DC firefighter remained on job despite no contest plea in fatal collision last year

- D.C. Fire and EMS is defending its decision to keep a firefighter on the job even though he has pleaded no contest in a fatal automobile accident.

John Pignataro was sentenced to jail last November but has remained free pending appeal. He was not taken off the street at his job and is now in trouble with the law again.

Last Friday, Pignataro was arrested outside his girlfriend’s home in Severn, Maryland, after telling her he was going home to get his gun.

According to a court charging document, Pignataro had found her in bed with another man and made the threat. He then sent her a text that read, "You can think I'm joking if you like, I’ll be back shortly.”

But when he returned, police were waiting for him. Inside his car, police said they found a disassembled .45 caliber Glock 30 handgun. He was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder.

This incident comes about eleven months after Pignataro was involved in a fatal accident in Virginia Beach. Police said he was driving a truck, which was towing another car on a trailer, when he rear-ended a Lexus vehicle driven by 27-year-old Erik Schmeiser. Pignataro was charged with reckless driving.

But instead of being placed on a duty assignment off the engines and ambulances, he continued to work the streets running emergency calls. Pignataro was assigned to Engine 27 on Minnesota Avenue in Northeast D.C. where he worked as a firefighter-EMT.

Last November, he pleaded no contest to the reckless driving charge and was sentenced to 60 days in jail. However, he is appealing that sentence and was due back in court next week.

Despite the plea, Pignataro remained on the job until he went out on sick leave in late January. It is a decision defended by the fire department.

No one would our answer questions on camera on Thursday, but we were given a statement which reads in part:

"The department understands that there has been no disposition in that case, which is currently pending in circuit court.

“As this was a pending misdemeanor and his driving privileges were not suspended by the state of Virginia, consistent with department policy, the member's duty status did not change because of the misdemeanor offense.”

FOX 5 was unable to reach Pignataro on Thursday. He is currently in jail in Anne Arundel County. His attorney declined to comment on the charges he is now facing in Maryland.

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