MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey police officer accused of firebombing his own captain’s home pleaded not guilty Friday to five counts of attempted murder and aggravated arson.
Edison Police Officer Michael Dotro, 35, is accused of setting fire to his boss’ Monroe Township home early Monday morning.
Edison Police Capt. Mark Anderko, his wife, two children and 92-year-old mother were asleep inside in the two-story colonial-style home on Arlene Drive at the time of the alleged incident.
No one was injured in the fire.
The fire was brought under control within 10 to 15 minutes, but caused substantial damage to the home, which now stands charred and empty.
Defense attorney Lawrence Bitterman said his client “adamantly denies any involvement.”
“This is just a heartbreaking situation,” Bitterman said. “He’s a good cop with great police instincts. This just does not fit in.”
But prosecutors painted a much different picture of the defendant.
“This is not a bar fight, this is not a speeding ticket. There are five counts of attempted murder,” acting Middlesex County prosecutor Andrew Carey told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “These are serious charges for which the defendant is facing 30 years to life.”
Anderko’s neighbors said they were relieved a suspect had been caught, but many werenot entirely surprised a fellow officer was accused of the crime.
“I’m glad someone is arrested,” neighbor Madhu Reddy said. “I heard there are some internal problems in the department so it’s good that they found someone.”
It’s widely known that infighting has been a problem within the Edison Police Department for years, CBS 2’s Burrell reported. There have also been allegations of misconduct and mismanagement that are now the focus of a widespread investigation, Burrell reported.
Investigators have not yet given any indication as to how they were able to tie Dotro to the alleged crime.
Dotro was suspended with pay, his bail was set at a record $5 million, and if released he will have to surrender his firearms and passport, prosecutors said.
The case has divided and rocked the Edison Police Department, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported. Not a single uniformed member stood in court either to support Dotro or Anderko.
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