A Glenville Town Court judge approved a plea deal Tuesday night that could ultimately result in a menacing case against Schenectady police Detective John Hotaling being dismissed after certain provisions are met.
Justice Paul Davenport approved the deal after hearing from attorneys and over the objections of one of the victims in the case.
Hotaling was accused of pointing a gun at two men in an April 2013 road-rage incident on Maple Avenue in Glenville. Hotaling consistently denied the allegations. The resolution, formally called an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, required no admissions on Hotaling’s part.
Hotaling now has six months in which to meet a list of requirements, including undergoing an anger management evaluation and performing 25 hours of community service. The top provision, that he leave the Schenectady Police Department, has already been met; he is set to retire June 30.
If he meets all the provisions, the case will be dismissed.
Davenport consented to the resolution, but he made it clear that if Hotaling fails to follow any of the provisions, he will revoke the agreement “and we start over.”
Hotaling faced two misdemeanor menacing counts following an argument with Glenville resident Jeffrey Arnow and his son, who were occupants of another car on Maple Avenue on April 7, 2013. Hotaling is accused of returning to his truck, grabbing his gun and pointing it at them.
Arnow’s grandson, Nick Meisner, was also there, but remained in the car during the confrontation.
The confrontation began as a driving dispute, authorities have said. Hotaling allegedly passed the Arnows’ car in what was described as an aggressive manner. Arnow responded by reaching over and honking the horn and making a gesture. Meisner was driving at the time.
When the two vehicles stopped at a red light, Hotaling got out of his vehicle, as did Arnow and his son, Matthew Arnow. The confrontation ensued.
Hotaling has maintained he never threatened the men with his gun.
Hotaling recently hit the 20-year service mark as a Schenectady cop, making him eligible for a full pension. His pension was never in the balance. Pensions are guaranteed under state law, courts have said, and are not subject to criminal convictions.
He continues to be barred from possessing any weapons and will be for the duration of the six months.
Orders of protection have been in place since the start of the case, barring Hotaling from having contact with the victims. Anyone under an order of protection is automatically barred from possessing a gun, Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said.
Murphy’s office took the case because the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office declared a conflict of interest.
After the six months, Hotaling can apply for a pistol permit. However, Murphy said that even if the case is dismissed as expected, the judge considering that permit will be able to take into account the Glenville case in deciding whether to grant the permit.
The type of community service Hotaling will have to perform will be up to the court. If the anger management evaluation results in a treatment recommendation, Hotaling will be obligated to complete that treatment.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Murphy said the top priority was to ensure Hotaling was no longer a police officer.
“In light of that, we focused on stopping him from continuing to be a police officer, getting him off the street and have him surrender his weapon, and that is what we accomplished today,” Murphy said in the statement. “The interests of justice have been served.”
Hotaling’s attorney, Andrew Safranko, said the plea deal does not bar Hotaling from being a police officer somewhere after the six months are up.
Hotaling did not plan to retire now, Safranko said. He had intended to serve another 10 years or more and had “an impeccable record,” Safranko added.
“For anyone who’s saying this isn’t a punishment for him, it’s just absolutely not true,” Safranko said.
Safranko also said Hotaling’s choice to accept the deal was a “business decision” to move on and resolve the case.
Also at the court appearance was one of Hotaling’s accusers, Jeffrey Arnow. Arnow has been unhappy with the resolution of the case and with the prosecution. Arnow attempted to express his dissatisfaction to Davenport during the proceedings, but was not allowed. The prosecutor was the one to speak for him, he was told.
Outside the court, the emotions of the case were raw, with Arnow and an apparent supporter of Hotaling getting into a brief argument, after which he gave his assessment of the case.
“All I can say is this man pulled a gun,” Arnow said. “The man was guilty. I’m not happy at all.”