MONTGOMERY COUNTY -- Two Montgomery County sheriff's deputies have been charged in connection with an alleged hit-and-run accident involving a teenager on a skateboard.
The Sheriff's Department announced Monday that deputies Roberto Gracia, 46, and Theresa Pingitore, 48, both of Amsterdam, were both arrested Sunday and charged with failing to do their duty as law enforcement officers and attempting to cover up a crime.
According to deputies, on July 11 at about 9 p.m., Gracia, a 15-year veteran of the department and an investigator, was driving his personal vehicle on Northern Boulevard in the town of Amsterdam with his child in the car when he ran into town resident Julian Louscher, 18, who was riding a skateboard with his friend.
Deputies said Louscher was hit by the right front corner of Gracia's car and rolled over the hood, hitting the windshield, causing it to break. Louscher suffered cuts and scrapes to his head, left shoulder and arm.
Louscher and Gracia "exchanged words" and then Gracia drove away from the scene, but not before Louscher used his cellphone to take photos of Gracia and his vehicle, according to deputies.
Gracia did not report the accident to the Sheriff's Department. Sheriff's deputies said they received a call at about 12:45 p.m. on July 12 to check into the well being of a person who may have been hit by a vehicle the night before.
Amato, during a news conference Monday, said the person who first reported the accident to the Sheriff's Department was a woman, but did not give any specifics about her.
The department then began an investigation, and, according to deputies, requested assistance from the New York State Police forensics unit.
During the course of the investigation, deputies said it was determined Pingitore also knew about the accident and failed to perform her duty as a police officer by not reporting it.
Amato said investigators have determined that Gracia and Pingitore had been corresponding, but did not describe the method they had used to do that.
Gracia has been charged with failure to report a personal injury accident and professional misconduct for failing to perform his duty as a police officer. Both charges are misdemeanors. He has also been charged with tampering with evidence, a class E felony.
"We secured the car, we felt there might have been some things touched on the car, and we had forensics done on it and our assumption is that something might have been done and that warranted that charge," Amato said during the news conference. "We went back to the scene, or the best that we could, to figure out where it might have happened, but unfortunately the road was paved within a 24 hour period, it was repaved."
Pingitore, a 29-year veteran, was charged with professional misconduct, a misdemeanor.
Amato said the investigation was continuing and it's possible there could be other people charged.
Both deputies have been on paid administrative leave since the investigation began, pending a departmental disciplinary investigation. According to the website seethroughny.net, Pingitore was paid $60,592 in 2017. The website did not list a salary for Gracia.
Amato did not return phone calls seeking further comment for this story.
Both deputies were issued appearance tickets for Amsterdam Town Court and Amsterdam City Court.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has been assigned as the special prosecutor in the case, due to the deputies' working relationship with the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office.
According to state and county officials, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department has acted as the lead agency in the investigation of the alleged hit and run, receiving assistance from the state police, but not giving up control.
Two candidates for Montgomery County sheriff in the November elections, Democrat James Glorioso Jr. and Republican Jeff Smith, both issued statements after the announcement of the arrest of the two deputies.
Glorioso said if he were sheriff he would want to establish a Sheriff's Citizens Advisory Board composed of local community members to help restore public faith in the Sheriff's Department. He said Amato may have good reasons for wanting the Sheriff's Department to be in control of the investigation that he isn't aware of, but if he were sheriff his preference would have been for the state police to control the investigation.
"I don’t know all the specifics surrounding this case, but I certainly would have turned it directly over to the state police so that the investigation is unbiased," he said.
In his statement, Smith called the arrests "disturbing" and said he was glad the victim was not seriously injured. Smith said if he were sheriff he would have turned over control to the state police.
"If I was the sheriff I would have an outside agency, if it's a criminal investigation pertaining to someone in the office, I would have an outside agency spearhead that. I would want to stay involved to be advised of what's going on in that investigation, but I wouldn't expect my employees to investigate the people that they work with," Smith said.