(Update 1:30 p.m. Friday) — This story was updated with additional information from defense attorney Ray Schlather and Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca police officer Kyle Paolangeli has pleaded guilty to perjury, following allegations that he searched an apartment without a warrant and offered false testimony under oath.
Paolangeli’s employment with the Ithaca Police Department was immediately terminated Friday, Mayor Svante Myrick said in a news release. He was sentenced in Ithaca City Court to a $500 fine and one-year conditional discharge.
Paolangeli came under investigation last October when allegations surfaced that evidence in a trial for felony-level drug charges was illegally obtained. According to attorney Jeff DeRoberts, who represented the defendant in the drug trial, Paolangeli had a warrant to search his client’s apartment and found a ring of keys inside. He allegedly used the keys to enter a second apartment before obtaining a search warrant, where he found drugs.
Related: Ithaca police investigator under scrutiny after allegedly entering residence without warrant
The allegations were raised about a week before the drug trial was due to start, when inconsistencies were noticed between a transcript of statements Paolangeli made when applying for a second search warrant in Ithaca City Court and testimony he offered during a preliminary hearing and grand jury proceeding.
The Tompkins County District Attorney’s office subsequently dismissed the indictment against DeRoberts’s client.
According to a stenographer’s transcript from a preliminary hearing on Jan. 5, 2018 in Ithaca City Court, Paolangeli said under oath that he used keys obtained in the defendant’s apartment to unlock a second apartment, but that he did not enter. “(We) checked to ensure one of the keys unlocked the front residence door, which it did. After that we did not enter the residence, we secured it and held the residence while I obtained a second search warrant,” he testified during the hearing.
A sworn deposition from Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Dawn Caulkins, who was with Paolangeli during the search, contradicts Paolangeli’s account. “Investigator Paolangeli discussed going into the apartment to secure the area. I spoke to him about doing that after the search warrant was secured,” Caulkins said in the deposition. “Investigator Paolangeli went into the apartment. He stopped after going to the furthest point to the west wall of the apartment. He looked right and left and then came back to the open door and stepped out.”
Paolangeli pleaded guilty to third-degree perjury in Ithaca City Court on Friday, a class A misdemeanor. According to court records, he admitted to falsely testifying under oath during the Jan. 5, 2018 preliminary hearing.
He was sentenced to a $500 fine and one-year conditional discharge. He is required to complete 100 hours of community service by Oct. 1, 2019.
In a news release announcing Paolangeli’s termination, Myrick said, “IPD holds itself to the highest standards, and I am proud to affirm that our officers place right at the top of that list following the law and telling the truth. When we find the rare exception to that rule, we act swiftly to ensure the integrity of the high quality policing that Ithacans expect and deserve.”
The Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore prosecuted the case, after a request from the Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten for a special prosecutor.
Following the sentencing Friday, Wetmore said it’s unfortunate that a member of law enforcement falsely testified because by doing so, he violated his oath as a police officer.
“The criminal justice system cannot tolerate having members of law enforcement lie under oath with respect to cases they’re investigating. The community loses confidence in police officers,” Wetmore said.
Attorney Ray Schlather, who represented Paolangeli, said his client has taken responsibility for his mistakes. “Officer Paolangeli was an excellent police officer for several years in this community. He made a mistake. He has owned it. He understands the consequences and is moving on,” Schlather said.
Paolangeli appeared in Ithaca City Court early Friday, May 24 for an arraignment, plea and sentencing.
Myrick said a civil lawsuit related to the case is pending. “Because this disturbing situation is also a personnel matter, and because the City is still working to resolve a related civil lawsuit, I am unable to speak to the particulars of this situation,” the mayor’s news release reads.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Judge Richard Wallace presided over Friday’s court appearance. Because Wallace signed the original search warrant involved in the case, a judge from outside Ithaca City Court presided.