LAWRENCE — The defense attorney for Melix Bonilla, a city police officer facing corruption charges, said he will ask a superior court judge to reschedule the extortion, fraud and conspiracy trial until next month.
Bonilla’s trial is scheduled to start next Monday, May 12.
But, defense attorney Alex Cain said he will ask for a continuance today until sometime in June to review additional evidence in the case.
Cain said prosecutors in the case recently “disclosed additional discovery for me to review.” Cain said he now has copies of “redacted” internal affairs reports from the city of Lawrence and he wants to view complete, un-redacted reports prior to trial.
The internal affairs reports detail investigations involving Jay Jackson, who was terminated as both auxiliary police chief and civilian facilities manager at the police department. Jackson is described as a key witness in the criminal trial of Bonilla, who is accused of illegally swapping 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolet Impalas.
Called before the Essex County Grand Jury, Jackson testified that Bonilla threatened to have him fired if he didn’t help him with the illegal car swap. Jackson said he feared losing his job, his only source of income and health insurance after he suffered a heart attack four years earlier, according to grand jury minutes.
Jackson was fired from his police department jobs after new Mayor Daniel Rivera succeeded William Lantigua on Jan. 2.
Jackson has since filed a civil lawsuit against the city, saying he was fired in retaliation for testifying against Bonilla.
Jackson’s lawsuit, filed on April 17, also says the city retaliated against him by illegally releasing private and personal information about him to the press and public, including the Police Department internal affairs reports. He is seeking at least $105,000 and other unknown and unspecified damages, according to the lawsuit.
The auxiliary police chief’s job is unpaid. The civilian facility director’s job pays $47,000.
Bonilla’s trial comes on the heels of the conviction and jailing in late March of Leonard Degnan, Lantigua’s former chief of staff.
Degnan was found guilty by a 12-person jury on bribery and conspiracy charges leveled after he pressured a city contractor, Allied Waste, to donate a trash truck to the Dominican Republic, Lantigua’s native country.
Degnan was sentenced to 18 months in jail, a $10,000 fine and probation.
Bonilla is a close friend and political ally of former Mayor Lantigua and previously served as Lantigua’s campaign manager. In January 2010, shortly after taking office, Lantigua promoted Bonilla from sergeant to Deputy Police Chief.
Bonilla hasn’t worked at the police department since Sept. 11, 2012, but remained on the city payroll receiving his $138,000 annual salary, until new Mayor Rivera ordered Bonilla’s pay suspended.
Rivera also demoted Bonilla from deputy police chief to sergeant until the bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges against him are resolved.
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