Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Deputy Mayor Rick Csapo - Sentenced - Traverse City

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Deputy Mayor Rick Csapo charged with domestic violence



 Deputy Mayor / Commissioner Ricky Csapo [left], with his defense attorney.

Csapo fined for domestic violence
He has already sought counseling since June dispute
Traverse City Record Eagle, MI
By VICTOR SKINNER 01/11/2007

Former Traverse City deputy mayor Rick Csapo, left, accompanied by his attorney Clarence Gomery, is overcome with emotion while addressing 86th District Court Judge Thomas Phillips at his sentencing at the Robert P. Griffin Hall of Justice in Traverse City. Record-Eagle/Tyler Sipe

TRAVERSE CITY — Former Traverse City commissioner Rick Csapo must pay $750 in fines and court costs and attend counseling sessions but received no additional jail time for assaulting his wife on a downtown street after a night of drinking.

District Court Judge Thomas J. Phillips sentenced Csapo Wednesday to three days in jail with credit for three days already served following the June 23 altercation along West Front Street.

Philips also ordered Csapo to stay out of bars. "The important thing is you learn from this so it doesn't happen again,” Phillips said.

Jurors found Csapo guilty of domestic violence Dec. 4 after only 35 minutes of deliberation. Witnesses testified they saw him argue loudly with his wife before he pushed her head against a window.

Csapo's attorney, Clarence Gomery, pointed out that Csapo has voluntarily sought treatment and counseling since the incident.

Csapo has already suffered publicly for months and "has done everything possible to apologize,” Gomery said.

"He has lost his job. He has lost his political position. I think that he has gone far and above,” Gomery said.

But Assistant State Attorney General Erin House countered that Csapo has never admitted to assaulting his wife and deserved more jail time.

"He talks about making an error in judgement. He never once admits in his public apology that he assaulted his wife,” House said.

"His behavior is appalling.”

An emotional and tearful Csapo talked about his alcohol problems and his struggle to overcome them, but did not apologize for the assault.

"I have not touched a drop of alcohol since June ... nor do I want to,” he said. "I accept my responsibility for that night. I was found guilty by a jury and I accept that.”

Breaking News
Csapo resigns from TC commission
TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioner Rick Csapo resigned from the commission Monday morning following his conviction on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.

Csapo submitted a letter to city Clerk Debbra Curtis tendering his immediate resignation from the commission and other related posts including vice-chairman of the Grand Traverse County Board of Public Works, and chairman of the county's Solid Waste Planning Committee.

"Elected to this office by the citizens of Traverse City has been both an honor and a privilege,” Csapo said in his letter. "I am saddened to resign, but the events of last six months compels me (to) submit this letter.”

He also delivered a written statement apologizing for the incident and for his statements to city police and witnesses during the June 23 incident. Csapo was convicted by a District Court jury last week on a charge of domestic violence stemming from an altercation with his wife on a downtown street. He's scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10.

A special city commission meeting scheduled for Monday night to discuss a possible request from other commissioners for Csapo's resignation was canceled following Csapo's resignation letter. A commission study session will go on as scheduled.

The commission will discuss filling Csapo's vacancy at its regular meeting Dec. 18 at the Governmental Center.

Officials want an apology
Traverse City Record Eagle, MI
By Vanessa McCray
December 07, 2006

TRAVERSE CITY — City Commissioner Rick Csapo should apologize for profane comments he allegedly made about city police during a fracas that resulted in Csapo's domestic violence conviction, several of his fellow board members said.

A jury found Csapo guilty Monday for assaulting his wife during an argument on a downtown street. Police said Csapo appeared intoxicated during the incident.

A city police report recounted how a loudly profane Csapo railed during the June 23 incident against police and a group of young people who witnessed the commissioner push his wife's head into a plate glass window on West Front Street.

Csapo, a retired Grand Traverse County sheriff's deputy, was first elected to the commission in 2001. He did not return repeated calls for comment. Csapo maintained his innocence throughout the trial and said he didn't assault his wife, but tried to calm her.

Mayor Linda Smyka and city commissioners Scott Hardy and Ralph Soffredine said Csapo should apologize for his comments.

Smyka called the remarks "very inappropriate” and said there appears to be a "huge discrepancy” between what Csapo "recalls happening and what people report.”

"I was hopeful myself that there would be an apology forthcoming, and that hasn't happened,” she said.

Smyka said Csapo's comments were "inappropriate for anyone ... let alone a city commissioner.”

"There's no excuse for that, in my opinion,” she said.

"I think he owes those officers an apology,” said Soffredine, the former city police chief.

Soffredine termed the statements "unfortunate” and the situation "difficult.” He said he's never heard Csapo make derogatory comments about city police in the past.

"I would agree that if any of us, sober or not, makes statements that are derogatory towards any of city staff, we ought to apologize for those,” said Hardy. "I do think an apology is in order, but, again, that is something else we can't mandate. That is up to Rick.”

Csapo deserves time to sort out how he will respond to the verdict, but should react soon, Hardy said. The commission could have an "ethical responsibility” to release its "public position” on the matter, depending on how Csapo responds, Hardy said.

A city elected official is not removed from office because of a misdemeanor conviction, said city attorney W. Peter Doren.

"There's nothing in the charter ... that talks about what happens when someone is convicted of a misdemeanor,” he said.

Commissioners would be removed from office if convicted of a felony. Thus far, city commissioners have not called for Csapo to resign.

"I am really struggling with it personally because it's been a very difficult thing to go through,” Smyka said. "I haven't really reached any kind of decision in my own mind.”

Soffredine said resignation is a decision for Csapo to make.

Csapo served as mayor pro tem at the time of the incident, but commissioners in November appointed Hardy to that second-in-command post. Csapo is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Rick Csapo, left, and defense attorney Clarence Gomery listen to assistant state attorney general Erin House at Csapo's trial in 86th District Court. Record-Eagle/Tyler Sipe

Csapo guilty of domestic assault
Traverse City Record Eagle, MI
TRAVERSE CITY — Jurors needed only 35 minutes of deliberation after a daylong trial to find Traverse City Commissioner Ricky Edward Csapo guilty of domestic violence for assaulting his wife during an alcohol-fueled encounter on a downtown street.

Prosecution witnesses on Monday said they saw Csapo, 52, and his wife, Cynthia Csapo, argue loudly on West Front Street the evening of June 23 before he pushed her head against a window and she yelled for help.

"She said, 'call 911.' She was afraid,” said witness Kimberly Ayres, 20. "You can't grab someone's face with the palm of your hand and blatantly shove it into a window.”

Csapo declined to comment after the verdict. Csapo was also absent for Monday night's city commission meeting and could not be reached by phone for comment.

Csapo's lawyer, Clarence Gomery, said Csapo and his wife continued to deny the assault.

"It was their belief that this incident did not happen. They have always maintained there wasn't any assault,” Gomery said. "The jury entered a verdict and we will have to accept that. This matter has dragged on way too long and they are glad that the matter is finally closed and they can go on with their life.”

Csapo is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Gomery argued throughout the trial that Csapo tried to calm his wife after she had a panic attack brought on by a combination of alcohol, medications and stress.

But Traverse City Police officers at the scene said Csapo was highly intoxicated, uncooperative and yelled profanities, police reports show.

"He appeared to be very irrational,” Traverse City officer Mike Peters testified. "In my opinion, Mr. Csapo was more intoxicated that Mrs. Csapo.”

Csapo testified that he didn't yell at his wife, but instead tried to calm her. He said he grabbed her cheeks with both hands to look her in the eye and never pushed her into the window of a vacant building.

"I could have been stone sober and I would have done the same thing,” Csapo said.

Erin House, a special assistant state attorney general, asked Csapo why several witnesses said they saw the window behind his wife shake.

"I have no idea what hit it,” he said. "My personal belief was it was probably my bag on my shoulder.”

Both Csapos testified that Cynthia never left her husband's side during the duration of the incident, but witnesses and police told another story.

"She started running away and said (call) 911,” said witness James Mang.

Csapo initially was to face another misdemeanor charge for disturbing the peace, but District Court Judge Thomas Phillips dismissed the charge at Gomery's request.

Csapo was first elected to the city commission in 2001.

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