New information in the investigation into an Auburn Police officer who was involved in an accident while on duty
At first, the official report didn't look much different from dozens of other accident reports on January 13th. Auburn Police Sgt. Joseph DeVietro's police car was hit by a pickup truck that slid through an icy intersection. What the first draft of the official accident report did not include - and what the captain who wrote it did not know at the time - was that DeVietro's teenage daughter and a friend were in the car when it was hit. Even if a police officer is off duty, carrying passengers for personal business is a violation of Auburn city policy. The accident report was later corrected and DeVietro was disciplined. In an interview four days after the crash, Auburn Police Chief Gary Giannotta said it was just poor communication between officers.
"I don't believe there was any attempt to cover anything up. I believe it was a comedy of errors, I really do," said Giannotta.
CNYCentral filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any reports related to the case. We were given the official accident report but were told twice by Chief Giannotta that Sgt. DeVietro did not file his own report nor were reports filed by other officers.
Now others in Auburn city government say more reports do exist.
In response to CNYCentral's request, Auburn Assistant Corporation Counsel Andrew Fusco said he could not release them. "The materials sought are 'considered confidential' under New York Civil Rights Law because the materials sought were used by Chief Giannotta in evaluating Sgt. DeVietro's performance. Hence, I am prohibited from disclosing those materials to you, absent Sgt. Devietro's consent or a Court Order," said Fusco in a statement.
Auburn City Manager Douglas Selby also confirmed that Sgt. DeVietro and other officers wrote reports in the days after the crash. Selby said he read those reports and considered them as part of an internal investigation he conducted. Selby declined to watch portions of CNYCentral's interview with Chief Giannotta but said he didn't know why the chief would say the reports didn't exist.
"I really can't respond to why the chief would tell you certain things didn't exist if in fact they did. I didn't ask the chief about that, I wasn't aware he had made that statement," said Selby on Thursday.
In a brief phone interview on Thursday, Giannotta maintained his stance that there is no report written by DeVietro even after he was informed that the letter from the Assistant Corporation Counsel referenced the materials.
Auburn's City Manager said his internal investigation found that Sgt. DeVietro violated department policy by having a civilian in his car but Selby does not believe the reports the city wants to keep confidential show any evidence of a cover up.
"Were they released I don't think they would change any of the conclusions I have come to in regard to this situation being a result of a couple of situations where communication was inadequate that morning," said Selby.
Selby said he planned to talk to Chief Giannotta about why he has continued to deny that the reports exist.