February 5, 2014 —
MONTICELLO, NY — Theodore Hutchins, 41, has been sentenced to six months in the Sullivan County Jail and five years of probation for two felony convictions of coercion.
According to Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell, Hutchins was convicted after a jury trial for coercion and official misconduct in July 2013.
Farrell said that Hutchins, an elected village trustee and one-time deputy mayor, betrayed his oath when he coerced former police chief Douglas Solomon and former acting police chief Mark Johnstone regarding the hiring of his friend, Kariem McCline, as a Monticello police officer.
A jury found Hutchins guilty of ordering Solomon to stop an official police background investigation into the fitness, character and qualifications of McCline during his application process.
Hutchins also forced Johnstone into answering a series of questions designed to determine if Johnstone shared information with the county personnel director, who removed McCline from a civil service list after damaging information regarding his background was discovered.
Farrell said that Hutchins’ actions were a clear case of political corruption, political interference with law enforcement and cronyism, and endangered public safety and the integrity of law enforcement in the Village of Monticello.
“McCline, a 20-year friend of Hutchins, was grossly unqualified to serve as a police officer, and it was discovered that he had lied about his background during the application process; and the investigation into McCline was developing further negative information when Hutchins ordered that investigation stopped. Hutchins manipulated, interfered, exerted improper influence and abused the power granted him by the people who elected him and in the process endangered the lives of the people of the Village of Monticello.
“In essence, Hutchins rigged the hiring process for a friend who would have endangered any criminal case he was involved in. Hutchins refused to allow the police department to hire any new police officers for over 12 months and held those new hires, that were desperately needed, literally hostage until his friend, McCline, was hired,” Farrell said. In recommending a sentence of one to three years in state prison, Farrell said that the message should be clear: “If a public servant violates the trust of his or her office, they can expect that they will be held accountable and responsible for their illegal actions and can expect to see the inside of a jail cell.”
On January 27, McCline was sentenced to five years probation for lying on his police department application, and also for lying on a gun permit application.
Another person implicated in the incident, former village manager John LiGreci, has yet to be sentenced.
Solomon recently won the primary election to run on the Democratic line for one of the trustee positions that will be decided in the March election.