NORTH WILDWOOD — Weeks after the deputy mayor of Hamilton Township was arrested for drunken driving, the township’s mayor said she received a “threatening” letter that gloated about the incident.
Mayor Amy Gatto testified in the second day of the trial of Charles Cain on Wednesday in North Wildwood Municipal Court.
Gatto said that a few weeks after Cain was arrested early Jan. 22 on Clarkstown Road in Hamilton Township, she received an anonymous letter at her office at the Municipal Building.
During her testimony, she said the letter read “Charles Cain DWI” and had a checkmark.
The letter was signed “HTPD - LOL” which Gatto thought would mean the Hamilton Township Police Department. The mayor said she does not know who sent the letter, which Gatto described as “threatening in nature.”
Township Committee laid off 20 percent of its work force — including 13 police officers — in February to close a $2.4 million budget shortfall. In March, Gatto revealed she had received a threatening letter but did not divulge any details. Other committee members intimated they had received threats.
On Jan. 26, four days after the arrest, Mainland PBA Local 77 officials posted on Facebook a request that law-enforcement members and their families boycott Cain’s business, Auto Plaza at English Creek, because of the potential layoffs. They removed it a day later on “advice of counsel.”
Cain is charged with driving while intoxicated, refusing a breath test, speeding and reckless driving. His attorney, Louis Barbone, is arguing Hamilton Officer Peter Burns and Sgt. Christopher Gehring targeted Cain because the township was considering laying off officers.
Cain was at Testa’s Good Guys Pub on Somers Point-Mays Landing Road before the arrest.
Testa’s bartender Jeff Ebert said Wednesday that Cain drank two Red Bulls and vodka, which contain about 2 ounces of vodka each. Cain had ordered a third Red Bull and vodka but decided to have a glass of ice water instead, he said. Cain told Ebert he was tired when he left the bar.
Gehring had run Cain’s plates inside the parking lot of Testa’s that night and called Burns — who conducted the arrest — on his personal cellphone before Cain was pulled over near his house.
Gehring testified Oct. 3, the trial’s first day, that he discussed Burns’ shift at the Regal Cinemas Hamilton Commons 14 and personal matters. He said he ran the plates because he thought it was unusual to see dealer plates late at night and feared the car could be stolen.
Ebert said it was not uncommon for police cars to drive by the business. But he said it was unusual for a police car to drive onto the property and slowly drive around the parking lot which he said he noticed that night.
Ebert also testified Cain did not appear to have been drinking when he entered the bar but Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton told Ebert that Cain was drinking at another establishment before he went to Testa’s.
“I would be amazed, astonished,” Ebert replied. “I would never have been able to tell.”
Township resident Richard DeFeo, who ran alongside Cain in 2009, said he never saw Cain drive after he consumed alcohol.
“He always had someone there if he drank,” DeFeo said, “He’d have a designated driver.”
The defense also introduced witnesses that questioned Burns’ testimony about the stop. Burns said he had followed another car when Cain drove by and he turned around to pursue him.
Private investigator Gregory Crescenzo, co-owner of Atlantic Investigations in Hammonton and a retired Hamilton police officer, said Burns would not have been able to make the U-turn he testified making in the location he listed in the police report. Ruberton said the officer was making an estimate of his exact location in the report.
The trial is scheduled to resume Dec. 1. Barbone said he may have one more witness and then both sides will deliver closing arguments to Judge Louis J. Belasco Jr.
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