EDISON, NJ—A Township police officer, and another man who recently left the department in disgrace, have been charged with hatching a plan to set the home of one of their bosses on fire.
Michael Dotro, who resigned from the Edison Police Department (EPD) in September and still faces attempted murder charges in connection with a May 2013 blaze, is now being accused of conspiring with another officer to light a different superior officer's home on fire.
The other officer, Christian Pedana, a 16-year veteran of the EPD, is now suspended without pay, according to a spokesperson for the Township.
Both men were charged with official misconduct and conspiracy to commit an aggravated arson by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO).
Pedana was charged with false swearing and a second official misconduct count for providing an allegedly false statement to MCPO Detective Donald Heck on June 10, 2013 during the arson conspiracy investigation.
It's just the latest example of the retaliatory culture among local police, particularly in Edison, one of the few towns where cops are not hired through the Civil Service Commission.
Though prosecutors did not mention the plot's proposed victim by name, NJ.com's Alex Napoliello reported that Captain Michael Freeman was the alleged target.
The alleged plotting occurred on April 7, 2013, just six weeks before Lt. Mark Anderko's house in Monroe Township was targeted with a home-made bomb. However, Freeman and his home were never actually harmed, and no fire was set.
After the fire at Anderko's house, in which no one was injured, Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan spoke to MCPO investigators and implicated Dotro as a potential suspect.
As the investigation unfolded, many Edison police officers saw their personal cell phones seized by the MCPO.
Those seizures led to a number of criminal charges against Dotro, as well as three other Edison officers, all of whom resigned and agreed never to hold public office in New Jersey.
Among those who were damaged by the investigation into the contents of their mobile phones was Christian Pedana's brother David, who is also an Edison police officer.
What prosecutors found on David Pedana's phone–a slew of allegedly racist text messages–caused a lot of controversy in the Township, and nearly cost him his job.
Officials tried to fire David Pedana, and his offensive comments were the subject of much discussion at Township Council meeting, but he was ultimately allowed back on the job after a 95-day suspension.
Still, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey made it known how his office felt about David Pedana, by declaring him not credible as a witness, and pledging to throw out any criminal cases that depended on his testimony.
Dotro remains free on $1.6 million bail, a status that remained unchanged despite the new charges.
Christian Pedana's bail was set at $35,000, and he did not have to spend any time at the Middlesex County jail, according to their records department.
Prosecutors say their investigation is "active and… continuing," according to the MCPO press release, which was not sent to New Brunswick Today.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Heck of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3300.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.