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NY cop claims he was fired for writing traffic ticket to lawyer who flashed PBA card to try to dodge trouble

A Westchester County cop claims he was unceremoniously fired just months into the job for writing a traffic ticket to a PBA-connected lawyer — and is now suing the county in federal court.

Joseph Saetta, 29, said he got into hot water with the suburban department just two months after joining the force — all because he didn’t honor a police benevolent association “courtesy card,” part of an unspoken code in law enforcement for cops to look the other way on minor infractions.

It ended up costing him his job, the lawsuit claims.

Westchester County Police Officer Joseph Saetta was on probation when he pulled over lawyer Corinne Pascariu-Costo on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers on Dec. 6. Westchester County Public Safety
Westchester County Police Officer Joseph Saetta was on probation when he pulled over lawyer Corinne Pascariu-Costo on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers on Dec. 6. Westchester County Public Safety

“I mean, I understand the whole idea of police courtesy,” his lawyer, Peter Brill, told The Post. “But you can get these cards anywhere. It’s not some automatic ‘get out of jail free.’

“All things being equal, if you’re nice, if you’re courteous, if it’s not a big deal, if you were going 5 miles over the speed limit and you apologize, maybe I’ll give you a break,” he said. “But if you’re driving on two-month-old expired plates and you’re rude, why does that get you out of a ticket?”

Saetta was on patrol with a training officer on Dec. 6 when he made the seemingly routine stop, the lawsuit said.

The driver, identified as attorney Corinne Pascariu-Costo, allegedly flashed a PBA card and said she was “a family member,” according to the suit filed Friday.

But Saetta said he didn’t entirely recognize the card and issued the lawyer a minor summons for driving with expired plates before heading back to police headquarters — where he quickly realized he was in trouble.

“He gets fired for writing a ticket for someone who actually was breaking the law and he’s a law enforcement officer,” Brill said. “He gets fired for doing his job.”

Saetta was hired by the Westchester County department in October after stints with the Tuxedo, Fishkill, Mount Vernon and Pleasantville departments, moving to increasingly larger departments throughout his career.

He was still a probationary employee with the county when he hit the road with Police Officer Mohammad Chandoo, the training officer assigned to the rookie cop as part of his 12-week probation, the suit said.

Pascariu-Costo was allegedly driving with expired New Jersey license plates, according to the lawsuit.

Joseph Saetta says in a federal lawsuit that he was fired for giving a traffic ticket to a PBA-connected lawyer. Courtesy Joseph Saetta
Joseph Saetta says in a federal lawsuit that he was fired for giving a traffic ticket to a PBA-connected lawyer. Courtesy Joseph Saetta

Saetta later conceded to his superiors that the driver did flash the PBA card, but said it appeared to be from an “unfamiliar organization” and said he decided to use his discretion, according to the allegations.

“Despite having no official or legal standing, PBA cards have been called ‘get out of jail free cards,'” the lawsuit said. “They have also been the subject of press attention and scandal.

“Many police agencies look the other way when their officers choose to exercise discretion and not issue a ticket to a motorist in possession of a PBA card,” the suit said. “However, there are no official rules in any law enforcement agency.”

But it didn’t take long for Saetta to realize that he was likely in hot water, his lawyer said.

“By the time he’s back to his command, there’s already calls to the desk officer complaining, saying he was discourteous,” Brill said. “Over the next couple of days, there’s a lot of back and forth with supervisors. He’s called in, he’s questioned, ‘Did you write over a PBA card?’

“He said there was a PBA card but I use my discretion,” the lawyer said, “Apparently now he’s being told there’s an unwritten rule that you’re never allowed to write over PBA cards, which of course is ridiculous.”

Attorney Peter Brill says Saetta was fired for doing his job during a traffic stop on Dec. 6. Courtesy Peter Brill
Attorney Peter Brill says Saetta was fired for doing his job during a traffic stop on Dec. 6. Courtesy Peter Brill

Despite getting otherwise passing marks during his probation, Saetta said that he was told he was fired on Jan. 12 and placed on administrative leave until the end of the month.

The lawsuit — and a separate petition filed in State Supreme Court — seek back pay, damages and reinstatement to the Westchester police force.

Pascariu-Costo could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Dashcam footage of the controversial Dec. 6 traffic stop on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers. Westchester County Public Safety
Dashcam footage of the controversial Dec. 6 traffic stop on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers. Westchester County Public Safety

The lawsuit names Pascariu-Costo, Westchester County Police Commissioner Terrance Raynor, County Executive George Lattimer and the county Department of Public Safety.

Westchester County officials addressed the lawsuit in a statement Thursday.

“Westchester County has not been served with any court papers, but we can confirm that a police officer who was on probation was lawfully terminated for cause,” the statement said.

“The Westchester County Department of Public Safety remains dedicated to the recruitment and retention of officers who uphold the highest standards of professionalism and respect in their service to the community.”