Off-duty city police Officer Aaron Zampella sped away from a traffic stop early Friday at 25 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, according to papers filed Tuesday in City Court.
Zampella, 27, a five-year veteran of the department, appeared in City Court Tuesday morning and formally pleaded not guilty to one count of unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor.
Judge Mark Caruso allowed Zampella to remain free on his own recognizance. Zampella is due back April 12.
Fellow city officers, most in plain clothes, packed a third of the courtroom gallery for the appearance and filed out after Zampella’s appearance completed. Zampella’s father, retired city detective Arthur Zampella, also attended.
Aaron Zampella also received a speeding citation following the Friday incident, police said. He has been suspended without pay. The alleged incident happened at about 1:15 a.m. Friday on Broadway after a traffic stop by on-duty Officer Nick Ottati, according to court paperwork.
Ottati, with his marked patrol car’s lights on, pulled Zampella over for speeding.
“As Ottati approached the defendant’s vehicle on foot the defendant did pull away from the side of the road and accelerate away from Ottati’s position,” the charging paperwork reads. “The defendant did swerve around a tow truck and into the oncoming lane and accelerate to a speed 25 miles per hour or more over the speed limit.”
Police soon pulled Zampella over again on Campbell Avenue, police said Friday. They determined Zampella was driving, but neither alcohol nor drugs were involved.
Police filed the fleeing charge later in the day and Zampella turned himself in that afternoon.
Tuesday marked his first appearance in court. Zampella waited for his appearance while sitting next to his father, near a large group of fellow officers.
His attorney, Steve Kouray, asked the judge for a supporting deposition to be filed for the speeding citation, something that will take 30 days.
But Kouray also asked for the case to return in two weeks, when he expects to receive further documents from prosecutors. Those documents could also address the deposition Kouray seeks, prosecutor Michael Tiffany said.
Caruso offered to move the case to traffic court due to the nature of the allegations, a move that would not have affected the charges, but Kouray asked for it to remain in City Court.
The fleeing charge is based on “in-car video from marked police units” and the stopping officer’s sworn statement, according to court paperwork.
Kouray noted that Zampella has already lost a month’s pay through his suspension, as well as any overtime possibilities and any defense costs. Kouray said he believes the department is waiting for more information to decide where to go with it internally.
“I think they’re looking to see what happens with the outcome of this, I think that’s what they’re looking for,” Kouray said. “He’s pleaded not guilty and he’s going to maintain that plea.”