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District attorney infuriated over NOPD officer's lack of cooperation

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro isn't holding anything back when he describes his frustration over an NOPD officer's lack of cooperation in a recent domestic abuse case.

"The thing that is most disturbing, the thing that is most upsetting to me about this case is we have a member of the police department who refuses to get involved in the prosecution of a case," Cannizzaro said.

The case involved the NOPD officer, who is not being identified by FOX 8, and her husband.

Cannizzaro said on Nov. 1 of last year, the two got into a verbal argument that escalated out of control.

"The heated argument escalated into an exchange of fists and the throwing of things at each other," Cannizzaro said.

He said the officer's husband punched her in the face.

"And there's evidence of this because she experiences a cut lip and she is so fearful of him, she runs into the bathroom, and according to her report, she runs into the bathroom with her 11-month-old child. She locks the door so her husband cannot have access to her. The husband attempts to kick the door down, but he is not successful in doing that," Cannizzaro said.

Cannizzaro said the husband then armed himself with a gun and fired a shot into the bathroom door.

No one was hit, but police were called and the husband was arrested for illegally discharging a weapon and for domestic abuse battery.

Cannizzaro said the officer refused to come to court or even to speak with prosecutors.

"Finally what we had to do in the District Court was go to a judge and ask him to sign a material witness bond in order to get her to walk into court. We almost had to get her arrested to come into court and testify," Cannizzaro said.

Once in court, the officer's attorney argued for spousal privilege, meaning she did not want to testify against her husband. The judge granted that motion.

"There is a police officer, on the force, in this department who refuses to get involved in prosecution, Cannizzaro said. "What kind of message does that send to the average citizen in our community? We are encouraging people - who do not have a law enforcement background - to come forward and get involved."

"I think people looking from the outside are probably saying 'as a police officer, as a female, how could she not do this?' But as a victim and somebody that's in that role, I can't imagine the struggles," says Rebecca Rainey with the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children.

Rainey said victims often react just as the officer did.

"For some victims, you know, if the incident isn't as severe as past incidents have been, it's a sign that maybe he's getting better," Rainey said. "If there's children involved - and depending on if he's the bread winner, that could take away a lot of resources for her."

Still, Cannizzaro believes the officer's actions are inexcusable.

"This is an aberration," he said. "This is an exception. This is a person who does not deserve to wear the uniform. She does not deserve to wear the badge. In my opinion, this is an officer who does not and should not be a member of the police department because she was extremely remiss in a responsibility that she has, not only as a citizen, not only as a mother, not only as a member of this society, but as a member of this police department."

The DA's office did continue to prosecute the officer's husband. He pleaded guilty to attempted illegal discharge of a weapon and simple battery and was sentenced to one year of probation.

The Fraternal Order of Police released the following statement on behalf of the officer:

"While the District Attorney's frustration is understandable, his attitude against the victim of the alleged crime is insensitive and it's the primary reason many victims refuse to cooperate out of fear. We cannot forget, this officer is human first and subject to the same emotions, thoughts and actions anyone else in her situation may have had."

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