DOVER, Del. (AP) - A Delaware judge has ruled that a former small-town police chief who was convicted of official misconduct is ineligible to hold public office.
Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden concluded in a potentially precedent-setting ruling Tuesday that official misconduct, although a misdemeanor, is an “infamous crime” under Delaware’s constitution, and that former Newport police chief Michael Capriglione is therefore unable to serve as a Newport town commissioner.
Jurden’s ruling came in response to a court filing by Attorney General Kathleen Jennings last month seeking to nullify Capriglione’e election on April 5. Capriglione was elected to a two-year term by receiving 32 votes in a town with roughly 1,000 residents.
Barely an hour before he was to be sworn in on April 15, Jurden issued an order barring him from taking the oath of office until she could issue a ruling.
Jurden wrote in her 20-page ruling that the case presented a “difficult question.” She noted the Delaware Supreme Court has found that certain felonies qualify as infamous crimes but has not decided whether a misdemeanor can rise to that level.
Drawing on previous court cases involving both felonies and misdemeanors, Jurden concluded that a decision should be based on the circumstances of a particular case.
“In the court’s view, whether a crime is ‘infamous’ does not depend on the felony-misdemeanor distinction but rather on the totality of the circumstances in each case,” the judge wrote. “Having examined the totality of the circumstances surrounding Capriglione’s conviction, the court concludes that official misconduct, in Capriglione’s case, is an infamous crime.”
Capriglione was sentenced to probation and ordered to surrender his police certification in 2019 after crashing his car into another vehicle in the police department parking lot and trying to cover it up.
Authorities said he lied to other officers about how the other car was damaged and ordered the destruction of video footage that captured the 2018 incident. The footage was recovered, however, by state police computer technicians.
Capriglione was charged with inattentive driving, failing to report the incident, official misconduct and tampering with physical evidence, a felony. He pleaded guilty to careless driving and official misconduct.
Jurden noted that Capriglione was not merely a public servant at the time of his crime, but the town police chief, “a position of extensive authority.” She also said Capriglione exercised an official function in ordering the deletion of the surveillance video, knowing that such an act was unauthorized.
“Capriglione’s official misconduct offense amounts to a breach of the public trust,” Jurden wrote. “It calls into question the character of a person in whom so much trust was vested by virtue of his position.”
In a separate case, Newport officials are asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit in which Capriglione claims that the town owes him more than $170,00 in non-salary benefits in the form of vacation accruals, sick leave and uncompensated overtime.
The judge in that case indicated last week that she will rule on the motion to dismiss without holding a hearing.
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