FREEHOLD – A Monmouth County jury found Little Silver Police Officer Steven Solari guilty on Thursday of four counts of second-degree official misconduct, third-degree hindering the apprehension of oneself and assault in connection with a 2009 incident in the borough, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.
Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Francis J. Vernoia presided over the five-week trial culminating with the conviction of Solari.
Solari is scheduled to be sentenced by Vernoia on Jan. 17. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, with a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility on each of the four official misconduct counts; five years on the hindering apprehension count; and six months on the assault count.
“No one is above the law, especially not members of the law enforcement community who hold the public trust, and who are sworn to uphold the law by protecting and serving the general public,” Gramiccioni said.
Little Silver Police Chief Daniel Shaffery said, “As police officers we are held to a higher standard and we must maintain those high standards to deserve the trust the public provides us on a daily basis.”
Evidence presented during the trial revealed Solari performed a welfare check on an adult male at a private residence in Little Silver on Dec. 20, 2009 at the request of the individual’s mother – but the event ended with Solari arresting the man and placing him in handcuffs. During the course of the arrest, the man suffered a head injury, severe bleeding and eye irritation after being sprayed by Solari with pepper spray.
An ambulance on scene was ready to transport the victim to a nearby hospital but, in violation of departmental procedure, Solari transported the victim to police headquarters for processing. During processing, Solari attempted to take booking photographs of the victim, but the victim did not cooperate during the taking of a side-profile photograph. An agitated Solari responded by punching the handcuffed victim multiple times in the head, knocking him into a metal filing cabinet where the victim struck his head. The injured man was eventually transported to Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, where he was treated and released the following day.
Within days of the incident, Solari submitted a police report that contained numerous false statements in an effort to conceal his crimes, including a claim the man “began to lunge” at one of the first-aid responders who was in the room at the time of the assault. However, both first-aid responders and the victim testified there was no “lunge,” but rather that an angry Solari assaulted the victim because he would not pose for the booking photograph.
In a further effort to conceal his crimes, Solari also approached one of the first-aid responders on three separate occasions – twice while in police uniform – instructing the witness to tell anyone asking about the incident to “just remember he lunged.”
The charges resulted from an investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in conjunction with the Little Silver Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office’s Financial Crimes & Public Corruption Unit.