A city officer suspended since March returned to work Friday after admitting to two traffic violations to resolve a misdemeanor case brought against him.
Aaron Zampella pleaded guilty in Schenectady City Court to infractions of imprudent speed and failure to comply.
He performed a required 10 hours of community service ahead of the morning plea. He will have five points assessed against his license and have to pay the regular fines and surcharges.
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett confirmed Friday that the resolution led to Zampella returning to work later in the day after approximately eight weeks out.
The plea resolves the misdemeanor charge of unlawfully fleeing a police officer that had been brought against the five-year police veteran in the off-duty incident.
Prosecutor Michael Tiffany noted in court that after reviewing the evidence that the case didn’t fit the misdemeanor because of both lack of speed and recklessness.
Zampella attorney Steve Kouray outlined the deal earlier this week, saying the in-car video from the stopping officer ruled out the necessary speed and necessary recklessness needed for the misdemeanor charge.
As to why Zampella left the traffic stop, Kouray declined to comment Friday, simply calling it a mistake.
“It was a mistake, he owned up to it. It’s over,” Kouray said.
The incident happened March 25 at about 1:15 a.m. on Broadway after a traffic stop by on-duty Officer Nick Ottati.
Ottati, with his marked patrol car’s lights on, pulled Zampella over for speeding. Police said Zampella pulled away as the officer approached his car. Court paperwork alleged Zampella sped away and swerved around a tow truck and into the oncoming lane.
Police said they soon pulled Zampella over again on Campbell Avenue. They determined Zampella was driving, but neither alcohol nor drugs were involved. Police filed the misdemeanor charge later in the day and Zampella turned himself in that afternoon.
In court Friday morning, Judge Mark Caruso went over the rights Zampella was giving up by pleading guilty to the infractions. Zampella indicated he understood.
He then pleaded guilty to both.
Outside the courtroom, Zampella declined to comment, as did his father, Arthur Zampella, who accompanied him. Arthur Zampella served 31 years with the department.
Kouray said, “I’m glad it’s over. It’s fair. It’s what the evidence was and now Aaron can get on with his life.”
Zampella returned to work, having been suspended since the incident. He served his suspension without pay for 30 days and then with pay.
Bennett noted Zampella’s return will help a department that is already down a number of officers. As for the incident, Bennett considers it closed.
“I look at it this way: It’s behind him and it’s behind us,” Bennett said. “We all need to move on here.”