Hoboken Lieutenant speaks out

Mayor was also along for trip
January 2, 2008 3:21:14 PM PST
A Hoboken police lieutenant lashed back Wednesday at five officers who sued him in October for racial harassment and intimidation, and produced pictures from a now-infamous SWAT team trip to Louisiana in 2005 that his attorney said casts doubt on some of their claims.Through his attorney, Lt. Angelo Andriani denied the officers' claims that he created a hostile work environment, used the n-word regularly and responded to their complaints with threats and harassment.

The attorney, Charles J. Sciarra, said he had filed a countersuit charging defamation against the five officers, all of whom are Hispanic, and the city of Hoboken.

With Andriani present Wednesday but not answering questions due to the pending lawsuit, Sciarra displayed several photo collages from the SWAT team's two trips to Louisiana in 2005 and 2006 to aid in the recovery after Hurricane Katrina.

Among the photos were several showing Andriani and other officers cavorting with waitresses from a Hooters restaurant in Alabama - some of whom were shown holding team members' weapons.

Andriani commanded the SWAT team until it was disbanded in November, days after officials learned of the racy photos.

Sciarra also displayed a series of photos taken in a bar that he said contradicted the officers' claims that they were offended and left the premises when Andriani put a napkin over his head with holes cut out for eyes and allegedly used the n-word.

According to Sciarra, time stamps on the photos show at least two of the officers were in the restaurant for more than an hour after they claimed to have left.

Andriani did not use the napkin to make a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Sciarra said, but instead was referencing a character in a Robin Williams movie, though he was unable to name the movie.

The explanation did not resonate with Manuel Gonzalez, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. He said there is no "proper context" for such an act.

"The focus of our case continues to be the hostile work environment," Gonzalez said. "The abusive nature of this man will be documented. The evidence will come out at trial and speak for itself."

Another picture that received wide circulation showed a woman in an evening dress holding a gun and posing with SWAT members. On Wednesday, Sciarra showed a picture taken at the same party that depicted Hoboken Mayor David Roberts, and noted that neither Roberts nor any other city official at the party raised objections about the officers' behavior until after the lawsuit was filed nearly nearly two years later.

"If you're there on one day, you can't come back and start screaming about it two years later," Sciarra said.

In an e-mail Wednesday, Roberts acknowledged attending the event but said he did "not recall the alleged actions of Lt. Andriani," and would not comment further due to the investigation.

Andriani has been assigned to desk duty since mid-November.

The officers also charged that from 2004 to 2006, Andriani ordered them to perform chores at his home in Verona, including digging holes for a deck, cleaning his boat, and shucking 10 bushels of corn.

Sciarra denied that claim Wednesday, and said instead that the officers had performed minor work at the house in preparation for a SWAT team party that Andiani hosted.

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