Cop Gets No Jail ‘Slap On The Wrist’ For Plot to Burn Down Captain’s House

EDISON – A suspended township police officer accused of scheming to set fire to his captain’s house avoided prison Friday after agreeing to testify against a former cop convicted in a series of vengeful plots.

Christian Pedana, 45, was fined $1,125 for obstructing the administration of law as part of a deal that Superior Court Judge Benjamin Bucca said could be perceived as a “slap on the wrist” for an Edison officer involved in misconduct.

Although the plan never materialized, authorities said Pedana plotted to burn down Capt. Matthew Freeman’s home in April 2013 with Michael Dotro, the former Edison cop who admitted to a series of misconduct charges, including setting fire to another supervisor’s home.

“Your cooperation, ultimately, was the key moment in the successful prosecution of officer Dotro,” Bucca said of Pedana’s deal, which downgraded his initial charge of conspiring to commit an aggravated arson.

After more than four years and dozens of charges a former Edison cop pleads guilty to attempted murder and arson

Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Russell Curley said Pedana’s cooperation was integral to the county’s case against Dotro, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea deal that wrapped up numerous misconduct charges against the former officer.

Pedana’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Garrigan, said Pedana agreed to testify against Dotro at trial.

Pedana, a 24-year veteran of the force, became aware that Dotro had “hatched some sort of scheme” to burn down his supervisor’s home, but did not report the plan because he did not believe Dotro would go through with it, his defense team said.

The fire was never set and the supervisor was not injured.

When Pedana was questioned by the prosecutor’s office, he was not forthcoming and obstructed the investigation, but later agreed to testify against Dotro, Garrigan said.

Pedana, who was suspended without pay after he was charged, has suffered significant financial damage as a result of the case and may lose his pension, his defense team said. His current status with the police force was not immediately known.

Before he was sentenced, Pedana apologized to the court for his behavior.

Garrigan said Dotro manipulated Pedana, something with which the assistant prosecutor agreed.

When Dotro first appeared in court, the room was full of supporters from the force. But when he was sentenced in September after pleading guilty to attempted murder and arson, no one showed.

“When you see the aftermath of a tornado and the path of destruction that was left behind, anyone who was associated with Mr. Dotro is now living in the aftermath of that destruction,” Curley said.