determine whether he had probable cause to pull over Nicole Gioielli and charge her with drunken driving Aug. 3, 2010.
Lynch could not be reached Wednesday. Nassau Police Benevolent Association president James Carver did not return calls.
Police and prosecutors both have said they have no reason to believe Lynch broke any rules since returning to patrol.
Gioielli's lawyer, Brian Griffin of Garden City, said he is disturbed to learn that Lynch will collect a pension. "The fact that the district attorney is continuing to use him as their star witness, and that he's collecting a significant public pension should be troubling to every citizen of this county," Griffin said.
In Lynch's disciplinary report, dated March 2005, it says: "If the driver is found to have consumed alcohol, it appears as if Lynch may be exaggerating the facts of operation, or even fabricating the reason for the stop."
When internal affairs set out to observe Lynch, they could not find him at all in the first four hours of his shift, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the report said. But he made arrests later in his shift, then took about eight to nine hours to process the arrestee, the report said, enabling him to file for overtime. On several occasions Lynch even pulled over the Internal Affairs investigator sent out to observe him, the report says.
According to county records, Lynch made more than $58,000 in overtime in 2004, the year before he was disciplined. That amount dropped sharply, to about $19,000 when he was put on desk duty in 2005. But by early this year, Lynch was back to earning lots of overtime, collecting nearly $26,000 in the first three months of the year alone, records show.
Chris Munzing, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, would not comment on the investigation. But he said of the 13 cases they were looking at, nine have since ended in guilty pleas.
One case was dismissed for a reason not related to Lynch, another involved a stop made by someone other than Lynch, and two -- one of which is Gioielli -- are still open. He would not say whether the pleas were to reduced charges.
Munzing said his office did not notify defendants of the new allegations when they were raised but the defense bar did.
Freeport defense lawyer Michael Arbeit said prosecutors never told him about Lynch's history, but offered his client, accused of driving while impaired, a seat belt ticket after Lynch's problems became known. "They would never offer a seatbelt ticket unless knew they had big problems," he said.