By Rick Murphy
The disgraced East Hampton Village cop accused of having an alleged tryst with a much younger traffic control officer -- in a house the pair entered without permission -- is in more hot water.
Mario Julio Galeano, 31, was suspended with pay after the incident, on December 30. The TCO, Jennifer Rosa, was summarily fired.
Court papers obtained by The Independent reveal Galeano has a lot more to worry about. He is being taken to court by former East Hampton Town cop Robert Wood over an incident that occurred in August, 2007.
Wood, a controversial figure who had been accused of mistreating prisoners on two occasions, was involved in a very public feud with Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, who was dating, and ultimately married, Wood's estranged wife.
According to police accounts and court documents, Wood approached a Latino man who was talking with Galeano near Waldbaum's on Newtown Lane and warned the individual that he was under police surveillance. Galeano, according to court documents, was acting in an undercover role, apparently trying to procure drugs. Testimony in a False Arrest suit brought by Wood in United States Eastern District Court later revealed the individual Galeano was talking to at the time apparently was not a drug dealer after all.
Wood was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration – but the charge didn't stick. Wood argued that Galeano was involved in an earlier incident that was hidden from the Grand Jury, which failed to indict Wood. According to court documents, Wood maintained "[t]he Village hid from the Suffolk County District Attorney . . . substantial evidence about Officer Galeano's motive for bringing the information against [Plaintiff] and having him arrested" and that, as a result, the Grand Jury did not hear that evidence.
"Plaintiff [Wood] states "Galeano had [a] motive to salvage his career after an incident that occurred on December 30, 2006."
On that date Galeano allegedly pulled over a driver who he suspected of driving intoxicated but let him go after he realized it was a friend. Larsen, according to court papers filed by Wood, learned about the incident but let Galeano, then in his third year on the force, off with a slap on the wrist — he was penalized 30 vacation days.
Wood maintained in court papers that Larsen was setting him up and had harassed him previously when he was arrested in 2007. Moreover, he suspects Galeano was being used by Larsen for that purpose, and that Galeano had no choice but to submit because his record, marred by the incident in 2006, was such that his career was in jeopardy.
Wood sued several police officers, East Hampton Village as well as Mayor Paul Rickenbach, Galeano, and Larsen. All of them filed for summary judgment – that is, asked the court to dismiss the case.
United States District Judge Denis Hurley, in a ruling dated January 7, refused a request for dismissal by Galeano, and two other village police officers who claimed they were acting in the course of duty and "qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for civil damages as a result of their performance of discretionary functions, and serves to protect government officials from the burdens of costly, but insubstantial, lawsuits."
Hurley denied the motion: "Genuine issues of fact remain at this stage regarding whether it was objectively reasonable to believe that probable cause existed to arrest," he wrote.
Larsen, in a separate filing, also sought to have Wood's case dismissed. Hurley ruled against the chief: "Since triable issues of fact exist as to whether Larsen was personally involved in the alleged deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutionally protected rights through his grossly negligent management of his subordinates . . ."
Galeano and two other officers (but not Larsen) did get relief from one of Wood's charges. Hurley dismissed a portion of the case that alleged there was "fraud, perjury or misrepresentation of evidence at the time the warrant [for Wood's arrest] was obtained."