(written by Steve Lieberman & James O'Rourke for The Westchester, NY Journal News)
Police Officer Modestino Giusto Jr. is getting married Saturday, but he isn't likely to spend his wedding night in a honeymoon suite or dance the evening's final dance.
Giusto, 33, is out on disability and under departmental orders to remain home from 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday, eight hours that constitute his shift.
His marriage is scheduled for 11 a.m. that morning. However, barring a court order, he will have to cut the cake early and leave his reception, which is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. in New Jersey, to be home on time.
Ramapo Police Chief Peter Brower and department officials are not letting Giusto take the night off or change his shift, said Rey Mauro, who represents the officer through the Ramapo Police Benevolent Association.
"This is the singularly most obnoxious, arbitrary and vicious police administrative directive I've ever seen in my career," Mauro said Thursday. "The town won't budge. It makes no sense. This is a sweet kid. He doesn't bother anybody. They are mad at him. They can't even explain it."
State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey will be asked Friday to intervene and order the Ramapo Police Department to allow Giusto time to enjoy his wedding day and night without interference.
Officers on line-of-duty disability get paid tax-free, including all raises and benefits, but cannot take time off, Mauro said.
Attorney Brian Nugent of Feerick Lynch MacCartney of South Nyack is a former Suffern police lieutenant who represents the town in police labor issues.
Nugent said what Giusto is asking for is, essentially, a "timeout" from the disability statute that has kept him out of work for 15 months.
"It's unprecedented," Nugent said. "There's no case that I know of where someone has been given this type of release. He's basically asking to substitute a vacation day in the place of disability leave and the town cannot legally allow that."
Nugent said the town is in no way preventing Giusto from getting married or from enjoying his reception. Giusto, who is believed by the town to have begun planning the wedding in September 2011, could have avoided the issue altogether by scheduling the event on a day that doesn't coincide with work; the department's 2012 schedule was posted nearly a year ago, Nugent said.
Giusto could not be reached for comment, but Barbara Wilson, his future mother-in-law, said Giusto made the situation known to his supervisors three months ago and had been told it would not be a problem. Only recently did the department inform Giusto that he would need to be home for his Saturday shift, Wilson said.
Wilson said forcing Giusto to leave his own wedding early would be disastrous for him and her daughter, 27-year-old bride-to-be, Sarah Narun.
"My daughter, this is going to hurt her so badly. ... It's her day to be a princess and marry her prince," the Suffern woman said. "If she has to explain this -- she can't. We can't stand there and tell all these people this story. That would be ridiculous. Tino feels the same way. He'll be heartbroken. How do you leave the wife you just married?"
Giusto went on disability leave in June 2011 after being injured in a training exercise involving the department's newly acquired Taser stun guns, which shoot electrified darts into a person to temporarily disable them. As part of the training, officers must experience being stunned.
Giusto took a shot in the back and suffered an injury to his cervical area of his neck, causing him to spasm and need hospitalization, Mauro said.
The state workers' compensation determined he suffered a line-of-duty injury and a temporary disability, Mauro said.
Wilson contends that Giusto eventually recovered to the point where he was able to work in a transitional capacity, but was told by the Police Department that no such position was available. The department's stand on the wedding day issue is personal, she said.
Capt. Brad Weidel, speaking for Brower, said the department's case would be made clear in court.
"The Police Department has no prohibition against an officer getting married nor are we preventing him from getting married," Weidel said. "It's a personnel matter."
Nugent said the only way the town will be allowed to grant Giusto's request is if it is court-ordered.
If Garvey rules Giusto should be allowed to attend his wedding reception in full, the town will abide, Nugent said.