Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Four East Haven Officers, Including Supervisor Indicted For Targeting And Violating The Civil Rights Of Hispanics

East Haven police officers engaged in a pattern of targeting and discriminating members of the Hispanic community by arresting, beating and falsely accusing them of illegal acts.

By H. Nelson Goodson
January 25, 2012

East Haven, Connecticut - On Tuesday, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents arrested four East Haven Police Department (EHPD) officers, including a supervisor. The were charged with with conspiring to violate, and violating the civil rights of multiple Latino residents of the East Haven community.
Assistant Director in Charge, Janice K. Fedarcyk in a news release from the New York Field Office of the FBI stated that, Officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding, and Jason Zullo, and their supervising sergeant, John Miller were indicted for engaging in one or more of the following blatantly illegal and unethical acts of misconduct.

  • They arrested people and searched premises on false pretenses, and filed false reports to support their illegal actions.
  • They used excessive and unnecessary force, including Sgt. Miller striking a compliant and handcuffed arrestee.
  • Miller reprimanded an officer who did the right thing by reporting this abuse to his superiors.
  • They falsely arrested a religious leader and advocate for the Latino community who witnessed their illegal vehicle search, and unlawfully tried to seize video equipment to expunge evidence of their misconduct.
  • They continued to try to intimidate the religious leader and others in a further effort to obstruct justice.
  • They attempted to impede the Board of Police Commissioners’ investigation of the arrest of the religious leader.
  • They attempted to intimidate and silence other East Haven officers by posting thinly veiled threats in the department station-house.

The officers abused their positions of authority to deprive people of their constitutional rights under color of law. In simple terms, they behaved like bullies with badges.
The indictment outlines a four-year pattern of egregious behavior by men sworn to uphold the law as well as enforce it.
FBI Special Agent Jeremy Bell and Supervisory Special Agent Brian Nadeau of the New York FBI’s Civil Rights/Public Corruption Squad investigated the case involving the East Haven officers, Fedarcyk reported.
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut stated, "Today’s indictment should serve as a powerful message that we in the Department of Justice will not tolerate the abuse of power or victimization of civilians by anyone in law enforcement," said U.S. Attorney Fein. "The serious crimes alleged in the indictment undermine the public’s trust in the fine men and women of law enforcement who serve the people bravely and with integrity every day."
Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Civil Rights Division also stated, "The allegations laid out in the indictment are troubling and the Justice Department is committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting cases where we find allegations of police misconduct," said Assistant Attorney General Perez. "The EHPD has a critical mission—to ensure public safety in East Haven. The Civil Rights Division is committed to helping EHPD fulfil that mission effectively while respecting the rights of the people it serves. As deeply rooted as these problems are, I remain optimistic that we can fix them."
If convicted on all counts, Miller is facing 20 years in a federal prison and up to $500,000 in fines; Zullo is facing 20 years and $500,000 in fines: Spaulding is facing 62 years in prison and $1.2 million in fines and Cari is facing 31 years in prison and up to $600,000 in fines.
Each of the four defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Miller, Spaulding, and Zullo are also charged with one count of use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Additionally, Spaulding is charged with two counts and Cari with one count of deprivation of rights for making arrests without probable cause. Each of these counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to $100,000.
Finally, Spaulding is charged with two counts and Cari with one count of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing false reports to justify the false arrests. Each of these counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Deputy United States Attorney Deirdre M. Daly and Assistant United States Attorney Krishna R. Patel are prosecuting the case with assistance from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.
On Wednesday, East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. apologized for saying he would eat tacos to help the Latino community after 4 police officers were arrested by the FBI for profiling, stopping, arresting and filing false charges targeting Hispanics. He cited stress over the arrests of the officers accused of discriminating members of the Latino community got the best of him and inflamed the situation even more. His comment was made on Tuesday during an interview with a WPIX news reporter.
When asked by the reporter, what would he do for the Latino community?, Maturo said, "I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure yet...I may go and have a Latino dinner in the Latino community."

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