Morris prosecutor offers plea to Morris Township man accused of assaulting cops at public meeting

Michael Kaplon, left, leaves court hearing, July 9, 2018. To his right are his lawyer, Edward D'Alessandro Jr., and Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wang. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Michael Kaplon, left, leaves court hearing, July 9, 2018. To his right are his lawyer, Edward D'Alessandro Jr., and Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wang. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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A Morris Township man accused of assaulting four police officers after being removed from a Township Committee meeting in May will face lesser charges if he agrees to enter a mental health program, authorities told a judge on Monday.

Michael Kaplon, 25, was charged with four counts of third-degree aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer; resisting arrest, a third-degree crime; and disrupting a public meeting, a disorderly persons offense, after the incident on May 24, 2018.

Michael Kaplon sits in Superior Court, Morristown, July 9, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Michael Kaplon sits in Superior Court, Morristown, July 9, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Those charges would be reduced to one count of resisting arrest, a fourth-degree offense; and disorderly conduct, if he accepts the plea deal, Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wang told Superior Court Judge Thomas Critchley Jr.

Kaplon has agreed to apply to the mental health program, according to Wang. His probation from a prior case was extended until Sept. 17, 2018, when he is due back in court.

Kaplon did not speak during Monday’s brief proceeding. He was accompanied by his parents, and represented by attorney Edward D’Alessandro Jr., who declined to comment afterward about the plea offer.

“We’ll see you, Mr. Kaplon, in September,” said Judge Critchley. “And of course, between now and then, you want to make sure you stay on track. I’m assuming you don’t want any complications to come up in your case. Sounds like we have a plan to resolve this in a reasonably healthy way, so that’s all good.”

Morris Township police subdue a man removed from municipal meeting, May 24, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Township police subdue Michael Kaplon after removing him from municipal meeting, May 24, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Back in May, Morris Township police officers removed Kaplon from the municipal meeting chambers after he shouted comments at elected officials near the end of a long, contentious special session about affordable housing.

Morris Township police remove man from meeting, May 24, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Township police remove Michael Kaplon from meeting, May 24, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Moments later, residents leaving the meeting observed four officers in the parking lot grappling on the ground with Kaplon, trying to handcuff him. His removal and portions of his arrest were captured on video by Morristown Green.

Police said they followed proper procedures. Kaplon later said they broke his arm. He did not show any visible signs of such an injury in court.

In October 2016, Kaplon was accused of injuring two officers while resisting arrest at police headquarters. Employees worried he might be armed when they saw him videotaping the entrance to police headquarters, according to police reports and court records.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Critchley Jr. listens to Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wang during proceeding for Michael Kaplon, July 9, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Superior Court Judge Thomas Critchley Jr. listens to Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wang during proceeding for Michael Kaplon, July 9, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Kaplon refused to answer police questions at that time, and officers sustained minor injuries attempting to arrest him, the reports said.

Charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest were postponed for a year starting last July, when Kaplon was allowed to enter pre-trial intervention. That’s a probationary program that clears charges against first-time offenders who behave. 

Kaplon had agreed to undergo psychological evaluation and drug- and alcohol screening, including random urine tests, as conditions of that probation.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Mental Health Program is a collaborative effort by assistant prosecutors, mental health providers, probation officers, clinicians, case managers and defense attorneys to help non-violent offenders who suffer from mental illness get treatment instead of jail time, explained Peter DiGennaro, a spokesman for Prosecutor Fredric Knapp.

“The goal of the program is to reduce the rate of recidivism among the mentally ill population and provide long term treatment plans to address the mental health needs of the defendant,” DiGennaro said in a statement.

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