Nov 16 2013

IWW picketer says he was falsely arrested by Cambridge police

Dr. Q

Open Media Boston reports:

A picket outside Insomnia Cookies in Cambridge resulted in the arrest of a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union Thursday night.

Jason Freedman was arraigned at Cambridge District Court in Medford Friday morning in a brief hearing by the court’s First Judge, Roanne Sragow.

Charged by Cambridge Police for assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, Freedman called the allegations “ridiculous.”

Speaking to Open Media Boston at the court, Freedman said, “we weren’t blocking the sidewalk; we were there to protest terrible conditions and pay at Insomnia,” which he says are the “plight of millions of Americans.”

He was taking part in the picket, one of many since August when workers at Insomnia Cookies in Cambridge went on strike for better pay, improved working conditions, and healthcare; four workers were fired following that initial strike.

Freedman alleges that the police officers on the scene treated the demonstrators as if they were a “nuisance,” describing the officers’ behavior as “very aggressive,” and claims that they were there to “harass” and “detain” protestors, and “break-up” the picket.

He further alleges that the police “were there to make an example” of the demonstrators.

Adamant that he was taking part in the picket peacefully, Freedman says he “wasn’t trying to cause conflict” when he was allegedly targeted by police.

Photos and video captured of the incident show that Freedman was tackled to the ground by several Cambridge Police Officers.

He was arrested and released on bail after being held at a police station near Kendall Sq.

At the court, Freedman had a visible scrape and slight swelling above his right eye, and he complained of a great deal of pain in his left arm, noting that same arm had been broken before.

“I definitely felt punches on my body as they tried to wrestle me to the ground,” Freedman alleges, adding that they were “definitely assaulting me.”

He alleges that “it seemed like they … wanted to punch me, and kick me.”

After he had been arrested, he says he repeatedly said to officers, “please don’t touch my left arm,” because he thought it was broken.

Following multiple requests for medical attention, he was treated by paramedics who determined he had not received a broken arm.

This incident follows the firing of a fifth employee of Insomnia Cookies in Cambridge, Tommy Mendes, allegedly for becoming a member of the IWW.

Read the rest of this article here.


Nov 8 2013

Chicopee police sergeant charged with assaulting female prisoner

Dr. Q

The Republican reports:

A veteran Chicopee police officer is facing assault charges from a February struggle with a prisoner who was spraying blood and saliva from her mouth as officers attempted to restrain her, court and police records show.

Reversing a clerk-magistrate’s decision, Holyoke District Court Judge Maureen E. Walsh ruled last month that Chicopee Police Sgt. Daniel Major can be charged with assault and battery for his handling of a prisoner who admitted being drunk and under the influence of the street drug PCP, according to police.

After reviewing the booking videotape 30 times, Walsh said the sergeant could have been acting out of frustration, not concern for his health, when he grabbed the prisoner by the throat and forced her to the floor.

“The facts in this case are not so crystal clear,” Walsh wrote in her Oct. 17 decision, adding the sergeant’s self-defense claim was not supported by “uncontradicted facts.”

The prisoner, identified as Maylene Maldonado, of Chicopee, was arrested by officer John Birks for assault and battery on a police officer after she inflicted several wounds to his face. At the police station, the prisoner, who was handcuffed, was yelling, screaming and urging six officers present to remove a piercing that was cutting her lip, according to Walsh’s ruling.

“In the videotape, Ms. Maldonado certainty appears agitated, argumentative and at times loud and non-compliant during most if not all of the booking,” Walsh wrote.

Major eventually grabbed Maldonado by the throat “because she was bleeding from her lip and spraying small droplets of blood and saliva,” Walsh said. The sergeant claims that his actions were reasonable and necessary to “protect himself and others against potentially dangerous substance (blood),” the judge said.

Major pleaded innocent to the charge Wednesday in Holyoke District Court and was released on personal recognizance.

The arrest has echoes of the West Springfield case involving Daniel O’Brien, the police captain fired last week after he was accused of several violations including taping the mouth of a spitting woman who had been taken into custody.

In Chicopee, an internal police review found that Major did not violate departmental rules, according to Capt. Mark Gilbert, who said he reviewed video footage of the booking process multiple times and found nothing objectionable.

A clerk-magistrate’s hearing in September seconded that assessment, ruling that no charges should be filed against Major.

Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni successfully appealed that ruling, however, and Major is due back in Chicopee District Court for a Dec. 6 pretrial hearing on an assault and battery charge.

And here is a video from ABC40 on this case:


Oct 24 2013

October 22 anti-police brutality rally at Lynn City Hall

Dr. Q

For years now, October 22 has been set as the “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation,” a day when people gather around to country to hold grassroots rallies to protest police violence in their communities. I attended one such rally in Lynn, Massachusetts where family members of Denis Reynoso and their supporters gathered outside the Lynn City Hall.

Reynoso was an Iraq war veteran who was shot to death in his own home by Lynn police officers who entered without a warrant. Police have claimed that they shot Reynoso in self-defense after he tried to grab a police officer’s weapon.

The investigation into the shooting is being handled by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, but the family has called for an independent investigation.

At the October 22 rally, people gathered outside city hall. After a while, an open mic (and later, a bullhorn) was set up. A number of people talked about Denis Reynoso while others recounted their own personal experiences. I recorded most of the speeches, but I made an amateurish mistake and ended up losing my video. A number of other people were recording the speeches, so I’ll post links to their videos if they are shared online.

There was also a rally for Reynoso on October 5 which I reported on. At that rally, protesters first gathered at the Lynn Commons then marched to the police station. Reynoso’s wife Jessica Spinney entered the police station and handed in a petition asking for an independent investigation and changes to the Lynn Police Department’s use-of-force policies.

The Daily Item reports that Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger has said that “If anyone else wants to come in and look at this [the shooting] — a legitimate entity or agency — you will have our full cooperation. We have nothing to hide.” However, James Lamanna, the attorney for the city, has refused to share records about the shooting with the family’s attorney, Howard Friedman. Lamanna told the Item that the DA advised him not to disclose the records yet.

You can sign an online petition calling on Lynn Mayor Judith Kennedy and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to provide an independent investigation of the Denis Reynoso shooting here.

Below, you can see some photos I took at the rally.

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You can see a few additional photographs here.


Oct 12 2013

Jury sides with Framingham police sergeant in federal lawsuit

Dr. Q

The MetroWest Daily News reports:

After more than three and a half years, Framingham Police Sgt. Scott Brown said his name is finally cleared.

On Sept. 16, a federal jury dismissed claims by a former Framingham couple that Brown pointed a gun at them in April 2010.

“It’s relief,” said Brown. “It’s been hanging over me. At this point, they were just going for money.

Jorge Correia and his wife, Cathleen Runnals, filed the suit against Brown and the town, as well as several other police officers, after Brown was found not guilty in a criminal trial in May 2011 that charged him with assault and battery. A federal judge removed everyone but Brown and the town from the suit prior to the six-day trial that ended on Sept. 16.

The pair were seeking $1 million in damages from the town.

Correia and Runnals told police that Brown and his partner, then Detective Leonard Pini, pulled into the EZ Storage facility on 501 Cochituate Road, Framingham, on April 29, 2010 and Runnals confronted Brown about urinating outdoors on the property.

When Correia rushed over to see what the commotion was. Correia claimed that Brown threatened him with his handgun. Brown said he only pointed at Correia and told him to move.

After an investigation, the Middlesex district attorney’s office charged Brown with assault with a dangerous weapon and threatening to commit a crime. Middlesex Superior Court Judge Paul Chernoff found Brown not guilty after a seven-day bench trial.

In the civil trial, Runnals and Correia alleged assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision. The jury deliberated for 40 minutes before finding the town and Brown not responsible.

Neither Correia nor Runnals could be reached for comment.

Brown said he’s glad to move on.

“It still bothers me that I had to go through all of that,” said Brown. “You can’t have all that in you’re head. You have to keep going forward.”


Oct 12 2013

Report details disturbing misconduct allegations against West Springfield police captain

Dr. Q

The Republican published a disturbing story about a West Springfield police captain who has been on a paid vacation at taxpayer expense for almost two years while under investigation for a misconduct allegations, some incredibly shocking.

West Springfield officials released a report Friday detailing six allegations of misconduct against Police Capt. Daniel M. O’Brien.

O’Brien has been on paid administrative leave since January 2012. He makes about $104,000 a year, according to the city. He was one of three finalists for police chief last year.

The mayor said he will have to decide on possible disciplinary action which could include termination. A lawyer for O’Brien said the officer looks forward to a hearing on the matter.

The report contains a photo of a woman in a restraint chair. Her head is bound to the chair by red packing tape, the type used to secure evidence. The tape covers her mouth and wraps all the way around her head and part of the chair.

Police rules say the chair is to be used only for those who are a danger to themselves or to staff.

O’Brien is accused of binding the woman with the tape in violation of department policy and, said Police Chief Ronald P. Campurciani, in defiance of basic safety precautions.

“If she aspirates, she dies,” said Campurciani said, referring to the choking hazard. “You can’t get the tape off fast enough.”

West Springfield Mayor Gregory C. Neffinger added: “It would be to hard to grab an edge. You would have to cut it off.”

Both Neffinger and Campurciani sat for an hour-long interview Friday detailing the two-inch-thick report compiled by former Tewskbury Police Chief Alfred P. Donovan and Donovan’s company, APD Management Inc., at the direction of the city.

The woman, whose full name was not included in the report given to The Republican, allegedly caused a disturbance at the Big E on Sept. 30, 2011, but was calm by the time she was bought to the police station at 26 Central St. She was calm enough to not need handcuffs, according to the report. But the woman later became upset and didn’t want to go into her cell.

According to the report, it was then that O’Brien had her placed in the chair.

“At some point while he was taping my head, I remember him saying ‘See how much you like this, fat bitch’ and something about dying,” the woman is quoted as telling an investigator hired by the city. “I was very scared at that point and remember crying and trying to get him to let me out. I was having some difficulty breathing; my nose was stuffed up from crying. I was hyperventilating.”

Campurciani said she was in the chair for 15 or 20 minutes. She was never charged with a crime.

Campurciani said proper procedure for use of the chair is to bind the subject’s hands and feet so they cannot hurt themselves or others. The person’s face and mouth and nose are to be left free.

The chair with the detained person is then to be placed in a secure area under constant video surveillance as a further safety precaution.

“It’s clear what this is,” Campurciani said, drawing attention to the photograph. “How this doesn’t shock the consciousness of everyone is beyond me. I just can’t find words.”

There are two other incidents detailed in the report involving the chair. One, from Dec. 1, 2011, involves a man who had admitted spitting at police. In that case, O’Brien is accused of placing a paper bag over the man’s head and later pulling the man’s sweatshirt hood over the man’s head and taping it in place.

O’Brien said he had no recall of this event, putting his credibility in question according to investigators.

The third incident involves a different woman O’Brien placed in the chair for about 20 minutes on Sept. 26, 2011. The woman refused to go back to the cell after making her phone call, but she was not a danger to herself and others, according to the report. Police rules say the chair is only to be used for those who are a danger to themselves or to staff.

Three additional allegations involve O’Brien’s failure to disclose information about his medical background when applying for police jobs in Belchertown and in West Springfield in 1987 and 1988 and O’Brien’s Army enlistment papers prior to that.

O’Brien said he was told by the recruiting sergeant not to tell the Army about his medical background and he said the late Police Chief Thomas P. McNamara Jr. not to disclose his medical background or military service on his police applications.

O’Brien didn’t stay in the service, according to the report, which was redacted to preserve his medical confidentiality.

The series of issues with O’Brien came to light on Dec. 16, 2011, after the photo and an accompanying letter were sent to the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office and to the Office of the U.S. Attorney.

Neffinger said the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute, instead passing the ball to federal prosecutors.

It was the FBI, Campurciani said, that discovered discrepancies in the applications and enlistment paperwork, and FBI agents uncovered the other chair incidents. They interviewed more than 20 West Springfield police, and three gave statements.

But in the end, federal prosecutors declined to bring charges, saying they needed to show “lasting harm” under federal civil rights legislation. The lasting harm was not there, prosecutors told the city.

The case also has become a bit of a political football in West Springfield, with O’Brien supporters attending City Council meetings and shouting down Neffinger in debates as Neffinger runs for re-election.

Neffinger said it isn’t about politics.The investigation was delayed in order to protect O’Brien’s rights.

Before making a decision about O’Brien, Neffinger first must wait for a formal recommendation from Campurciani, a move the chief expects to make next week. That recommendation will be kept confidential as a personnel matter.

But Neffinger said he has to weigh a number of concerns, not the least of which is that defense attorneys will use the allegations of untruth in O’Brien’s background against him every time a case goes to trial.

Secondly, there is the impact on other officers. One presumably tipped off the feds to begin with – no one but a cop or civilian employee would have been in a position to take the photo – and three officers gave detailed statements against O’Brien. If O’Brein came back he’d be their commander.

“This is a senior member of the department that new officers are supposed to look up to,” Neffinger said.

Burke, O’Brien’s attorney, said there will be a hearing and that he is looking forward to defending his client at that time.

Update (10/31/2013): O’Brien has finally been fired, however, he has a chance to appeal the firing. He was only fired because he wouldn’t accept a deal with the the city that would have allowed him to retire. He plans to appeal the firing.

ABC40 reports:

After being on paid administrative leave for the last two years, and a deal regarding his employment fell through last week, West Springfield Capt. Daniel O’Brien has been fired from the force.

Mayor Gregory Neffinger made the announcement late Monday afternoon. He adds that a termination letter from him, along with a letter from Police Chief Ronald Campurciani, a copy of the investigative report, and a copy of the state statute were hand delivered to O’Brien Monday.

The termination takes effect immediately.

“We felt that we were trying to do the best deal for him and the City of West Springfield,” Neffinger said. “There were certain issues in the investigative report that really made it difficult for him to continue as a police officer in West Springfield.”

O’Brien had been on paid administrative leave since an incident in September 2011, during which a woman in police custody and in a restraint chair had her mouth taped shut while at the police station.

A hearing involving O’Brien, his attorney, and city officials was held on Friday, October 18, following which all parties acknowledged a deal had reached as to O’Brien’s employment status, and added that they were all satisfied with the outcome.

A final agreement was set to be signed by Friday, October 25.

So what went wrong? O’Brien says after careful review, it wasn’t fair.

O’Brien was flagged for six incidents in an internal affairs investigation over his career, including the 2011 incident. He says each of them has a set of facts that counters what the report states, however, and that’s why he is going to appeal his firing.


Oct 11 2013

Video evidence of alleged Worcester police brutality incident goes missing

Dr. Q

The Telegram & Gazette reports:

A routine arrest outside a city strip club in May has exposed a rift between the Worcester Police Department and the district attorney’s office, touched off by allegations that a key piece of evidence — a videotape — is missing.

The case has also launched an internal affairs probe into the arresting officer, Joseph Vigliotti.

Officer Vigliotti is accused by 22-year-old Nigel H. Edwards of Cranston, R.I., of using excessive force, filing a false police report and committing racial profiling. Mr. Edwards was arrested May 5 outside the Emperor’s Lounge on five charges including assault and battery on a police officer and assault. Another man was arrested in the case as well. Mr. Edwards is black; Officer Vigliotti is white.

Through his lawyer, Officer Vigliotti, a 12-year police veteran, denies any wrongdoing in the case.

Mr. Edwards agreed in September to nine months of pretrial probation to settle the charges against him — in his words, to make the charges go away. At the time, he said he accepted probation because he was concerned if his case ever went to trial, it would be his word against the police officer’s. A jury would inherently believe an officer, Mr. Edwards said — especially since the videotape evidence filmed by the club’s security cameras was missing.

“I am concerned that justice has been obstructed in this matter, and the loss of evidence was intentional,” Mr. Edwards wrote in his internal affairs complaint. “The videotape was absolute definitive proof that Officer Vigliotti used excessive force; pepper sprayed me without merit and falsely arrested me.”

In an interview, Mr. Edwards explained why he agreed to pretrial probation.

“It is my word against these two powerhouses,” Mr. Edwards said, referring to police and District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office. “All I have is my word and that video of what happened, and it was lost. I feel like I was weaseled into something I didn’t really want to be into.”

Mr. Edwards’ mother, Roberta D. Powell, has concerns about Officer Vigliotti having had possession of the evidence.

“If in fact the video shows Nigel’s versions of event, and I believe it does, then he (Officer Vigliotti) has every reason to get rid of it because it implicates him,” she said.

Officer Vigliotti’s lawyer brokered the signing of a release stating that Mr. Edwards would not sue the officer or the city of Worcester. Officials said the Police Department’s administration was unaware of the release agreement. It was crafted by John K. Vigliotti, the officer’s brother and lawyer. Attorney Vigliotti’s firm represents officers through the Massachusetts Police Association Legal Defense Fund.

This is an important and disturbing story. Read the entire article here.