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.