This is the first in what is intended to be a series.
We are in the process of reporting out on corruption in New Rochelle involving Vincent Mirabile, a retired New Rochelle Police Detective with a long and sordid past. We will get into those topics soon enough but in the process of reporting on Mirabile and the goings on with his business, Cousins Cigar & Hookah Lounge, matters took an unexpected turn. As if Vinnie Mirabile wants to be exposed for his use of contacts in the New Rochelle Police Department and City Government to circumvent the laws of New Rochelle, Westchester County and New York State, he gave us this story on Wednesday.
Having completed the public records research for municipal records in New Rochelle, there was still the matter of offering Mirabile an opportunity to respond to the allegations in our reporting and documenting two specific items that required a visit to 245 Main Street, the home of Cousins Cigars.
Mirabile was sent an email on June 8 describing, in part, our reporting and offering him the opportunity to provide documentation that might refute our conclusions. Having not received a response, a second follow-up email was sent on June 20. Mirabile did not respond to either of the two emails.
One set of allegations pertains to illegal parking by Vincent Mirabile and customers of Cousins Cigars. For years, residents on Pratt Street have complained that Mirabile has parked his vehicle, currently a silver Jeep with “Cousins Cigars” emblazoned on the spare tire cover on the back, in the Tow-Away Zone at the corner of Pratt and East Main Street. Also, that customers park in the Loading Zone and Tow-Away Zone on East Main Street in front of the store.
Another set of allegations pertains to a Sidewalk Cafe set up in the area in front of the store. Under the New Rochelle City Code, restaurants can set up tables and chairs outside, with certain restrictions and pay a fee based on the square footage occupied by the tables and chairs.
So now we will tell the story of how things took an unexpected turn:
Robert Cox: On Wednesday, June 21 at approximately 1 p.m., I went to the area, photographed the street signs and, predictably, came across four illegally parked cars including Mirabile’s jeep. I sent a photo of the jeep to the City Manager and Corporation Counsel to report a vehicle parked in a Tow-Away zone.
I then measured the concrete squares in front of the deli next door to Cousins Cigars and counted them to determine the “depth” of the Sidewalk Cafe set up in front of Cousins Cigars and then the concrete squares near the street to determine the “width”. I then left the area. I was at the scene for 5 minutes and spoke to no one other than a family member who accompanied me.
While leaving the area, Mirabile came out of his store, and followed me to the corner, along with an associate who appeared to be recording me with a smartphone. As I drove away, Mirabile and his associate glared; his associate made several gestures which I will not describe here.
A while later, I noticed a voice mail had just been left of on my telephone. There was a message from Police Officer Jose Hued asking to speak with me about a “matter” that had “come to my attention”. I return his call within less than a minute and spoke with PO Hued for 4 minutes. He stated that the New Rochelle Police Department had received a complaint from “Mr. Mirabile” stating that I had “came (sic) onto his property” and “took some pictures of his store” and “sent him some emails”.
I did not go onto Mr. Mirabile’s property. I already described the two emails, notices which I am obligated to send for legal reasons before running a story like the ones for this series. There is no prohibition on taking photographs in public.
Asked if there was a specific complaint, PO Hued stated that Mirabile “wants you to stop contacting him”, “he does not wish to talk to you”, “wishes that you cease or discontinue from (sic) making any contact from (sic) him,” “He would also like you for not (sic) to step into his store, he never stated that you stepped into his store but you are not welcome to his store but that’s inside the store”, “just cease from contacting him via email or any other source of contact.”
If I never went in his store and the store is “his” property then why claim I came onto his property? Other than the two emails, to the best of my recollection, I have not communicated with Vinny Mirabile in years.
PO Hued asked me to tell my side of the story. I declined. He then repeated Mirabile’s desire not to be contacted.
Asked why this was a concern of the New Rochelle Police, PO Hued said “He feels that you contacting him is a form of harassment”.
Asked if this is a harassment complaint, PO Hued said “Oh no, this is a dispute complaint”.
I know what a “dispute” is and I know what a “complaint” is but I have never heard of a “dispute complaint” as a dispute would imply that there was some disagreement over whether some crime or violation had occurred.
Asked if there was a complaint filed, PO Hued said “Yes, of a dispute.” What that “dispute” might be was never made clear.
After PO Hued confirmed there was a police record of Mirabile’s complaint, I told him I would file a Freedom of Information Request to obtain the record and file a complaint with the City Manager about PO Hued’s phone call.
I made a complaint to the City Manager. I also filed a Freedom of Information request with the New Rochelle Police Department for the Incident Report, related documents, relevant pages of PO Hued’s notes from his notebook and any other records used to collect information or otherwise prepare reports, the recording of phone call(s) made by Vincent Mirabile to NRPD, the dispatch of PO Hued to 245 Main Street and all subsequent radio communications until PO Hued was released from the scene, GPS data for the patrol car utilized by PO Hued from the initial call until he was "freed”, any other audio or video recordings pertaining to this matter including dash cam or body cam audio/video.
On Thursday, I filed an Internal Affairs Complaint with the New Rochelle Police Department describing the phone call and my belief that PO Hued was acting improperly on behalf of Mirabile in an attempt to harass, intimidate, pressure or otherwise discourage me from reporting on corruption in New Rochelle involving Vincent Mirabile.
At police headquarters, I learned the process of filing an Internal Affairs Complaint is not smooth or welcoming. I was there to drop off a complaint form downloaded from the NRPD web site. That should have been a matter of a minute or two, no different than depositing a check with a bank teller. It took between 15 and 20 minutes to file my complaint form. There is no “receipt” given to a complainant so no way to prove later than a complaint was filed, when and with whom.
While waiting at the police station, I took time to make a recommendation to City Officials. I described my concern that there was no "receipt” given to a complainant so it feels like a complaint goes into a "black hole". I noted that given the nature of the complaint that strikes me as problematic. I suggested that a complainant should walk out with a document in hand that confirms the NRPD received/accepted the complaint (who, when, etc).
Police Commissioner Carroll responded to my suggestion:
“Good idea. A log will be kept at the desk and the complainant will be assigned and given a number. This number will be accompanied with information regarding the complaint process. Anonymous complaints, no matter how received – mail, phone, or in person, will be assigned a number and marked anonymous.”
While this is a positive change, Carroll has been Police Commissioner for decades.
At the front desk, I was challenged several times in my attempt to submit a complaint. My complaint was mischaracterized and minimized while the behavior of PO Hued was excused and defended. I was told my complaint was only that there was no report filed and that there was a report filed so there was no need to file a complaint, that the officer was just doing his job, that the complaint was not done just through a phone call, that the officer was not calling out of the blue, that he was just doing his job, that I might have something against retired Detective Mirabile but that PO Hued was just following up on a report. I was asked if I was sure I wanted to file the complaint, asked if I wanted to hold off on filing the complaint and so on. I stated that I absolutely wanted to file the report at which point, 15+ minutes after I first attempted to submit the report, the report was finally accepted. I still do not have a receipt showing that I filed the complaint.
Shortly after filing the Internal Affairs complaint, the City Manager sent me a copy of the NRPD Event Report for the complaint filed by Vinny Mirabile.
The timeline reads as follows:
- Event Date: 1:57 PM
- Dispatch: 2:00 PM
- Arrived at Scene: 2:03 PM
- Freed: 3:21 PM
- Call Type: Dispute
The Narrative reads as follows:
fwashington- 6/21/2017- 13:57:22
comp states bob cox is harassing him
jhued- 6/21/2017- 14:58:41
At 1357hrs I responded to Inc Loc on a report of a Harassment. Upon arrival Comp/Mirabile stated that a PI/Cox has contacted him via Email on several dates (June 8 2017 and June 20 2017) asking him to produce permits in relation to the Business that Comp/Mirabile owns (Cousins Cigar & Hookah Lounge). Complainant stated that he has lost business and customers due to PI/Cox writing on his Blog about Comp/Mirabile's business. Complainant stated that PI/Cox has written/made detrimental statements about the Comp/Mirabile and his business. Moreover, Comp/Mirabile stated that prior to my arrival he observed PI/Cox taking pictures of his business and taking measurements of the sidewalk IFO the Comp/Mirable's business.
Complainant stated that at this time he wishes that PI/Cox stop contacting him. Vac issued.
I then attempted to interview PI/Cox via telephone at HQ around 2:55PM on this date. PI/Cox was advised to cease contact with the complainant. PI/Cox refused to speak any further after I gave him the warning to please refrain from making any contact with Comp/Mirabile. PI/Cox advised that he will be speaking to City Officials next about RO making contact with him in regards to thisincident. HQ advised.
A few items stand out in this report.
Why does the narrative state that Mirabile called to make a harassment complaint and PO Hued states he responded to “a report of a Harassment” but on the telephone he denied there was a harassment complaint?
Why was PO Hued at Cousins Cigar & Hookah Lounge from 2:03 PM to 3:21 PM? Why did PO Hued spend an hour and twenty minutes at the incident location to take a complaint that he wrote up in six sentences? What can a person do on a hot summer afternoon inside an air conditioned cigar lounge?
Why does PO Hued’s report state that he took Mirabile’s complaint at 1357hrs, the exact time the Event Report states Mirabile called NRPD?
Why does the time stamp on PO Hued’s report (“6/21/2017- 14:58:41”) indicate that he wrote his narrative report 3 minutes after he says he attempted to “interview PI/Cox via telephone at HQ around 2:55PM on this date”?
There are many other questions but it appears that what really took place here is that Vinny Mirabile used his connections with the New Rochelle Police Department to obtain a favor from PO Hued in the form of an ominous, threatening phone call based on entirely bogus allegations. claims of trespassing and harassment which are wholly without merit.
In response to my complaint to the City Manager, Chuck Strome stated:
“As to the nature of the phone call between you and Officer Hued, we will handle that internally and administratively…you should get all the stuff you asked for in your FOIL request and a formal response to your Internal Affairs complaint.”
While we wait for that, next up we will proceed with the story we have been working on for the past couple of months on Vincent Mirabile, Cousins Cigar & Hookah Lounge and public sector corruption in New Rochelle.
NEXT: WHO IS VINCENT “VINNY” MIRABILE? — PART II