Law Enforcement Officers Get a Lecture From the Judge

Judge Peter J. O’Brien has a suggestion for police – if you’re looking for a fugitive, try the phone book.

The straight-talking judge of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas disparaged local, New York City and New Jersey detectives and the FBI last week for failing to find a suspect whose name was listed in the phone book all the while.

Judge O’Brien dismissed charges of illegal drug possession against Henry Monzon, because Pocono Mountain Regional Police “failed to exercise due diligence to bring the Defendant to justice.”

In his opinion, Judge O’Brien described a litany of bumbling on the part of Detective Anthony Fluegel of the Pocono Mountain Regional and other police officers.

Police had alleged Monzon sold illegal drugs to an undercover police agent in 1996.

He moved to New York City and lived with his father, who shares the same name. Henry Monzon was listed in the directory. The defendant worked for his father for three years, then moved to Florida, where he opened a bank account, paid taxes and held credit cards, all in his name with the correct address.

Judge O’Brien’s opinion said Fluegel “made several attempts to ascertain the whereabouts” of Monzon in 1997 and 1998, and was told the young man lived in New York City.

Fluegal, O’Brien said, contacted the New York and Bergen County police as well as the FBI. They even had Monzon’s name entered in the National Criminal Information Center database. At no time, the judge said, was a credit check run.

“In 1999 and 2000 Detective Fluegel conducted no investigation into the whereabouts of Henry Monzon,” O’Brien wrote.

Then, four years after the alleged crime Monzon applied for a job with Capital One, which required fingerprints, and it was discovered that he was wanted in the Poconos.

His address then was given to Fluegel, and Monzon was arrested, extradited and arraigned.

Monzon claimed the four year delay violated his Constitutional right to a speedy trial. Judge O’Brien agreed, noting the failure of police to do even a rudimentary search of public records.