Sheriff refuses to explain why he considers case criminal instead of administrative
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Ed Day was kind to Sheriff Louis Falco when asked about the criminal case Falco has brought against the president of the Rockland Corrections Officers Union, John Cocuzza, for allegedly improper log book practices.
“It’s a stretch,” County Executive Day told the Rockland County Times during his recent “halftime” fundraiser at the Nyack Seaport. Day noted he was a police commander during his law enforcement career and often oversaw men who kept logs in log books.
Cocuzza is facing dozens of felony charges for checking 15-minute interval log book boxes after the fact, instead of at the exact moment the log book indicates. The log entries were made while–or immediately after–Cocuzza was watching an inmate on suicide watch. In other words, Cocuzza was watching the inmate for long intervals and then later marked the 15-minute interval boxes that had happened earlier in his shift.
According to Cocuzza and other corrections officers who spoke off the record, such log book practices are routine within the Rockland jail, and are not subject to reprimand from supervisors. Among Cocuzza’s supervisors is Falco’s own son.
While the county executive going on the record regarding a pending criminal case shows the severity of skepticism currently aimed toward the sheriff, Cocuzza’s lawyer had a much stronger adjective when asked to describe the charges: “Ludicrous,” Kenneth Gribetz told the Rockland County Times. “My client is a hard-working civil servant, he is not a criminal.”
Falco, for his part, refused to answer many questions when called by the Rockland County Times, stating, “You should have called me before taking a statement from Mr. Cocuzza.”
When asked if the case would ever reach a jury, Falco confidently asserted “Yes.” Many have questioned whether District Attorney Thomas Zugibe would even take the case.
However, when asked immediately thereafter if there is precedent for making log book box-checks a criminal matter, Falco asserted, “I am not going to do this in the media.” He declined to characterize the nature of the log book errors and what made the errors severe enough to rise to felonious crimes.
County officials are worried that the Cocuzza case will invite a massive lawsuit against the county. The New York COBA union has yet to speak up on the case as Cocuzza’s side is still seeking a speedy resolution.
Prior to his arrest, Falco had offered Cocuzza a chance to settle the case without felony charges if he was willing to go on professional probation. Cocuzza told the Rockland County Times that probation would allow the sheriff to terminate him for any reason whatsoever, and would in effect almost guarantee the end of his career as a corrections officer.
Cocuzza and other top Rockland union members have allegedly been on Falco’s “hit list” since they endorsed Falco’s rival Richard Vasquez for sheriff in the 2015 election. Rumors that Falco had actually promised retribution against the union for their perceived disloyalty have been circulating since September 2015.
Many members of the union have complained that Falco is a tyrant and a bully prone to vendettas. These voices have also long felt that Falco, and Sheriff James Kralik before him, favored the Sheriff’s Patrol Division over the Corrections Dept.
On the other side of the conflict, some Falco supporters have publicly stated that CO union members are mainly dissatisfied with their contract situation and mad at Falco for monetary reasons, rather than his personality or performance as their boss.