Editor's note: I've updated this post with a link to the Appellate Court opinion that ultimately freed former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa.
An appeals court cited misconduct by the prosecutor and serious missteps by the judge during the 2012 jury trial of former Police Chief Ken Zisa, who was found guilty of official misconduct and insurance fraud.
But in freeing Zisa, no court or judge has ever said he didn't do what he was charged with doing when he intervened at an accident scene involving his girlfriend, who crashed his SUV, allegedly while intoxicated, and then filed a bogus $11,000 insurance claim.
For that reason, Hackensack officials will fight a federal lawsuit that seeks nearly $30 million in damages, alleging Zisa's civil rights were violated by a law-enforcement conspiracy in Bergen County.
The filing of the suit was reported by the Hackensack Daily Voice on Aug. 1, four days before the story appeared in The Record of Woodland Park.
The state Appellate Court opinion that ultimately freed Zisa noted the trial judge let stand "defendant's conviction on one count of official misconduct ... for affirmatively interfering" in the the auto accident investigation in 2008, as well as his conviction on one count of insurance fraud.
See the full opinion:
State of New Jersey v. Charles K. Zisa
Last October, the city began paying Zisa the $2.95 million ordered by the judge that freed him last August -- $1,755,000 in back pay, vacation days, sick days and other compensation (money he lost after he was suspended) and nearly $1,203,000 in legal fees
This year, the former police chief said that he had no intention of suing the city, but that was before a City Council slate backed by the Zisa family political dynasty lost the non-partisan May election.
The Zisas -- including the disgraced chief, former four-term mayor Jack Zisa; and their cousin, former City Attorney Joseph Zisa -- had transformed the city into a North Jersey laughing stock called "Zisaville" before City Council reformers were elected in 2013.
"There is apparently no end to the pain the Zisa family is willing to inflict on Hackensack," Mayor John Labrosse told The Record (Saturday's Page 1).
"This lawsuit has no merit and the city will vigorously defend taxpayers from this money grab," said the mayor, who was reelected in May, when his slate won all five council seats.
"Earlier this year, Ken Zisa said he has no intention of suing the city, but now we know that the truth is."
History of litigation
After Ken Zisa was indicted in 2010, about two dozen police officers sued him and the city, alleging corruption and intimidation.
"Most of the lawsuits stemmed from a bitterly contentious relationship between Zisa and police officers who accused him of engaging in campaigns of retribution and harassment as paybacks for their refusal to go along with his political demands [as a Democratic state assemblyman]," The Record has reported.
The city racked up $8 million in legal fees defending him, and insurers paid out many millions more to settle the cases, minus the deductibles.
In August 2012, the city paid $2.48 million to a Police Department dispatcher and former girlfriend of Frank Zisa, who was the city's deputy police chief.
The plaintiff, Alessandra Viola, alleged she faced disciplinary charges after she resisted sexual advances by both Ken and Frank Zisa.
Defense lawyer has link to The Record