Jurors on Thursday delivered a split verdict against the alleged cover-up cop.
After a little over four hours of deliberations, jurors found John Fronzoni not guilty of witness intimidation and hindering the prosecution.
Jurors deadlocked on whether Fronzoni committed obstruction of justice. Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough declared a mistrial on that count.
Fronzoni, 37, of Larksville, was accused of trying to cover-up a crash after William Ritsick, his girlfriend’s friend, crashed into a utility pole on West Luzerne Avenue in Larksville early the morning of Dec. 21, 2014.
At the time, Fronzoni was a Larksville firefighter as well as assistant police chief for Courtdale Borough and a part-time Edwardsville officer.
Prosecutors allege Fronzoni used his pull as a veteran cop to protect Ritsick, who admitted drinking two beers at Mohegan Sun Pocono and taking a Xanax before driving. The defense counters that Fronzoni, a “small-town boy” who joined the and returned to serve the community he loves, did nothing wrong and is being unjustly targeted in retaliation for his work in a Larksville union.
During closing arguments, Deputy Attorney General Bernard Anderson said police have a duty to investigate the cause of a crash and that Fronzoni prevented that from happening. Contrary to the claims that there was no evidence Ritsick was drunk, the prosecutor noted that the first thing Ritsick said to a medic arriving on the scene was, “I’m (expletive). Should I run?”
“It wasn’t just a car into a pole. It was a drunk driver into a pole,” Anderson said.
A former U.S. who is used to being in charge, Fronzoni arrived on the scene, saw his girlfriend’s friend in trouble and got to work impressing her as she sat watching from his truck, he said.
“Watch this. I’m going to make this go away,” Anderson said of Fronzoni’s mind-set at the time. “His mission, Mr. E-5 sergeant in the Corps, was to make this thing disappear in every respect.”
He began by ordering Ritsick into the back seat of his personal truck, away from the eyes and ears of the other responders, he said. Fronzoni then proceeded to instruct medics and cops not to complete standard paperwork that would have put Ritsick at the scene, he said.
“He doesn’t want any record — any evidence whatsoever — of this crash,” Anderson said.
But defense attorney John Pike maintained during closings that Fronzoni, a union steward in Larksville, “pissed off a lot of people” and is now facing retaliation for challenging borough leadership.
“This is a witch hunt, plain and simple,” Pike said. “Someone’s got to pay the price.”
Fronzoni testified Wednesday that he only put Ritsick in his truck because the crash victim was cold and not wearing a coat.
He maintained he never intended to hinder the investigation. He told a medic to indicate no patient contact on a form because she hadn’t checked Ritsick’s vitals, and told an officer not to run the plate of the crashed car because the database was down at the time, he maintained.
Pike noted that the officer himself testified he did not feel intimidated by Fronzoni’s conduct and that the medic testified Ritzick did not appear to be intoxicated.
“The commonwealth is making so much more out of this than actually exist,” Pike said.
He noted that only weeks before the crash, Fronzoni caught Ritsick kissing his girlfriend, certainly not motivation to protect Ritsick from a DUI. The attorney also cited the fact that a dozen people — including police officers, medics and a tow operator –were on the scene when Fronzoni allegedly orchestrated a cover-up.
“Who in their right mind commits a crime in front of 12 people?” Pike said.
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