Ledyard police officer in court for assault; claims self-defense

A Ledyard police officer appeared briefly in Norwich Superior Court Tuesday after he was arrested a day earlier in a domestic incident involving his girlfriend’s son.

Officer James Grzesiak, 48, was arrested in his Preston home and charged with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct following a fight he had with 18-year-old Joshua Thibeault, who was charged with disorderly conduct.

Thibeault, who was at the courthouse Tuesday morning to answer to the disorderly conduct charge, did not return to court following the lunch break, according to a court official. Judge Barbara Jongbloed ordered him re-arrested for second-degree failure to appear in court.

The court referred the case to family relations — a division that handles domestic violence cases, sometimes recommending diversionary programs that result in cases being dismissed after the completion of family violence education programs — and issued a protective order against Grzesiak, which prevents him from further harming Thibeault. It also orders Grzesiak to turn over any weapons in his possession to police.

The case was continued to March 5.

Following the hearing Tuesday, Grzesiak said the incident was a case of self-defense. He said he heard Thibeault arguing with Thibeault’s mother, and Grzesiak went to check on her when he said he was attacked.

Grzesiak declined further comment and also did not discuss a prior arrest from October. He said he is scheduled to go to court for that incident today, where more could be learned about the case.

Thibeault, who had visible wounds to his nose and cheek, declined to comment on the case but dismissed Grzesiak’s claim of self-defense.

Grzesiak said he was placed on paid administrative leave following Monday’s arrest. Mark Bancroft, Ledyard’s mayoral assistant, confirmed Tuesday that Grzesiak was placed on leave, but could not say whether it was paid or unpaid.

Grzesiak was arrested in October for disorderly conduct after police said he sent an email to his landlord that made a threatening reference about the caretaker of his property.

Police said that on Aug. 8, Christopher Gush met with Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico. Gush said he made a complaint to Rodolico because he knew Grzesiak was a police officer, and he was “leery of going directly to Ledyard police,” the arrest warrant said.

According to the warrant, on Aug. 7, Grzesiak sent an email to his landlord, Brian Cote, that discussed ongoing landlord/tenant issues. Grzesiak rented a home at 48A Town Farm Road in Ledyard.

The email made reference to Gush, the property’s caretaker, and a forester who had taken a walk on Cote’s property.

Grzesiak in the email said, “He’s lucky he, or they, didn’t end up looking down the barrel of a gun let alone getting shot or killed for trespassing!! I’ve said something to you before about Chris doing this and being on the property unannounced.”

The email was signed by Grzesiak and his girlfriend, Ruby D. York. It is not clear if the couple is still together.

Gush said in the warrant that Cote gave him some land as a gift to build his house at 58 Town Farm Road. Gush said Cote owns the surrounding property of 65 acres. He said Cote has allowed him to use the property for various uses and that once Cote moved to Florida, he became the primary caretaker of the property.

Gush told police that Grzesiak was giving him trouble about being on the property, even though he had the authority to do so.

Gush had emailed Cote early in July and asked him to email Grzesiak to let him know that a forester wanted to walk on the property. Later that month, Gush and the forester took a walk in the area. The visit lasted for about 20 minutes, the warrant said.

Gush said Cote forwarded the August email to him because Cote was concerned for Gush’s safety.

Police said they spoke to Grzesiak’s girlfriend. York told police that she had mentioned to Grzesiak that because she was disabled and because of the location of the house, she carries a concealed weapon for self-defense. She said that she didn’t realize that Grzesiak would make mention of that in the email.

She told police that she told Grzesiak before he sent the email to remove the statement in question because she felt it could be taken out of context, and “there was no intent to threaten or to imply harm to anyone who was on the property innocently.”

Police said Grzesiak declined the opportunity to give a written statement on the matter.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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