Western District Judge Richard Arcara sentenced former Niagara Falls police officer Stephanie Costanzo to three years probation Wednesday for her role in a 2016 drug operation.
Costanzo pleaded guilty in February to managing a drug involved premises.
Between July and November of 2016, she indirectly helped her then live-in boyfriend Raymond Hopson sell and store crack-cocaine.
Judge Arcara said in court Wednesday the sentence was a difficult one for him; ultimately he pointed to Costanzo’s psychological evaluation and her cooperation with the government for reason why he chose probation.
Defense attorney Joseph LaTona was grateful Costanzo avoided jail.
“There were a lot of factors that had to be taken into consideration and so we’re very grateful that he did and we’re grateful for his sentence,” he told News 4.
Costanzo resigned from the Niagara Falls Police Department more than a year ago, instead of going through the termination process according to Chief Bryan DalPorto.
“It’s a isolated incident certainly in law enforcement, definitely within the Niagara Falls Police Department,” he said.
Federal investigators originally charged Costanzo, Lindsay Carrier, and Raymond Hopson in the drug conspiracy, but Costanzo’s charge was later reduced to managing the premises.
According to court documents, Hopson sold drugs to an undercover officer on several occasions.
LaTona argued a traumatic divorce left Costanzo with PTSD; in court, he also pointed to a fellow officer’s statement that Costanzo was gullible, and aimed to please.
There were several factors that left the Judge Arcara scratching his head.
“The fact my client was a police officer, the fact she had strong family support and yet got herself involved in this particular situation,” LaTona told News 4.
The government generally agreed with the defense that Costanzo was manipulated; they too suggested probation.
Originally, Costanzo was facing up to 20 years behind bars.
As a condition of her release she must submit to drug tests and cannot own a gun.
Costanzo did not comment after sentencing.