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Basalt: No discipline warranted against cop

Aspen Times Staff Report

The town of Basalt has decided no disciplinary action will be taken against one of its police officers for a threat he allegedly made against a Basalt High School senior last winter.

The decision came after the town hired an outside investigator to look into an incident that occurred between Sgt. Chris Maniscalchi and Robert Peters, 18.

Former Aspen Police Chief Tom Stephenson was hired to look into allegations by Peters that Maniscalchi verbally threatened to “kick my ass.” Peters and his mother, Cheryl Kisow, filed a complaint with the town.

The investigation was ordered by Town Manager Tom Baker.

“Tom Stephenson did the investigation and that part of it has been finalized,” said Basalt Police Chief Jim Stryker. “We found that nothing took place that warrants disciplinary action against Sgt. Maniscalchi.”

Baker said he couldn’t release Stephenson’s study or discuss it because it is a personnel matter. He also said the town had concluded that no disciplinary action is warranted.

Public apology sought

Peters said the incident has “pretty much” ruined the last few months of high school before he graduates. He said he has been criticized by people who take the police officer’s word over his about the incident.

Maniscalchi has offered to apologize to Peters in private, according to Kisow. That offer hasn’t been accepted because Kisow wants to be present when the apology is made, but the town won’t agree to those terms.

Maniscalchi declined comment. He said it was a private, personnel matter.

Peters said he’s not interested at this point in a private apology from Maniscalchi. Instead he wants the officer to write a letter of apology to be published in local newspapers.

“I want him publicly embarrassed like he’s done to me,” Peters said. “Everybody thinks I’ve done something wrong.”

Peters said he thought it would also be appropriate to see Maniscalchi suspended for “a month or two, without pay.”

Mother seeks vengeance

Kisow dismissed Stephenson’s investigation as just an effort by one cop to “cover the ass” of other cops. She claimed Stephenson was being two-faced because he allegedly admitted to her that her son had been mistreated.

Kisow contended that Stephenson told her that what was reported in her complaint was true.

“He said, and this is a quote, `You and I both know there was harassment but we can’t prove it is true,’ ” Kisow said. He further explained to her that no criminal behavior on the part of Maniscalchi could be proven in court, according to Kisow.

Stephenson could not be interviewed by deadline Thursday. In an exchange of messages with The Aspen Times, Stephenson said he would be limited as to what he could say about his report.

Governments at every level are restricted by law on what they can say about issues involving employees. It puts them at a disadvantage in explaining their side of the story.

In this case, only Maniscalchi can discuss the incident from the police department’s and town government’s perspective. So far, he’s declined to do that.

What happened?

According to written and verbal summaries of the incident by Peters and Kisow, Peters was stopped in Basalt by Maniscalchi at about 6 p.m. on March 2. The stop was made because Peters had a green neon light in the rear window of his car.

Maniscalchi asked Peters to get out of the car to examine a tail light. At that point they started discussing problems involving Peters, his girlfriend and another student at Basalt High School.

Maniscalchi allegedly warned Peters to stay away from the student or he would “kick his ass,” according to Peters and Kisow.

Peters responded by cursing the cop and saying, “In my opinion, you can’t say that to me.”

Kisow claimed Stephenson’s report doesn’t dispute the facts of the encounter that are laid out in her complaint. She said Stephenson told her that her son wouldn’t face any charge because he used the phrase “in my opinion” and that Maniscalchi couldn’t face charges because no harassment could be proven.

Discipline or not?

Kisow said she was told by Stephenson that Maniscalchi would face some unspecified discipline within the police department. She was angry to hear that the police chief and town manager said no discipline is warranted.

She feels Maniscalchi should face the same treatment that a “normal citizen” would be subjected to if facing the same charges. A trial should be held to determine whether or not he committed harassment, she said, and if he’s found guilty, the town should take strong action.

“I would like to see him fired,” Kisow said. “I think it was premeditated.”

Kisow, like Peters, also wants to be cleared in the arena of public opinion. She said she’s received 25 to 30 calls from people who take Maniscalchi’s side in the dispute over her son’s.

Kisow said she’s written to the American Civil Liberties Union for potential help pursuing action against the police department.

“Personally I have thought and have been told by several people to sue the town of Basalt,” said Kisow.

She said she will pursue one other avenue, first. She will return the repeated messages left by Town Manager Baker and see what suggestions he has.

Peters is graduating from Basalt High School Saturday. He said he is anxious to leave Basalt for college in two more months.


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