Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Were Obama’s Mass Arrests of East Haven, CT Cops Intended as a Message to Crush All Local Enforcement Against Illegal Aliens?


Media wait in the courtyard in front of Bridgeport federal court while East Haven Police officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, and Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller are arraigned Tuesday afternoon on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. Photo: Autumn Driscoll/Connecticut Post

FBI arrests four East Haven cops
Tom Cleary, Staff Writer
Published 11:36 p.m., Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- The FBI arrested three East Haven police officers and the local police union president Tuesday on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, saying the men had engaged in a campaign of civil rights abuses against Latino residents.

The arrests come as part of a "long-term and ongoing" federal investigation into actions by members of the East Haven department against members of the Latino community, said U.S. Attorney David B. Fein.

Officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, and Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller are accused in a 10-count indictment of executing unreasonable searches and seizures, using unreasonable force during five arrests, arresting five people on false pretenses and then using intimidation and creating false reports to conceal their actions.

The four officers, wearing suits and not handcuffed, were arraigned Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport and all entered not guilty pleas.

"The four police officers charged today allegedly formed a cancerous cadre that routinely deprived East Haven residents of their civil rights," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk of the FBI's New York Division.

"The public should not need protection from those sworn to protect and serve. In simple terms, these defendants behaved like bullies with badges."

Fedarcyk's division led the investigation because of the potential for a conflict of interest with Connecticut agents.

The investigation into the 50-officer police department began in 2009. The Latino community has doubled in recent years, and advocates claim racial tensions led to poor treatment of Latinos by police.

The indictment was handed down Jan. 18 by a federal grand jury seated in Bridgeport.

Zullo was the only officer not released from custody. He was taken to the Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island, pending a bond hearing set for Thursday. Cari was released on $100,000 bond, and Miller on $200,000 bond, both with stringent restrictions. Miller, the president of the union local, is not allowed to return to East Haven while on federal release. After a lengthy hearing, Spaulding was released on $300,000 bond and will be in the custody of his father-in-law in New Haven.

The four men will be in court in Hartford on March 15 for jury selection.

The arraignment and news conference drew media from across the state and from New York, creating a circus atmosphere on Lafayette Boulevard outside the Bridgeport courthouse.

"There is no place for excessive force in a police station or on the streets," Fein said during a news conference Tuesday. "There is no place for false statements in a police report. No person is above the law and nobody -- even a person arrested for a crime -- is beneath its protection. An officer who violates his oath betrays his fellow officers, members of the public and his town, state and country."

The four officers -- who worked together on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift -- have been suspended with pay and have turned in their badges and guns. Mayor Joseph Maturo said the men were arrested around 6 a.m. at their homes and at the police department.

The indictment alleges more than 30 acts by the four men from 2007 to 2010 contributing to the conspiracy.

The acts often included assaults on unarmed suspects already in police custody, sometimes handcuffed, typically at, or near, Latino-owned businesses.

The indictment also alleges the four officers intimidated East Haven police officers who were believed to be cooperating in the federal investigation, and intimidated East Haven police commissioners who were investigating the arrest of Father James Manship, the priest at a predominantly Latino parish in town who spoke out against alleged abuses against members of the community.

Even after the four men were arrested, Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel said, the "blue wall," remained raised. She said a new message was posted on a bulletin board in the union room at the police headquarters telling officers to stay as a team and not speak.

The case remains under investigation and more arrests could be made, Fein said.
Miller's attorney, Donald Cretella, said his client has been honored with awards and risked his life in shootouts.

"John Miller is a hero in East Haven," he said. "He's decorated. He's a wonderful family man. Hopefully, we'll clear his name."

Frank Riccio Jr., Spaulding's attorney, said his client is an exemplary police

"At this early stage it's our position Mr. Spaulding is not guilty of the charges.
He's been nothing but an exemplary police officer. That's why this is shocking."
The attorneys for the other two officers declined comment.

The indictment refers to the three officers who worked under Miller as "Miller's Boys," but Fein said it doesn't indicate he was a ringleader.
Maturo said he backs the police.

"I stand behind the police department," he said. "We have a great police department."

Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division, said Tuesday he looks forward to working with the police department to establish a system to prevent future abuses from occurring.

Perez helped lead a civil investigation that concluded in December and found a pattern of discrimination within the department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[Thanks to reader-researhcer RC for this article.]

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