The suspended city police detective accused of pointing his gun at two people last year in a road-rage incident should be terminated, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said Thursday.
Police officials came to that conclusion after their internal investigation into the case, he said. A hearing that officials hope will result in Hotaling’s termination is set to begin next week.
“We believe the veracity of the people on the other side of the equation,” Bennett said. “We believe what he is accused of doing did, in fact, occur.”
Therefore, he said, termination is warranted.
John Hotaling, now 46, of Glenville, was charged in April 2013 with two counts of second-degree menacing, a misdemeanor. He is accused of getting into an argument with two occupants of another car on Maple Avenue in Glenville on April 7, 2013. It ended with Hotaling accused of returning to his truck, grabbing his gun and pointing it at them.
The confrontation began in a driving dispute, authorities have said. Hotaling allegedly passed another car in what was described as an aggressive manner. The people in the passed car then responded by honking and making an obscene gesture.
Then, when stopped at a red light, Hotaling and the two passengers in the other car got out of their cars and the confrontation ensued.
The criminal case is unresolved more than 13 months after it was initially filed. Motions filed last November by Hotaling’s defense have yet to be ruled upon. A Town Court official said Judge Paul Davenport intends to rule on them next month.
Regardless of how the criminal case turns out, Bennett said police officials believe Hotaling pointed his gun at the two and should be fired.
“That’s serious business,” Bennett said. “You’d better be justified in doing it. We feel that the evidence we have doesn’t substantiate that being a valid decision.”
Hotaling has denied the gun allegation. In his statement to police, Hotaling described the occupants of the other car as the ones causing the problem. The statement was included in a November defense filing in the case.
Asked by the Glenville detective if he had a gun on him, Hotaling responded that he did not. His gun was in his truck.
“I never pointed or threatened to shoot any one of these subjects,” Hotaling’s statement reads. “My gun never left the truck. They were the aggressors, that’s for sure.”
Hotaling’s defense attorney, Andrew Safranko, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Among the defense assertions in its motions is that there is insufficient evidence to support the charges. “There is simply not any evidence to establish that the defendant committed such conduct,” Safranko wrote in the court filing.
He also is asking Davenport to dismiss the charges in the interests of justice, something that requires the judge to consider a host of factors. Safranko argued that “at best, this case is the classic example of a ‘he said–she said’ case. Mr. Hotaling vehemently denies the allegations contained herein.”
He also questioned the credibility of the accusers.
If the charges stand, the defense also made motions for multiple hearings.
Police at the time said they interviewed three witnesses to the incident — a relative in the accusers’ car and two others they found by canvassing the area. After those interviews, and after reviewing the 911 call made by one of the accusers, they filed the charges.
The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office, which took over the case from Schenectady County due to a conflict, countered in its own filing that the accounts of the accusers are sufficient to uphold the charges.
Prosecutors also opposed the defense’s move for dismissal in the interest of justice, arguing the allegations are serious and are more appropriately decided at trial.
Regarding the termination hearing, Bennett said it is moving forward without regard for the status of the criminal case. Officials had hoped to get the termination hearing started earlier, but there were issues with the availability of hearing officer Jeffrey Selchick and general scheduling issues.
Selchick will do what he has done in multiple previous termination hearings: hear the evidence presented by police and the officer’s defense, and make a recommendation to the mayor.
Selchick conducted multiple hearings related to several officers in years past, including several in 2010.
Bennett would not guess as to when Hotaling’s hearing might be complete.
There is also the factor of Hotaling’s retirement eligibility. Depending on how his time is calculated, he could be hitting the minimum retirement tenure of 20 years shortly, if he hasn’t already.
Hotaling was hired in April 1994, Bennett said. He was suspended without pay for a month after the Glenville incident. He then had to be returned to full pay while the investigation proceeded.
The month he was suspended without pay doesn’t count toward retirement, but the time he has been paid since does, Bennett said.
A state retirement system official said Thursday that Hotaling has an unaudited service credit of 20.05 years but did not know if the month’s suspension was factored into that number. The official said no retirement notification had been filed for Hotaling as of Thursday.