NEW BRUNSWICK — Four Edison cops, including Michael Dotro, were indicted today on charges they conspired together to retaliate against a North Brunswick police officer who issued a drunk driving ticket to one of Dotro’s relatives.
The grand jurors charged that Dotro, Victor Aravena, William Gesell and Brian Favretto, between Jan. 18, 2012, and May 1, 2012, conspired to retaliate against North Brunswick police Officer Dimitrious Katsoulis by accessing crime data illegally in order to obtain information about Katsoulis. They also performed surveillance on Katsoulis’s Edison residence and travel habits, according to the indictment.
They are also charged with official misconduct.
All four have been suspended without pay, a township spokesman said. It's the second time Aravena has been suspended without pay; Aravena won a court order to restore his pay in August.
The indictments are the latest in a series of embarrassments for the department that serves the state's fifth-largest town. The department is beset with infighting, lawsuits and misbehavior in the ranks. Town officials recently had to revamp its entire hiring and promotions process for police officers. As the department tries to clean up its image, however, several criminal cases against its officers are in the works.
Chief Thomas Bryan could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dotro, of Manalapan, has become the most notable example of trouble within the ranks. He was previously charged with attempted murder for allegedly trying to burn down his superior officer's house while his family slept inside. The superior officer had reportedly ordered Dotro to undergo a psychological evaluation after his 11th excessive force complaint. He is out on bail and has pleaded not guilty.
In the latest indictments, Dotro is charged with separate counts of unlawful access of a computer system, official misconduct, and pattern of official misconduct.
Gesell, of Edison, is charged with separate counts of official misconduct, and unlawful access of a computer system.
Aravena, of Edison, is charged with separate counts of witness tampering, obstructing the administration of law, official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct. Aravena allegedly tried to get a fellow Edison police officer to alter a police report in May 2013.
Dotro, Gesell and Aravena were all previously charged with the alleged retaliation scheme in March. The indictment represents the first charges against Favretto, a resident of Brick. According to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey, the retaliation against the North Brunswick officer was planned, but never carried out.
Captain Bruce Polkowitz, the president of the Superior Officers Association in Edison, vouched for Aravena, Gesell and Favretto.
"My experience has always been that these three officers are good, hardworking police officers," Polkowitz said. "I'm very disappointed in these indictments. And unfortunately, I don’t have enough information at this time to make another comment."
In a separate indictment, unsealed today, Dotro and his wife, Alyssa, are charged with conspiracy, criminal mischief, and official misconduct. Dotro separately is also charged in the same indictment with unlawful access to a computer system, unlawful disclosure of computer system data, two counts of prohibited devices, possession of an imitation firearm, two counts of official misconduct, conspiracy with an unnamed co-conspirator to distribute marijuana to Alycia Dotro, and pattern of official misconduct.
The charges stem from incidents last year in which Dotro allegedly bought marijuana while in uniform, conspired to sell the drug, slashed a woman’s tires and illegally accessed the police department’s records database for personal use.
Dotro and his wife are already facing charges stemming from the firebombing in May 2013 of Dotro’s superior’s home in Monroe Township.
Dotro is charged with five counts of attempted murder, aggravated arson and other charges in an indictment that stems from the May 20, 2013 fire, which heavily damaged the home of Edison police Capt. Mark Anderko, who is now a deputy chief. Dotro, a 10-year-veteran, has been suspended since his arrest in May 2013 without pay and has been free on more than $2 million bail.
His wife, Alyssa, was charged with hindering her husband’s apprehension by lying to investigators about him.
All four are free on bail, which they must pay by their next court appearance on Nov. 7. Bail is $100,000 for Michael Dotro; $75,000 each for Alycia Dotro, Aravena and Gesell, and $50,000 for Favretto, the prosecutor's office said.
NJ Advance Media reporter Brian Amaral contributed to this story.
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