AUBURN — A former Auburn police officer could face up to seven years in prison after a Cayuga County jury found him guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for releasing confidential police information.
A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for nearly five hours Tuesday before returning a guilty verdict on five felonies, 23 misdemeanors and one violation. Sentencing is scheduled for May 3.
The jury found that Brian Hutchings received free or reduced prices for work done on his 72 Metcalf Drive home in Auburn in exchange for disclosing the location of state Department of Transportation commercial truck stops to two local contractors from Upstate Paving and Vitale Construction.
The jury also found that Hutchings threatened, pepper sprayed and struck Rizzo Construction driver Brian Walsh with a police baton after the driver’s company refused to dismiss an $1,800 bill for work done on Hutchings’ driveway. Rizzo Construction is a sister company of Upstate Paving.
Hutchings charged Walsh with several misdemeanors and traffic violations as a result of the May 14, 2008, incident, but also asked for felony charges too, which could have sent Walsh to prison.
All of Walsh’s charges were eventually dismissed after the state police finished their investigation into Hutchings.
“Most seriously, (Hutchings) put someone in danger of prison for his own ends,” District Attorney Jon Budelmann said after the verdict was read. “Fortunately the jury saw that.”
During deliberations, the jury repeatedly asked the judge to re-read directions related to what elements needed to be proven to convict Hutchings on several of the charges.
With 29 charges to examine, the jurors said they had problems remembering the criteria for each count.
Nearly 30 minutes before releasing the guilty verdict, the jurors asked for the criteria for finding Hutchings guilty of submitting a false written report in order to get charges filed against Walsh
Nearly 10 minutes later the jury asked for one of Hutchings’ written police statements and then quickly returned with a guilty verdict at 6:06 p.m.
The jury did not ask to review any other pieces of evidence or to review any of the testimony that included witnesses to the Walsh traffic stop and the two contractors, one of whom testified he was afraid to bill Hutchings for work because of his position as a police officer.
Defense attorney Emil Rossi said he was disappointed with the verdict and said his client maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
With the trial entering its third week, Rossi said there are likely issues that need to be examined by an appeals court, but it was too early to know what those are.
Rossi said he will ask Judge Mark Fandrich to consider several mitigating factors when Hutchings returns to court for sentencing on May 3.
“His life is defined by a lot more than the periods in this case,” Rossi said. “He is a 20-year veteran, a good, respected cop, a good father, a good husband and a good son.”
Budelmann said Hutchings faces up to seven years in prison if he receives the maximum sentence on the top felony counts if all the charges are run concurrently, but added he has not looked into the possibility of asking for consecutive sentences yet.
Budelmann said he has not considered a specific sentence recommendation, but has considered asking for prison.
Hutchings will remain in the Wayne County Jail without bail until sentencing.
Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould said Hutchings was processed at the Cayuga County Jail and then transferred to the Wayne County Jail Tuesday night as a safety precaution to keep Hutchings separated from inmates who might know him.
Cayuga County often transfers inmates with a law enforcement background to Wayne County for their own protection and vice-versa, Gould said.
Auburn Police Chief Gary Giannotta said that the investigation and trial has been rough on the department and its relationship with the public.
“I appreciate the people who came forward and initiated this complaint,” Giannotta said. “I know it was difficult for them and I really appreciate it. There were other people who advised us that there were other inappropriate things going on, but they were never willing to go on the record and file a complaint.
“I just hope the community realizes you can’t paint all of us with one brush. Overall we are a good department, and these actions do not reflect on everyone.”
Hutchings still faces separate charges that he stole money from the Auburn Police Benevolent Association while working as the organization’s treasurer.
The PBA is not associated with the department’s union.
Budelmann said that case is ready for trial, but hoped it could be resolved beforehand.
Rossi declined to comment on the PBA charges and Hutchings, who did not testify, declined to comment as he was taken to jail.
The jury found Hutchings guilty of two counts each of third-degree receiving a bribe, second-degree receiving an award for official misconduct and one count of falsifying business records, all felonies; 14 counts of official misconduct, three counts of third-degree coercion, three counts of offering to file or filing false information or statements and one count of second-degree obstructing governmental administration and falsely reporting an incident, all misdemeanors. The jury also found Hutchings guilty of second-degree harassment, a violation, for attacking Walsh.
Staff writer Nate Robson can be reached at 282-2248 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenRobson.