Accused of targeting a citizen who filed an internal affairs complaint against them and destroying his property, two New Jersey police officers recently pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal mischief. In addition, the officers agreed to pay restitution to the victim and permanently forfeited any future public employment in the state of New Jersey.
Between 3 and 4 a.m. on September 3, 2019, Asbury Park Police Officer Stephen Martinsen and Special Law Enforcement Officer, Class 2 (SLEO-2) Thomas Dowling rode bikes while wearing masks and gloves. They slashed all the tires of Ernest Mignoli’s parked Jeep Liberty and Toyota Prius and smashed one of the windows in retaliation for Mignoli filing a complaint against them. According to Mignoli, he filed a complaint against the officers last year for riding scooters while drunk within city limits.
Initially charged with two counts each of criminal mischief, conspiracy, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, Martinsen and Dowling pleaded guilty Tuesday to fourth-degree criminal mischief. As part of the plea agreements, the defendants permanently forfeited any future public employment in the state of New Jersey. Additionally, the State agreed to recommend a probationary sentence conditioned upon restitution being made to the victim for damage to the vehicles.
“Spiteful retaliation from law enforcement officers towards a citizen for any reason is an unacceptable option. This is in no way condoned at any level, for any reason. All members of the law enforcement community must maintain the public’s trust by conducting themselves at the highest level of integrity and decency,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said in a recent statement.
“The cooperative efforts of the Asbury Park Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office’s Professional Responsibility Unit is a clear example of how effective our current internal affairs policies are. These officers were held accountable for their actions and misconduct and we will continue to hold our officers responsible to build upon the trust of the community that we serve,” stated Asbury Park Police Chief David Kelso.
Martinsen has been suspended without pay since this incident, while Dowling was terminated when the initial charges were filed. They are currently scheduled for sentencing on October 16.