See front page story in local newspaper and at NJ.com
Prosecutor: Jon-Henry Barr (Clark Municipal Court)
December 23, 2009 is when Westfield Police responded to the Rolnick/Sorrentino residence located at 545 Boulevard on the corner of Boulevard/Park St.
Charges filed against defendants: The following charges were filed by Westfield Police against the defendants. Not every charge was filed against each defendant.
Interfering or Obstructing Law Enforcement
Engaging in Tumultuous Behavior
Failing to Disperse from Scene
Striking/Kicking Police Officer
Causing Injury to Police Officer
Possessing a Fraudulent California License
Possession of Marijuana Under 50 grams
Preventing Police Office from Performing Duty
Prosecutor Barr requested that charges be dismissed against Lawrence Rolnick. The charges were downgraded from two indictable offenses to Disorderly Persons offenses.
2C:33-1b Failure to Disperse
2C:33-1b Tumultuous Behavior
Judge approved the application to dismiss charges against Lawrence Rolnick.
Notes from testimony of Westfield Police Officer Marcin Kapka (7 year veteran of WPD)
Dispatched to 545 Boulevard at approx. 2 am. on a report of disorderly juveniles in the street. Kapka described the crowd as a large group of 40-50 people. Suspect Austin Rolnick ran up to (police) car with hands flailing stating "F**k you, you don't belong here this is my house. Officer Kapka exited his patrol car and Austin Rolnick ran away. Ramon Martinez put his arms up and told cop there was no need to go further. Kapka was preoccupied with Martinez and smelled alcohol emanating from his breath. Austin Rolnick continued to yell at police. Police had a computer check done on Ramon Martinez, check was clear and Martinez was sent on his way. Officer Kapka and now Officer Preston Freeman told Austin Rolnick to disperse. and Rolnick continued yelling.
Ptlm. Kapka stated that Kim Sorrentino was keeping the gate to property closed as she spoke with Ptlm. Freeman. Austin Rolnick continued to yell at police and was advised he would be arrested if he continued. Ptlm. Kapka stated that Kim Sorrentino told Austin Rolnick to run into the house. The police pursued Austin Rolnick. Ptlm. Kapka stated that Ptlm. Freeman put his hand into the door and that the door was shut on Freeman's hand. Ptlm. Freeman had to push the door open. Kapka testified, "We had to push our way in, she was holding door preventing us from entering." Kapka estimated there were 10 J.V.'s in the house.
Ptlm. Kapka stated that Ptlm. Freeman grabbed Austin Rolnick and he resisted. People inside of the home were yelling. Austin Rolnick was arrested and was removed from the residence, still kicking.Ptlm. Kapka stated that Sorrentino was screaming not to arrest her son and was trying to interfere with the arrest of Austin Rolnick. As Austin Rolnick was escorted to a police car, suspect Ramon Martinez tried to grab onto Austin Rolnick's arm. Sgt. Jason Rodger and Ptlm. Bob Riley responded to assist. Prosecutor J. Barr asked Ptlm. Kapka, "How did this all end?" Ptlm. Kapka responded, "Martinez attempted to take a swing at Sgt. Rodger, I seen a movement of his arm." Kapka continued, "Sgt. Rodger deployed his pepper spray at Martinez, he was advised he was under arrest." Officer Steve Martinez (no relation to suspect) had to spray suspect Martinez again. Kapka stated that Lawrence Rolnick and Kim Sorrentino were yelling "gonna have your jobs, have your badges."
Austin Rolnick was allegedly charged with: Assault on a Police Officer, Resisting Arrest, Failure to Disperse, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Fake I.D. and two charges of Preventing Officer from Lawful Arrest.
Defense Attorney Robert Stahl remarked on cross-examination that there was no residue found in lab work. It is assumed he is referring to the possession of marijuana charge.
On cross examination by defense lawyer D. DiGoia, Ptlm. Kapka admitted that he had not canvassed the area to speak to residents to see if anyone was disturbed by the group outside of 545 Boulevard. Dijoia also points out that Ptlm. Kapka's police report says nothing about Austin Rolnick's "arms flailing." DiGoia asks Kapka if his patrol car camera and audio microphone were on; Ptlm. Kapka stated he did not remember. On cross examination Ptlm. Kapka admits there is nothing in his report about Mrs. Sorrentino blocking the gate accessing the property.
Defense Attorney Robert Stahl states to Ptlm. Kapka that there is an Internal Affairs investigation currently underway investigating the officer's conduct. He also states that the outcome of this case could have an effect on the investigation. Stahl asks Kapka, "Your report should cover major important facts, correct?" Kapka answers, "Yes." Stahl then states, "There is nothing about your injuries."
Defense Attorney Robert Stahl finishes by telling the court, "Substantial inconsistencies in (Kapka) officer's testimony." "This was a warrantless search, anything that happened once the suspect was in the house should be suppressed." "The police were pursuing for a disorderly persons."
Westfield Police Officer Preston Freeman testified next. He stated the following:
The bus was unloading when we arrived. They all appeared to be intoxicated. All appeared to be young males early 20's, approx. 60 people. We were trying to disperse them. We told them to leave or go inside. Minimal success dispersing the crowd. Austin Rolnick shouted, "F**k you fake cops, this is my house." Mother said to Austin Rolnick, "Austin, run inside the house." Police on scene called for additional mutual aid. Cranford, Mountainside, Scotch Plains, and Union County Police arrived on the scene. Ptlm. Freeman testified that Kim Sorentino stated to police, "Don't touch my son, get out of my house." "You have no right to be here." Ptlm. Freeman testified that Officer Joe Saunders and Officer Bob Riley helped get Austin Rolnick out of the house. Ptlm. Riley and Sgt. Rodger attempted to put Austin Rolnick in the police car when Ramon Martinez tried to grab Austin Rolnick and pull him away from the officers. Suspect Martinez squared up to strike Officer Martinez and was pepper sprayed.
Officer Preston Freeman testified that Kim Sorrentino stated, "Black officers should be in jail with the rest of them, I can buy one for 29 cents, damn n****rs."
On cross examination, Defense Attorney Don DiGoia asked Ptlm. Freeman if an officer yelled to Austin Rolnick, "Get over here you rich f**k, get the hell over here you spoiled f**k." Ptlm. Freeman did not recall those words being said. DiGoia pointed out to Ptlm. Freeman that during his testimony he had stated that he jumped the fence surrounding the property when questioned by Prosecutor Barr but when cross-examined, Ptlm. Freeman stated he went through the gate. Digoia asked where Ptlm. Martinez' report is. Attorney DiGoia asks Ptlm. Freeman if he remembers Mrs. Sorrentino on the ground, "Nightgown over her head, naked, torn meniscus anterior cruciate tear?" Ptlm. Freeman responded, "No." DiGoia asks, "When you fell on her?" Freeman responds, "No."
Defense Attorney DiGoia states that "hot pursuit" is not appropriate for D.P. according to case law. Prosecutor Barr states that fleeing from an arrest is justification for a warrantless search.
Clark Municipal Court Judge stated, "Austin Rolnick crossed the line but the Police made a fundamental error." "Credibility of events is touching." The judge then cited the 4th Amendment. The Judge also stated that "The Home is highly protected" and that a "High degree of sanctity of the home is taken into consideration." Case law was cited by the Judge: 1987 Bolt v Morristown as well as State v Holland (exigent circumstances). Judge also remarks that one officer stated a foot was used to prevent the door from being closed while the other officer testified it was a hand that was used. The judge remarked that the officers did a warrantless search for a disorderly persons offense. Judge stated that Austin Rolnick deserved a summons but entry into the house cannot be justified. Judge further stated, "The officers never discussed getting a warrant." Judge stated, "He (Austin Rolnick) used the "F" word too many times. Doesn't mean 4th Amendment right should be compromised."
Judge stated that the "State can pursue the Martinez charges." "The motion to suppress applies to Sorrentino, those charges are dismissed."
As reported in a local newspaper, Austin Rolnick and Ramon Martinez pleaded guilty to a town ordinance violation and paid a monetary fine.