What they don't want you to know about the criminal justice system in Sussex County, New Jersey...
New! Visit the
In association with Amazon.com ®
The Cover Charges
"The search of a residence without a warrant and without probable cause subjects officers to § 1983 liability."
Approximately two weeks after the March 14, 1996 search and seizure, Tom was arrested and charged, on March 27, with an act of simple assault against Ms. DeGennaro-Holley by Detective Anthony Virga of the Newton Police Department! The cover charges had been placed. The retaliatory prosecution was about to commence. Tom was also charged with the possession of "assault weapons" by the Stillwater Police Department on this day.
The simple assault that Detective Virga had charged Tom with was alleged to have been committed by Tom against Ms. DeGennaro-Holley on February 15, 1996 at the Newton Memorial Hospital. This is noteworthy as the March 13, 1996 complaint indicated that there had been "no prior acts of violence". Indeed, Newton Police Officer Casey was questioned under oath at a later time why he had checked off that there were no prior acts of violence. Officer Casey testified that he checked "no prior acts of violence" because this is what Ms. DeGennaro-Holley had told him.[N.2] So why then, were the Sussex County Justice officials now trying to say that Tom had committed an act of simple assault all the way back in February of 1996?
As we have noted above, the search of a residence without a warrant and without probable cause subjects officers to § 1983 liability. § 1983 refers to the federal civil rights statute- Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983- that has been established to protect United States citizens from acts of police misconduct. Indeed, officers may be sued when they conduct a warrantless search and seizure in the middle of the night without any probable cause as in the Cassidy case. They knew this. And they had to fix it. This was just the beginning of a major cover up!
Indeed, the Sussex County Justice officials had just begun to conspire together in an effort to "back-fill" their entire case. In other words, they realized that they had to create the previously non-existent probable cause in an attempt to justify their unconstitutional search and seizure that they had conducted on March 14, 1996. But why did they have to do that?
Probable Cause Defined: Probable cause is supplied by evidence which would lead a reasonable person to believe that an offense has been or is being committed or that the items to which a search warrant is directed are located in the area described.
Probable Cause to search is established when a police officer believes that material leading to a criminal offense can be found at a certain place at a certain time. On the search warrant document that was presented to the Cassidy's are the written words "if any" in the firearms section. By reading the actual writings of the police officer on the search warrant, we can gain some insight as to what was going on in the officer's mind at the time that he was filling out this document. The officer's hand printed writings of the words "if any" indicates that the officer did not know if there were any firearms located at the Cassidy home. Since they did not know if there were any firearms, the officer's knew that they would have to search throughout the premises for them. And indeed, they did just that. The officers embarked on an intrusive search throughout the home and several locked containers and cases. The officers did not have any probable cause to conduct a midnight search and seizure of the Cassidy home.
Probable Cause can also be established where there is evidence which would lead a reasonable person to believe that an offense has been or is being committed. On March 14, 1996 the officers stated that Tom had engaged in an act of "verbal harassment". It was also indicated in these very same documents that there had been no prior acts of violence. As you can see by reading both the complaint and the search warrant, the only act that Tom had allegedly committed at that particular time was an act of "verbal harassment". Doesn't that establish the requisite probable cause then? Well friends, since March 14, 1996 there has been no mention of alleged "verbal harassment" in any of the court proceedings! In other words, there was none! In effect, the officers did not have any probable cause whatsoever in order to conduct such an intrusive search and seizure throughout ones home in the middle of the night. Therefore, the Sussex County Justice officials had to create some probable cause. And they did just that in the filing of "cover charges" against Tom.
"Cover charges" are charges that are filed against a defendant in order to "muddy the waters" so to speak. They are frequently filed in cases of police misconduct. Here in this case, the cover charges became necessary to create the probable cause that they had previously lacked on March 14, 1996. Why did they have to create probable cause? They said they had a warrant. Indeed, Newton Police Officer Neil Casey and Stillwater Police Officer John Schetting stated that they were acting under the authority of a valid search warrant when they had searched through the entire house. Yet upon closer inspection of the search warrant document that they had presented, you will see that the search warrant was not signed by a judge, as required by law, but instead was signed by Officer Casey himself!
Two weeks after the midnight search and seizure, the police and prosecutors in Sussex County had constructed their plan and filed the "cover charges" that were necessary to begin what has been a four-year-long cover up. They had come up with a plan seeking justification for the unconstitutional search and seizure that they had conducted on March 14, 1996. It was on March 27, 1996 that Tom was arrested and charged for an act of simple assault which was alleged to have occurred on February 15, 1996 at Newton Memorial Hospital. Additionally, Tom was charged with the possession of "assault weapons".
The charge of simple assault has been the linchpin to their- thus far successful- creation of probable cause to justify their illegal search and seizure. These "cover charges" have enabled Sussex County Justice officials to engage in the most egregious and unscrupulous conduct that would chill and shock the conscious of even those with the most hardened of sensibilities.
Case Update- Three weeks after the debut of this website, the State dismissed the "cover charges" that remained in place for more than four years.