Robert Ashe

Former Village of Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Ashe

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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Former Village of Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Ashe on Wednesday emphatically denied taking any fireworks from evidence for personal use but admitted to not following proper procedure in logging the evidence.

“At no time did I ever take any fireworks for my personal use,” said Ashe in a phone interview with the Banner. Earlier this week Ashe had pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of official misconduct in a plea deal with prosecutors that dismissed two felony charges and ended his law enforcement career.

“I took those fireworks for destruction, and I didn’t follow proper procedure,” Ashe said. “Contrary to initial reports that I hosted a party at my house, that didn’t happen. There is no truth to any of that.”

Ashe was arrested by authorities Monday and pleaded guilty the same day to a one-count misdemeanor of official misconduct after a six-month state investigation into confiscated fireworks and police employment records.

State investigators allegedly found evidence that Ashe stole the fireworks that were part of a criminal case in his department for his personal use. He then, according to investigators, created false paperwork to cover up the theft. Ashe had also been charged with falsifying official records related to an unnamed police officer that he reported as working when he was supposedly injured off the job.

“I have no comment on that, except that’s all a bunch of crap,” Ashe told the Banner.

In return for his guilty plea to the one misdemeanor charge, the two felony counts — filing a false instrument related to business records and grand larceny — were dismissed. Ashe received an unconditional discharge and was ordered by Hoosick Falls Village Court Justice Thomas Restino to pay a $205 court surcharge. He resigned last Wednesday after taking a paid leave of absence since December of last year after the investigation began. His last day was Friday, three days before being arrested.

According to a story in the Albany Times-Union, Paul Czajka, a Columbia County prosecutor, was named special prosecutor assigned to the case by Rensselaer County Justice Jennifer Sober. Czajka has a long history of prosecuting law enforcement officers. He had previously charged four other police chiefs for official infractions.

Under state law, Ashe’s conviction would mean an automatic termination and removal from office, even if he hadn’t retired. Ashe left the hearing without comment Monday evening after being directed to the State Police barracks in Brunswick to be processed.

“I had a bunch of fireworks that were waiting for the bomb squad to come get them,” Ashe said told the Banner. “I was trying to get them out of there because the highway guy wanted them out of there, and rightly so. I thought I was doing the right thing, and I didn’t follow procedure. At no time did I take them for personal use.”

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When asked why he pleaded guilty to the plea deal if he was an innocent man, Ashe went quiet, then carefully chose his words.

“It’s time for me to focus on my family and my health,” Ashe finally said. “I was geared to fight this, but based on my family and my health, it was time for me to move forward in my life. That’s all I want to say.”

According to the Times-Union article, Ashe, who at one point aspired to run for Rensselaer County sheriff, also has been implicated in an ongoing county ballot fraud investigation that began with issues regarding absentee ballots in the city of Rensselaer and spread to Troy and other county communities. There has been no resolution yet in that case.

“I can say that the community is very divided,” said Amanda Haar when approached Wednesday on Main Street in Hoosick Falls Village by the Banner. “There’s a lot of people who are saying, ‘let’s stand behind the chief and wish him well after all these years,’ and others who feel very strongly that he was always on the wrong side of things.”

In a post on the Hoosick Area Here and Now local Facebook group, Hoosick Falls resident John Conte, posted, “The Village knew this was coming and hid it from everybody. Give this crook his pension, and great job.”

Other residents and business owners defended the former chief, remembering someone who worked hard and did an excellent job for the community.

“All I can say is this,” said Gary Sussman, a long-time business owner and resident of Hoosick Falls Village. “My experience with him has been nothing but positive. He was always up-front with me. It’s unfortunate.”

“I committed a lot of my life to that village,” Ashe said. “I never denied anybody my time. I treated everybody fairly and with a lot of respect. I love that Village, and I gave it 110 percent. I started when I was 18 with the Sheriff’s Department and was Police Chief for over 17 years. It was time to move on and concentrate on other things.”

“It’s sad,” says Marianne Zwicklbauer, owner of Provisions, a high-end retail establishment in the Village. “As with anything in life, there’s always a lesson learned, and then you move forward. This town will move forward as we did with every other obstacle that has been in its way. It’s just what you do.”


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