EDISON – Four township police officers whose indictments on charges of profiting from no-show jobs were dismissed in April were reinstated to their positions this week.
Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman signed an order Monday declaring the officers be reinstated and reimbursed back pay and all contractual benefits retroactive to June 1, 2018,” according to court documents.
The judge also ordered Edison Township and its police department to pay the officers' legal fees related to the criminal charges within 20 days of the order.
Officers Gregory Makras and James Panagoulakos, along with Sgts. Brian Rossmeyer and Ioannis (John) Mpletsakis, were charged in June 2018 by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office with receiving payment for extra-duty jobs they didn’t show up for.
Extra-duty jobs include duties such as directing traffic for utility companies and providing security for businesses or events.
The officers were suspended without pay that same month and were later indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury.
A fifth officer, Paul Pappas, also was charged, but he pleaded guilty after entering into an agreement with the prosecutor's office in October 2019. Pappas is facing four years in state prison with two years of parole ineligibility, according to a Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office spokesperson.
Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez dismissed the indictments against Makras, Panagoulakos, Rossmeyer and Mpletsakis on April 17 this year. He later dismissed the underlying criminal complaints.
Jimenez, in his ruling, said the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office “made very clear” that it needed to resubmit the case to a grand jury because of information that could clear someone of guilt.
Jimenez, who called the original grand jury presentation “flawed,” said prosecutors failed to resubmit the case.
A civil lawsuit filed by the four officers sought their jobs’ reinstatement.
New Brunswick-based attorney Steven Altman, who represents Rossmeyer, said state law defines back pay as salary minus mitigation. If a suspended police officer finds another job while suspended, the back pay is the difference between the money earned while suspended minus his original salary.
“As far as Brian Rossmeyer's concerned, he's truly an innocent client. He's not guilty of any criminal acts,” Altman said. “However, this case is proceeding and has significantly impacted who he is. He's really not guilty, and he's dealing with it the best he can. And hopefully it will all work out in the end.”
After Jimenez dismissed the indictments and criminal complaints, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office asked the judge to reconsider the dismissal.
“The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion for reconsideration with the court,” Boulton previously wrote in an email to MyCentralJersey.
But Jimenez, in a later ruling, doubled down on his order dismissing the charges.
Jimenez said motions for reconsideration “are not to be granted lightly.”
Although prosecutors “spent a lot of time making accusations to the court,” they did not dispute the legality of the ruling that dismissed the complaints and indictments, Jimenez said.
Prosecutors and the officers' attorneys appeared again Wednesday before Jimenez to discuss the criminal case. The defense attorneys submitted a motion requesting that Jimenez remove the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office from the case.
Jimenez is also considering whether the dismissal of the officers' complaint will be with prejudice, meaning prosecutors will not be able to resubmit the case to a grand jury, or without prejudice, meaning they can resubmit.
Jimenez said the decision will come within two weeks.
The judge also said witnesses could become involved in the proceedings and named Edison Township Attorney William Northgrave as a possibility.
Northgrave was copied in an email correspondence with former acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Christopher L.C. Kuberiet discussing the reinstatement of the officers, according to defense attorneys.
“I can tell you right now, I'm getting the sense that Northgrave is going to be appearing in court to explain that and a whole bunch of other things,” Jimenez said.
Nick Muscavage is a watchdog reporter for the Courier News, Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to his investigative work that has exposed wrongdoing and changed state law, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.