Two cases of botched evidence precede Richardson’s exit
HUDSON–City of Hudson Police Commissioner Gary Graziano issued a press release this week announcing the impending retirement of longtime Hudson Police Chief Ellis Richardson.
The announcement, made Tuesday, February 5, comes just a week after a second instance of mishandled evidence by officers of the city Police Department resulted in the dismissal of criminal charges against a defendant, bringing to three the number of people released in the past two months because police failed to turn over or disclose crucial evidence.
In Tuesday’s release, Commissioner Graziano said the chief had “served the people of Hudson with great dedication for 27 years.”
On their behalf, the commissioner thanked Chief Richardson for his service, said he had enjoyed working with him and noted, “The chief has earned his retirement, and I hope he takes some time to relax.”
Hudson Mayor William H. Hallenbeck, Jr. was also quoted in the release, saying he served alongside the chief when he was on the police force and that he knew “first-hand the level of professionalism the chief brought to this job. Ellis Richardson was the first African American appointed chief of the Hudson Police force, and he will be missed by this community. I wish him nothing but the best for the future.”
But last week Mayor Hallenbeck was critical when asked about the January 22 dismissal of second degree criminal possession of a weapon and first degree reckless endangerment charges against Kerwin Jones, 36, of Troy, who was arrested by Hudson Police May 28 of last year. Mr. Jones was accused of firing a 9 mm handgun into a group of people standing in front of 34 North Fifth Street, mid-afternoon on Memorial Day. No one was hurt.
Quoted in a front page story in the January 31 edition of The Columbia Paper, Mayor Hallenbeck said at the time he was “deeply concerned about the apparent deficiencies in the chain of custody of evidence in criminal matters being investigated by the Police Department. To think that this could happen twice in less than a year, quite frankly, is an outrage to me.”
The mayor, who has a 21-year background in law enforcement both with the Hudson Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, said last week he was working with Police Commissioner Graziano and City Attorney Cheryl Roberts and “will do everything in my power not only to discover why this occurred, but also demand accountability should it be warranted.”
During Mr. Jones’ pre-trial hearing, defense attorney Shane Zoni told Judge Richard Koweek that he had not received Hudson Police Department evidence related to the eye-witness identification of his client as the shooter. District Attorney Paul Czajka told the judge that evidence in question had not been turned over to his office by police so he could not provide it to Mr. Zoni. Since the DA had no legal defense for not having turned over the evidence, Judge Koweek granted Mr. Zoni’s motion to preclude the eyewitness, which left the DA without sufficient evidence to prosecute that case. The judge then dismissed the indictment against Mr. Jones
HPD’s failure to turn over forensic evidence in a timely manner also resulted in the dismissal of burglary charges against former Alderman Quintin Cross and Jamont McClendon, both of whom were accused of the March 2012 break-in at City Hall in which less than $100 stolen.
Chief Richardson will retire within the next two weeks. No decisions have been made about who might succeed him, according to the release.
The amount budgeted for the city police chief salary this year is $97,962, according to City Treasurer Eileen Halloran.
Calls to Chief Richardson, Mayor Hallebeck, Hudson Common Council President Don Moore and Hudson Police Commissioner Graziano were not returned by press time Wednesday.
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