West Orange Council President Victor Cirilo accepted a plea deal in Verona Municipal Court Wednesday night on charges stemming from a DWI incident last November.
The case, postponed several times since an initial November court date, was not without continued drama Wednesday night as an angry Verona Municipal Court Judge John A. Paparazzo clashed once again with Cirilo’s attorney, Roy Breslow of Verona and Cirilo during questioning on the plea agreement.
Cirilo was originally charged with driving while intoxicated following a Nov. 9 police stop after he made a turn from Bloomfield Avenue onto Mount Prospect Avenue (Route 23) just after midnight, Verona Police Chief Douglas Huber said at the time.
At the time of his arrest, Cirilo was administered a field sobriety test, Huber said, but he refused to take a blood alcohol test.
In addition to the DWI charge, Cirilo was also charged with refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer test, DWI in a school zone, careless driving and failure to keep right over a double-yellow line charges.
Wednesday night's proceedings began calmly, with the judge asking a series of questions as part of the plea agreement.
But the judge grew visibly angry after Cirilo denied that his driving was impaired due to drinking and claimed the arresting officer did not tell him he would face charges if he refused a Breathalyzer test.
At one point, Cirilo's attorney continued to speak over Paparazzo, prompting the judge to rise from the bench.
"Let me know when you’re ready to apologize,” Paparazzo told Breslow, before leaving the courtroom and loudly slamming the door behind him.
A few minutes later, both Cirilo and Breslow returned to the podium and the judge asked if Cirilo would like to proceed to trial. Breslow told the court Cirilo wanted to proceed with the plea deal.
The judge continued with his previous line of questioning, except this time Cirilo agreed the arresting officer had informed him about the Breathalyzer and charges associated with refusal to submit to a test.
Cirilo appeared quiet and remorseful before Paparazzo as he was sentenced. The judge asked him if he had anything additional to say before he sentenced him, and Cirilo just said he was sorry.
As part of the plea deal, Cirilo was fined more than $1,000 in court costs and fees. The court also suspended his license for a total of seven months (three months for DWI and four months for the refusal to submit charges – to run concurrently).
Cirilo also was sentenced to 12 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) program for the DWI charge and an additional 12 hours in the IDRC program for the refusal to submit charges. All additional charges were dropped.
Cirillo must also install an ignition-interlocking device in his car for six months as part of his sentence. The device forces the driver to breath into it to make sure there’s no alcohol on the driver’s breath, otherwise the car will not start.
Cirilo apologized for the arrest in a letter to the editor immediately after his November arrest, saying he intended to fight the charges and asking residents to not make a rush to judgment.
West Orange Public Information Officer Jessica Glicker said the township had no comment on the plea deal.
Cirilo, who won his first council term in 2010, was elected in the township’s non-partisan elections. His current term expires in 2014.
He is employed as the executive director of the housing authority of the city of Passaic and has served West Orange as a board member of the Downtown West Orange Alliance and the John Renna House, as well as serving stints on the West Orange Public Library Board and the West Orange Valley Revitalization Committee.
Cirilo has also served as the field director for Sen. Robert Menendez’s suburban Essex County campaign operation and as chief of staff for state Assemblyman John McKeon.