DWI conviction in non-arrest case;
Paulo Lima, Staff Writer
(DUMONT BOROUGH, N.J. ) -- Former Dumont borough Councilman Philip Fredericks, whose controversial drunken-driving arrest last summer brought down a police chief, was 1 convicted Friday of driving while intoxicated.
Fredericks, 45, resigned from the council shortly after the July 22incident in which prosecutors allege that Chief Michael Affrunti ordered his officers not to charge a drunken Fredericks.
Affrunti has been the subject of an official-misconduct investigation, which has yet to be resolved. On Dec. 8, the first day of testimony in Fredericks DWI trial, Affrunti abruptly announced his retirement, ending a 37-year career as a Dumont police officer.
The conviction ended a three-day trial in Hackensack Municipal Court. Judge Roy McGeady suspended Fredericks license for six months, fined him, and ordered him to attend a 12-hour course about drunken driving.
Fredericks had been drinking whiskey at the Knights of Columbus Hall and passed out in his Mercury Mountaineer in the parking lot early on July 22. Officers saw the car parked with its motor running and lights on at 2:15 a.m., and again about 4:30 a.m..
When Officers Vincent Tamburro and Christopher Barzelatto pulled him out of the car, Fredericks was staggering, incoherent, and reeking of alcohol, police said. They gave him a ride to his New Milford Avenue home and returned his car keys.
About an hour later, Tamburro saw Fredericks Mountaineer weaving down Prospect Avenue. Fredericks flunked roadside sobriety tests and was taken to headquarters for processing.
That's when Affrunti showed up and blocked the officers from charging Fredericks, who was then the Borough Council's police liaison.
Fredericks was never given an alcohol breath test and was turned over to Mayor Donald Winant, who drove him home.
Winant, also a Knights of Columbus member, was the bartender who served Fredericks that night, several witnesses testified.
In an odd twist, Fredericks lawyer, David Hoffman, argued that the case should have been thrown out because his client had consented to take the breath test. Since the police didn't give it to him, Hoffman argued, Fredericks was deprived of a chance to prove his innocence.
A veteran DWI attorney, Hoffman admitted this was the first time he had raised such a defense.
"It's not as if Fredericks changed his mind, "Hoffman said." It was because a senior ranking officer, for whatever reason, decided the arrest should terminate. It wasn't Mr. Fredericks idea.
"The state has prevented possible exculpatory evidence from coming forward."
Hoffman also suggested the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office wanted to exaggerate Fredericks intoxication in order to strengthen its case against Affrunti.
"If you're going to make allegations against the chief, you're going to want to make sure there is enough evidence to show the person you are charging was a slobbering, staggering drunk," Hoffman argued.
During his closing argument, Assistant Prosecutor John Higgins said Fredericks own words helped prove the state's case.
"From today's point of view, I should not have been behind the wheel because I had had too much to drink the night before, "Higgins said, reading aloud from a statement Fredericks gave detectives in July.
The Prosecutor's Office got involved in the investigation six days after the incident when a tipster told the office about the aborted arrest.
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