So the Needham police, like Jack Dempsey, believe that the best defense is a good offense. What else explains how quickly they released the 911 tapes of the calls made by Stone Hearth Pizza employees on Friday? These calls led the police to surround the pizzeria Friday afternoon and arrest Hillel Neuer, a man who evidently has three law degrees (how many do you need, exactly?) and serves as the Executive Director of UN Watch, the Geneva affiliate of the American Jewish Committee. The calls, halting and barely intelligible, make clear that the pizza shop employees falsely believed, for reasons that remain unclear, that Neuer had a gun. (One curious twist: during one of the calls, the employee asks the dispatcher “What kind of pizza do you want?” Perhaps she was trying to hide the fact of her call from Neuer. Or maybe they really, really believe in customer service.)
But there may be one problem with Needham’s PR tactic: According the press release from the American Jewish Congress, Neuer himself called 911 twice during the standoff. Were those tapes released? I can’t find them anywhere on the internet, and my guess is that the PD didn’t think they would help, so they are still at police headquarters and won’t be released unless some media outlet asks.
In any event, some good decisions were made over at the Dedham Courthouse this morning. The Clerk Magistrate dismissed the disorderly condut charges, apparently without objection by the Norfolk DA or the police. But will Neuer have enough common sense simply to walk away, and understand that sometimes people, like the frantic pizza employees, make mistakes, and the police simply reacted to what appeared to be a dangerous situation? The AJC press release, quoting Neuer’s well known lawyer David G. Eisenstadt, suggests that a civil suit may be brewing: “Mr. Neuer was an innocent man who went to a restaurant in Needham, and was traumatized and almost killed as a result. His impeccable reputation was unfairly tarnished by these events . . . . Why certain individuals in Needham acted in a reckless manner requires further examination.”
Honesty, gentlemen, is a lawsuit is really going to help anybody? Here’s a thought: Mr. Stone Hearth Pizza Owner, you of the three stores in MetroWest and the rave reviews for your pies, recognize that this wasn’t exactly the best way to treat a customer. Pick up the phone today, call the AJC, and offer to sponsor a series of programs at Needham High, at Town Hall, wherever you can find an audience, on the importance of tolerance in our free society. Or on whatever else they’d like you to sponsor. And give everyone who attends free pizza at the end.
And to the Needham PD: we’re watching to see if Neuer’s 911 calls show up anywhere.