The Niagara Falls Review
Officer pleads guilty to Police Act charges
Zarafonitis already on probation for punching photographer
Don’t let a 30- second lapse in judgment derail a career that includes two decades of positive policing, the lawyer for Const. Paul Zarafonitis told a Police Services Act disciplinary hearing Tuesday.
Zarafonitis, a Niagara Regional Police officer, is already on 12 months’ probation for assaulting a photographer. He pled guilty in criminal court to assault causing bodily harm stemming from an altercation May 19, 2012, at Kool Katts Caribbean Restaurant in Niagara Falls.
On Tuesday, Zarafonitis entered a guilty plea to a Police Services Act charge of discreditable conduct. He will be sentenced March 18.
Leanne McClay, the general counsel for the Niagara Region Police Association who was acting as Zarafonitis’s lawyer, said his client’s file is clear of any disciplinary matters and his performance reviews are of an “effective to outstanding officer.”
“We have no reason to believe this will happen again,” she said.
In an agreed statement of facts, Zarafonitis admitted to punching photographer Mike Farkas once in the head while attempting to arrest him outside the Drummond Rd. bar.
The St. Catharines man suffered serious facial injuries, including a broken nose and broken orbital bone.
Zarafonitis addressed the hearing and apologized to the tribunal and the Niagara Regional Police Service for “any negativity following my arrest.”
He said he “did not intend to use excessive force, and I regret (Farkas) was injured.”
Farkas was with a crowd of patrons that followed Zarafonitis outside as he was removing an intoxicated patron from the bar. Zarafonitis asked Farkas to stop taking photographs and to leave the area.
Farkas was punched a short time later by Zarafonitis after resisting.
Insp. Cindy White, the prosecuting officer, said Zarafonitis’s guilty pleas show he has accepted responsibility for his actions and should be a mitigating factor in his punishment. But, she said, “this is not the type of behaviour expected of a police officer.”
In a joint submission, White asked the tribunal to sentence Zarafonitis to 39 hours of loss of pay.
“As far as the apology goes, I just wish they would have told the truth about the extent of the beating,” Farkas said when reached
This is not the type of behaviour expected of a police officer.”
Insp. Cindy White
after the hearing.
“It wasn’t just one punch. It was multiple punches. If you are going to apologize, at least apologize for what you did. I just hope he gets what he deserves. He shouldn’t be able to do that to hard working citizens.”
McClay s aid Zarafonitis believed he was making a lawful arrest and didn’t intend to inflict injuries on Farkas.
McClay also said the situation outside Kool Katts was extremely volatile with a large, angry, intoxicated crowd and “the officers felt greatly outnumbered.”
Farkas launched at $ 750,000 lawsuit after criminal charges against him were dropped. The civil matter is still before the courts.
Niagara Regional Police Const. Dean Rudge was arraigned on Police Services Act charges by teleconference from a federal cor- rection service institution Tuesday.
Rudge is charged with discreditable conduct, after having been found guilty of a criminal offence. He did not enter a plea.
Presiding officer Inspt. George Bench was notified by Insp. Cindy White that if Rudge is found guilty, the service could seek his dismissal.
Rudge was sentenced to four years behind bars in criminal court Jan. 9 for breach of trust by a public official. He provided confidential police information to members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang.
Leanne McClay, general counsel for the Niagara Region Police Association who was acting for Rudge’s lawyer Andrew McKay, said McKay will be bringing a motion to stay the charges.
Bench set March 18 as the date to hear oral submissions about the stay.
Three other officers — Const. Tim Packer (allegation of neglect of duty). Const. Bill Schoenhals (neglect of duty and two counts of deceit) and Const. Gregory Keldson (four counts of discreditable conduct and two counts of improper exercise of authority) — had their hearings adjourned.