NEW HAVEN >> A judge Monday dismissed the case against Angelo Appi Jr., the parent East Haven police charged in October with breach of peace for making a reference to toy guns in an online comment where he criticized security at his daughter’s school.
“From the beginning I’ve been all about school security and trying to make sure there are no threats to the kids,” Appi said as he left New Haven Superior Court. “Protection of my daughter, students and faculty of the school.”
Appi’s quest to point out what he has claimed are security flaws at Joseph Melillo Middle School began in October when he arrived at the school after-hours to pick up his daughter and noticed the front door was wide open. Appi proceeded to film himself entering the school. He later shot another film of himself opening a side-door. He filmed the second video on a Sunday while his daughter was participating with her cheer-leading team at a youth football game held at the school.
He uploaded both videos to his Facebook account. Police did not get involved until Melillo Principal Matthew Espinosa directed them to a comment Appi made on his Facebook page where he wrote, “Maybe I have to walk in with toy guns to prove a point.”
Espinosa told police Appi’s comment prompted concerned parents to flood his office with “at least 50 calls.”
On Monday Appi’s attorney, Joseph M. Wicklow, pointed out to Judge Brian T. Fisher that in his client’s arrest report, East Haven police “took literary license” when they added an exclamation point after the toy gun comment. Wicklow also argued that his client’s post was lengthy and that police included only the toy gun comment in Appi’s arrest warrant application.
Prosecutor Laura DeLeo offered Appi a nolle, meaning the state would not pursue criminal charges.
Wicklow argued for a dismissal, which was granted by Fisher.
“I give her a lot of credit for researching this case and concluding this is protected free speech,” Wicklow said later regarding DeLeo’s offer. “She suggested the nolle but we successfully argued for a dismissal.
“Now it’s as if the whole thing legally never happened.”
Appi said he’d be willing to work with the East Haven Board of Education to help fix flaws in the school’s security system.
“Hopefully they’ll contact me in the future and with my experience we can work together,” he said. “I’m all ears.”
Appi’s father, a retired New Haven police officer who accompanied his son to each of his court appointments, has been a loud supporter of hiring armed officers to stand guard at schools in his hometown of North Haven.
Angelo Appi Jr. works as a security expert at Integrated Security Services in Norwalk, described online as a “full service private investigation and executive security firm serving the corporate and private sector.”
Appi has said his duties include training and bodyguard work for VIPs, among other services.