His lawyer did not sugarcoat the situation before former Buffalo Police Officer Michael R. Missana was sentenced Wednesday for taking $130 out of a woman’s wallet that had been given to him to return.
The two misdemeanor convictions cost his client everything, attorney Thomas J. Eoannou told the judge.
“He’s tarnished the badge. He’s been publicly humiliated. He’s lost his job. He’s lost his pension. He’s been labeled a thief,” Eoannou said. “I’d ask the court to spare him jail.”
State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang agreed that Missana has been appropriately punished. She sentenced the 43-year-old father of two young children to three years’ probation for his convictions for petit larceny and official misconduct.
And she scolded him.
“You were sworn to protect and serve, not to abuse and steal,” the judge told him.
Missana was on duty and in uniform last summer when he was handed the wallet by two women who found it at Caffe Aroma on Elmwood Avenue. The women had checked the wallet’s contents to find identification for the owner and they knew it contained a lot of cash, they later testified. Missana and his partner took the wallet to the owner’s house in North Buffalo, where Missana stuck it in the door.
Meanwhile, the women located the wallet’s owner at the coffee shop and told her what had happened. When she went home to get her wallet, the money was gone.
Assistant District Attorney Michael P. Felicetta said before sentencing that he was in disbelief.
“When I was first asked to investigate a uniformed cop who stole $100 from the wallet of a 22-year-old who worked as a barista, I didn’t believe it,” said.
But then, he said, he learned that Missana had admitted to pocketing the money when questioned by Buffalo police and that he had told his partner he would “take the one- or two-day suspension.”
Once those statements were ruled inadmissible at trial, he said, Missana began denying taking the money.
“He even blames the political affiliation of the witnesses who stepped forward for his problems,” Felicetta said.
He added, “There is no acceptance, no repentance,” before asking the judge to consider some jail time for the defendant.
While critical of Missana’s behavior, Wolfgang said she took into consideration his 20 years of military service, his otherwise clean record, and a letter from the victim saying she thought losing his job was punishment enough before settling on a sentence of probation. Missana also must pay back the money.
Eoannou said Missana has gone back to school and hopes to get a job at SolarCity so he can support his family.