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.

Sep 28 2013

Lawyer accuses Ashland police of trying to cover up party with fireworks

Dr. Q

The MetroWest Daily News reports:

The police department altered records to cover up a fireworks party this summer attended by off-duty as well as on-duty officers, attorney Joseph Hennessey alleges in a letter sent last week to the police chief and town manager.

Hennessey has demanded the department investigate.

Chief Steven Doherty Monday said Lt. David Beaudoin is doing just that.

“Upon receipt of his concerns relative to the storage of records, I asked that that be investigated,” Doherty said.

The allegations Hennessey makes in his Sept. 16 letter stem from records he obtained through a public records request about a July 6, 2013 noise complaint. Hennessey obtained recordings of two 911 calls and a copy of the log from that day. The log he provided to the News does not contain any reference to the 911 calls.

“There was a purposeful intent by someone within the Ashland Police to alter the records that were provided to me,” he wrote.

The records he requested have to do with an alleged party on July 6, 2013, at the Endicott Road home of the parents of Ashland Police Officer Michael Dionne. The chief said Officer Dionne was in Maine on July 6.

In the first 911 call, a copy of which was provided to the News by Hennessey, a neighbor tells a dispatcher that people at the Dionne home are setting off very loud fireworks. Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts. In the second call, the dispatcher tells the neighbor a police car is on its way to that home.

Hennessey said three people, whose names he would not disclose, told him Ashland police officers attended the party. There is no mention of officers at the party in the 911 calls.

Hennessey, a former Ashland police officer, said he also requested a copy of reports produced about the incident and radio transmissions between the station and cruisers and received nothing.

Hennessey accuses Lt. Richard Briggs of failing to comply with the records request, failing to write a report, failing to seize fireworks and ignoring his duties as a supervisor.

“Again this administration turned their heads to on-going criminal activity and gross violations of the department rules and regulations,” the letter says.

The 911 calls are marked with the incident number 13-7936. The police log, however, skips from 13-7935 to 13-7937. There are frequently incident numbers missing from the Ashland log.

Doherty said it will take a while to investigate who has power to delete log entries and if that occurred.

Doherty said Hennessey has made “dozens” of public records requests lately, which can become tedious to fulfill.

“He makes it sound like a personal attack but in fact these are static documents but they are technical in nature and it will take a while to get them,” he said.

Hennessey, who is a friend of outsted Police Chief Scott Rohmer, represents Edward Pomponio, an Ashland sergeant named in several lawsuits as a co-defendant with Rohmer and Beaudoin. Hennessey also represented Andrew Stigliano, the Ashland man police shot and killed in July.

Hennessey said he also sent the letter to the FBI, Middlesex District Attorney’s office and the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office.

I think fireworks should be legal, but the police should also be subjected to the same laws as everyone else.