The former supervisor declined to comment for this article, saying the matter is still part of an ongoing lawsuit against the town. Corsi declined comment on the same grounds.
Potter, who is not directly involved in the lawsuit, said he’s not sure what to make of Cunningham’s comments.
“I conducted the investigation, along with (attorney) Mike Smith. … We had the firsthand knowledge, we interviewed the chief as soon as Officer Hughes had made the allegations,” Potter said. “The chief didn’t direct anybody to erase the tape.”
Distinction more than semantics
According to Donald Kelly, an attorney specializing in criminal law in the Law Offices of Donald E. Kelly in Syracuse, if Corsi did seek to erase the conversation, it could well be considered a criminal matter.
“At the time that he sought to have it erased … I think that there’s no doubt that could conceivably be (attempted) tampering with physical evidence,” he said.
That’s because the tape could potentially be used in an official proceeding like a disciplinary action, and it later was. For an attempted erasure, the crime would be downgraded to a misdemeanor with a two-year statute of limitations, but there is an extender on the statute of limitations for public servants that would allow the charge to be brought any time during the official’s time in office, or within two years after the person leaves office.
“If he’s still the chief, that statute has not begun to run,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it could be intelligently argued that the chief of police is not a public servant.”
Depositions taken in the lawsuit reveal differing accounts on several issues, including the handling of the tape. For example, in his deposition, police officer and Bethlehem Police Benevolence Association President Scott Anson said it was his understanding after speaking to an employee in the dispatch office several telecommunicators had been “approached on trying to make the tape disappear.” On the other hand, Deputy Chief Timothy Beebe, who conducted the search for the tape, said that same person had denied any knowledge of the tape when interviewed about it.