Balderdash! I sure don’t agree with this one. Our AG, Kathy Jennings, hit the nail on the head when she said: “abusing public office ought to be at the top of the list of disqualifications from holding future office.”
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware’s high court on Friday ruled that former Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione can hold the town commission seat he was elected to earlier this year, overturning a lower court’s ruling that barred him from holding office.
The one-page order from the Delaware Supreme Court states that Capriglione shall be allowed to take the oath of office and that the court will explain its legal rationale in a more thorough opinion later.
“I feel vindicated,” Capriglione said when reached by telephone Friday.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Kathy Jennings, whose office fought to bar Capriglione from the commission seat, said Capriglione being allowed to take office is disappointing and that “abusing public office ought to be at the top of the list of disqualifications from holding future office.”
The ruling is the latest – and perhaps, final – turn of controversy around whether the once-celebrated and longtime chief, who left the department before pleading guilty to official misconduct, should be able to hold elected office in the town.
After his four-decade career on the small-town’s police department unraveled with criminal charges against him, he received 32 votes in April to be elected to one of the four open seats on Newport’s town commission, which creates laws and approves spending for the town of about 1,000.
After a DelawareOnline/The News Journal article documented his return to public office, the Delaware Department of Justice submitted an emergency petition to block him from being sworn-in as commissioner.
On the afternoon that he was scheduled to take the oath of office, New Castle County Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden put that ceremony on hold. Then, over subsequent weeks, Jurden weighed briefings and arguments from prosecutors and Capriglione’s attorney over whether Delaware law disqualified him from holding the position.
Capriglione was charged with felony evidence tampering and misdemeanor official misconduct in May 2018 after he crashed into a parked police vehicle in the Town Hall parking lot on his way to teach a defensive driving course.
He did not report the crash, lied to city officials and officers about it, and, in the dead of night, entered the room containing the server with video footage of the crash that he later ordered a surveillance company to delete.
He pleaded guilty to the misconduct charge, was sentenced to probation and was barred from being a police officer again.
Prosecutors argued his official misconduct pleading stemmed from him lying in his official role of trust as police chief, and that Delaware law disqualifying those convicted of “infamous crimes” from holding public office barred him from taking the commissioner’s seat.
Stephani Ballard, Capriglione’s attorney, argued that prior rulings by Delaware courts set legal precedent that a misdemeanor, like official misconduct, does not qualify as an infamous crime.
Through the decades, the definition of “infamous crime” and how it applies to misdeeds by several candidates for political office has been the subject of press debate and used by previous Delaware attorneys general to warn certain candidates from seeking public office. Most of those debates never made it to a courtroom.
Jurden ultimately ruled that the law should apply to the circumstances around Capriglione’s crime and barred him from the office.
Capriglione appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the appeal this week. On Friday, the court overturned Jurden’s decision and said Capriglione could be sworn in as commissioner.
Through a spokesperson, Jennings, the attorney general, said she has made “rooting out public corruption” a priority of her administration and that she was working with lawmakers to reclassify the crime of official misconduct as a felony.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was expedited so Capriglione may take office and states that a more thorough opinion discussing why the justices felt Jurden’s ruling was incorrect will be issued later.
Capriglione said he expects to be sworn in before the commission’s August meeting, but a date has not been set.
The fight over Capriglione’s qualification for the office also occurred as he is suing the town for more than $173,000 in back pay he claims he is owed.