- Rich Klein
EDITORIAL: Galligan Omitted That Benjamin Was Riding With a State Trooper On Day of Taser Incident
District Attorneys have enormous power. They can issue news releases with "facts" but conveniently omit important ones. We saw that in the Isaac Kantrowitz case, in the Liberty public works case and with the latest case involving a former Village of Monticello police officer.
It certainly is the perogative of a DA to show only certain cards, particularly when investigations are ongoing, but the public and media outlets have to stop buying everything a DA is selling.
Exhibit A is as follows.
The SullivanTimes learned today that former Village of Monticello Police Officer Thomas Benjamin was NOT riding in his patrol car alone on the day he tased a person on a motorbike in September. This media outlet had sourced information that an unnamed State Trooper was a witness and we reported that earlier this month.
But we were met with silence from from DA Meagan Galligan and Monticello Mayor George Nikolados. However, our antennae was raised when Troop F spokesperson Steven Nevel would only direct all inquiries about the taser case to Galligan.
The SullivanTimes this week sent a Freedom of Information Law request to the New York State Police and also emailed the office of Thomas Mungeer, a Sullivan County native and president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association.
We reached out to Mungeer this week because one source told us that he was inside the Monticello Police Department earlier this month when the taser incident surfaced.
Today, through a spokesperson, Mungeer said he has not been inside the Monticello Police Department's headquarters "for more than 15 years. "
But through the same spokesperson, Mungeer did not deny that a trooper was riding with Benjamin that day.
Here's the email sent to The SullivanTimes today after we sought confirmation that a NYSP trooper was a witness to the taser incident that led to Benjamin's forced resignation.
"I checked with Tom Mungeer again and he is not denying that a trooper was in the vehicle with a Monticello police officer. However, he does not have any definitive information about the incident, as one of the roles of the labor union is to represent members when they are accused of wrongdoing and this is not the case regarding our member."
That was the second email received today from Michele Crisafulli, director of operations and communications for the NY State Troopers PBA.
Here's the first one: "I checked with NYSTPBA President Tom Mungeer, who has advised me that no, he was not present at the Monticello Police Department that night. In fact, he said that he has not been in that department’s headquarters for more than 15 years. It is his understanding that none of the NYSTPBA members are targets of any criminal investigation."
We applaud Mungeer for responding to our inquiries and for giving us information that has value to the public.
Unfortunately, though, DA Meagan Galligan is relying on the same tired playbook employed by her predecessor, Jim Farrell, which is to keep the public in the dark on issues they should know about and which don't risk public safety.
As for Benjamin, he has been stripped of his badge which would prevent him from employment in another police department, a source told The SullivanTimes this week. Prior to his employment in Monticello, he was a Sullivan County Sheriff's Deputy.
Meanwhile, the Village of Monticello has not yet replaced Benjamin so we'll be keeping an eye on upcoming Board meetings to learn more.