Englewood Cliffs man acquitted on indecent exposure charges says he'll pursue lawsuit
Michael Telzer, an Englewood Cliffs resident, said he never should have been arrested based on the accuser’s account, and claimed he was a victim of the police chief’s desire to hire more officers by showing the borough had a crime problem.
“You had a town divided over hiring more police,” he said. “You had a chief campaigning, ‘We need more police. We need more police.’ It was devastating.”
Police Chief Michael Cioffi declined to comment on Telzer’s claim, citing the possibility of litigation. But his eyes widened and he shook his head when told about Telzer’s allegations.
“I wish I could say something,” he said.
Mayor Joseph Parisi said the council did hire more police officers to reduce overtime costs and to enhance the “overall protection” of the borough, not because of any incident.
Telzer was charged July 14, 2011, with lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child after a mother called 911 around 8 p.m. to report a man appeared to be exposing himself on the Witte Field walking path on Johnson Avenue.
Police issued a news release the next day, saying the woman was with her 6-year-old and 9-year-old daughters when she saw Telzer exposing himself. The release also stated that Police Officers Roland Waldt and Gerard McDermott responded to the call and Waldt found Telzer with his “pants/shorts unbuttoned, belt buckle and zipper opened.” It also states that the accuser positively identified him.
Telzer fought the charges, saying the woman’s statement shows she was not certain what she saw. He also said the woman never mentioned her children in the original statements and there were no other witnesses.
Telzer filed notice of intent to sue in October. In that notice, Telzer said he would seek $2.8 million from Police Chief Michael Cioffi and the borough and $1.8 million from each of the arresting officers for damages to his reputation.
The notice also accused police of false arrest, false imprisonment, witness and evidence tampering and character assassination “that amounts to defamation including but not limited to slander and possibly libel.”
He accused the police chief of making a “horribly abusive statement” to an online publication that police collected a paper towel found in a waste basket at the park for DNA testing. The tests came back negative for Telzer’s DNA.
The case went to trial on July 11 in Bergen County Court. On Friday, the jury found Telzer not guilty of all charges.
His lawyer, Robert Penangelo, said among the evidence that helped acquit Telzer was audio from a police car camera in which his client told officers, “I hope there are cameras in the park.” He also said Telzer passed a lie-detector test and that prosecutors had no other corroboration besides the woman’s statements.
Telzer said the allegations have made his life a living hell, but he was confident he would be exonerated.
“I was not going to let anyone say these things about me and get away with it,” he said. “I took a moral position.”