Last month, the charges of criminal trespassing against Weehawken Building Inspector Jorge Chemas were dismissed by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
“He was charged with criminal trespassing and [the matter] was transferred to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Marvin Walden, Chemas’ attorney. “They reviewed the entire matter and on Sept. 18 dismissed all charges against Mr. Chemas.”
Over the summer, an incident involving Chemas and Weehawken Lt. Richard DeCosmis turned ugly when DeCosmis had Chemas arrested for harassment and trespassing on his King Avenue property.
Chemas claims that he had entered DeCosmis’ home to inspect permits after noticing that electrical work was possibly being done on the property without the proper permits.
However, DeCosmis said there was no electrical work being done, and charged that Chemas was not a licensed building inspector and had no reason to be on his property.
As a result, Chemas was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. DeCosmis also claimed that he was being harassed by the building inspector and others due to ongoing legal troubles with Mayor Richard Turner and other town officials.
However, after being reviewed by the prosecutor’s office, it was determined that the charges of trespassing against Chemas had no basis.
“Their ultimate decision confirms what I have said all along in representing Mr. Chemas and what the town officials have said in that Mr. Chemas had every right to investigate what he believed to be a violation of the permits that were issued by the building department to Mr. DeCosmis,” said Walden.
Question of permits
DeCosmis, who bought his King Avenue home about a year ago, had been making ongoing upgrades to his home, which was in need of cosmetic repair.
At the time he had acquired the necessary permits for the work, which were displayed in the front windows of the home, included permits for siding and roofing work. DeCosmis never had any permits issued for electrical work.
On July 10, Chemas was making his routine rounds and verifying proper construction permits when he noticed an electrical truck parked in front of DeCosmis’ property. He also said that he saw a worker unloading cables and other electrical equipment onto the porch.
“That is what he was doing when he was intimidated, harassed and arrested based on false claims by Mr. DeCosmis that he was trespassing,” said Walden.
When Chemas entered the property to inspect the permits, Chemas’ attorney Marvin Walden claims he was accosted by DeCosmis and threatened with arrest if he did not leave the property.
In an interview with the Reporter this past July, DeCosmis said there was no electrical work being done on the house. The truck in the driveway belonged to a friend, who is an electrical worker, and was helping him repair a hanging light fixture on the front porch.
DeCosmis also claimed that Chemas is not a licensed building inspector, so had no right to enter his home.
Chemas is not a certified code building inspector, however, he is authorized by the town as a building inspector to do verifications and make sure that everything is being done with permits.
DeCosmis proceeded to call the police and four cars arrived at the scene to arrest Chemas.
According to Walden, the police department responded with “quite a show of force.”
As a result of the incident, Chemas filed a complaint with internal affairs department in Weehawken against DeCosmis for abuse of his authority as a police officer to intimidate and harass a building inspector from doing his lawful duties and job.
Charges dismissed, others pending
Last month, the case was taken to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
“The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office was reviewing [the case] because it was an internal affairs [matter] involving the police department and town employee,” said Weehawken Law Director Richard Venino. “After their investigation they decided there was no basis for the arrest of Chemas. That he was doing his job properly and that Mr. Chemas’ complaint against Lt. DeCosmis should go forward.”
According to Venino, the charges against DeCosmis for abuse of power and denying Chemas to inspect his property were downgraded to a misdemeanor of misconduct.
The case will also go to another municipal court because they are both municipal employees. Chemas is pursuing civil claims against DeCosmis as well.
“He has certainly filed a claim for infliction of emotional distress,” said Walden. “He certainly has suffered from being arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted and subjected to the criminal process. That was a very frightening experience for him.”
Any compensation from the claim would be decided by the municipal court.
In addition, about a week after the initial incident DeCosmis was also served with a stop work order from the building department for the violation of permits and refusing access to the property by a building inspector.
The order also stated that construction may resume once the building department was allowed to inspect the property, and proper permits acquired. The violations carried a fine of $2,000 each with an additional $2,000 a week after July 25 if DeCosmis did not comply.
“Our inspectors went in and found that he was [allegedly] doing renovations [including] electrical work, plumbing work, and building work without permits, so he was issued violations for those and he has appealed those violations to the County Construction Board of Appeals and that matter is pending,” said Venino.
The matter is scheduled to be heard on Nov. 5. Comments on this story can be sent to: email@example.com.