YCMTSU New Jersey Edition

A missing Championship Ring, a fire, allegations of theft, sexual harassment, retaliation, being framed, and politics. It’s a story worthy of a law school final exam… or a who-done-it novel. The return to work of a suspended Paterson, New Jersey firefighter has brought to light a fact pattern that is hard to fathom.

Let’s start at the end: Paterson firefighter Joe Garcia has been reinstated after being suspended without pay since August 2014. Garcia had been charged with stealing sports memorabilia from the home of the mother of a former football star, Stanley Jackson, during a fire.

Jackson had earned a Big Ten Championship Ring and a Rose Bowl Ring while playing for Ohio State in the 1990s. He later went on to play in the Canadian Football League, and now works in broadcasting. He left his championship memorabilia at his mother’s house in Paterson for safe-keeping.

Jackson first realized his property had been stolen when he was contacted by a man in Alaska offering to sell the Big Ten Ring back to him. The man said he bought the ring online from a New York pawn shop.

Jackson’s mother never realized the memorabilia was missing. As Jackson began looking into the missing memorabilia, friends of his on the Paterson Fire Department reported that a firefighter who responded to the fire at his mother’s house years earlier had been seen wearing his Rose Bowl Ring. Jackson determined that the brother of the same firefighter sold the Big Ten Ring to a pawn shop in New York.

According to NewJersey.com, “City officials confirmed that the firefighter was Garcia and that his brother, Richard Garcia, was removed from his police department job after theft allegations were made against him.”

Joe Garcia has an entirely different take on what occurred. He claims he had been sexually harassed by Fire Captain Victor Frierson, against whom he filed a formal complaint. After he filed the complaint, he claims he was framed for the theft by Captain Frierson, who convinced Battalion Chief Hector Almeyda, Gerald Behnke, Carlos Miranda and Isaac Feliciano to support the allegations. Garcia alleges that Captain Frierson is Jackson’s cousin. To add politics to the intrigue, Jackson’s brother Michael is a Paterson city councilman.

Criminal charges against Joe Garcia were dropped last year, and he had been threatening litigation to force the city to return him to day. He claims he is the victim of false arrest and malicious prosecution. . Here is a more indepth explanation of this YCMTSU story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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