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Article posted Jun 20 2010, 3:11 PM Category: Politics/Corruption Source: The Morning Call Print

Bethlehem officials: Two police officers should be terminated

One officer is accused of tampering with evidence in car chase and crash.

Bethlehem police officials have recommended firing two officers involved in a pursuit and crash that led to allegations of excessive force and a tampering with evidence charge.

Although one officer was cleared of using excessive force, prosecutors announced Friday they were charging Bethlehem police Officer Michael Lenner with tampering with evidence for allegedly erasing a surveillance video of a March 8 car crash captured by a bar security camera.

Officer John Nye, who was involved in the pursuit and crash, was later cleared by prosecutors of using excessive force.

Both Nye and Lenner are suspended without pay and Bethlehem police Commissioner Stuart Bedics is recommending City Council terminate both officers, according to a news release. The recommendation is supported by Mayor John Callahan.

"I agree with and support the commissioner's recommendation and share his belief that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in the Bethlehem Police Department," states the release from Callahan.

Lenner has been with the department since 2007 and Nye joined the force in 2008.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Friday that Lenner will be mailed a summons for tampering with evidence.

The same charge will be filed against Thomas Urglavitch, 30, of Lower Saucon, a manager at Roosevelt's 21st bar on Elizabeth Avenue, which is near the site of the crash, Morganelli said.

Prosecutors have been investigating the pursuit and crash since Nye was accused of using excessive force during the arrest.

Urglavitch allegedly provided Lenner with a DVD of the surveillance video showing the crash, but the manager later told county detectives no video of the crash was available, Morganelli said.

Lenner told county detectives he threw away the DVD, Morganelli said. When county detectives seized DVDs and the computer of the video surveillance system, another copy of the crash was discovered, Morganelli said.

The video shows the crash that occurred while police were pursuing suspect Cory Vazquez, 19, of Bethlehem, who was wanted for driving a car that may have been equipped with stolen parts, Morganelli said. He said the video supports his decision that Nye did not use excessive force when arresting Vazquez.

"We don't really understand why these guys were making this video so mysterious," Morganelli said. "The video shows what we already knew. There's no smoking gun here."

Morganelli said he opted to file charges against Lenner and Urglavitch because the video was evidence in Vazquez's criminal case.

Tampering with evidence is a misdemeanor charge, Morganelli said.

Copyright 2010, The Morning Call

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