East Haven, Connecticut Cops Arrested on Federal Civil Rights Charges

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I linked to a story about this case last summer. It’s another “but for video” case in which a citizen-shot video (shot by a priest, no less) pretty clearly show that the cops lied in their police report. Bonus points, they actually lied about the citizen-shot video.

The police report, David Cari, one of two arresting officers, states that he didn’t know what the New Haven priest was holding. He wrote that he saw an “unknown shiny silver object” that Manship had “cupped” in his hands, and was afraid for his safety. Read the police report here. . .

The police report alleges that Father Manship concealed the fact that he was videotaping the officers, by cupping his hands over “a silver object.”

“Not knowing if Manship was holding a camera or a possible weapon this officer asked Manship to show me what was in his hands,” Cari’s report reads.

In direct contradiction of Cari’s claim, the video from Manship’s camera shows Officer Cari twice verbally identifying the “silver object” as a camera.

“Sir what are you doing? Is there a reason that you have a camera on me?” says Officer Cari, in the video.

“I’m taking a video of what’s going on here,” Manship replies.

“Well, I’ll tell you what, what I’m going to do with that camera,” Officer Cari says, as he walks around a shelving unit to approach the priest.

Here’s the news:

The FBI has arrested four East Haven police officers on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges following an investigation into alleged civil rights violations . . .

Federal law enforcement officials said in indictment papers that Officer Dennis Spaulding, Officer David Cari Officer Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller executed unreasonable searches and seizures and used unreasonable force and concealed their actions.

“At its core, this is an abuse of power case,” said Assistant US Attorney General Thomas Perez.

Mayor Maturo said the four men were arrested at about 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The officers are linked to the 2009 arrest of Father James Manship, who videotaped officers inside a store owned by Hispanics. Father Manship was arrested, but the charged were later dropped.

In a statement, Janice Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director of the FBI in New York, said “These officers have damaged the reputation of their department.”

“They behaved like bullies with badges,” she said.

Once again, all due credit to the Obama administration on this. The DOJ is not only backing citizens in lawsuits against police who violate the right to record, in the more egregious cases it looks like the agency will also hold police officers criminally accountable for—well—breaking the law.

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31 Responses to “East Haven, Connecticut Cops Arrested on Federal Civil Rights Charges”

  1. #1 |  picachu | 

    Wow! I can’t believe this is happening!

  2. #2 |  picachu | 

    It has come to the point where cops almost can’t be held accountable for breaking the law so I’m just stunned and happy to see what I thought I’d never see.

  3. #3 |  Swampy | 

    Awesome. Just plain ol’ awesome.

  4. #4 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    “A union spokesperson says they believe the officers will be exonerated. The union says the four officers had been suspended with pay.”

    I wish I could get paid while in jail (they’re being held by “authorities” until evidently).

  5. #5 |  Mike | 

    So did they kick in doors and deploy flash bangs when apprehending these suspects who are known to have probably numerous firearms and other deadly weapons?

    Just curious……

  6. #6 |  zendingo | 

    @5 that’s what i was wondering……….

  7. #7 |  Paul L. | 

    Interesting bit about the union in the Indictment
    From the linked article.
    “A union spokesperson says they believe the officers will be exonerated. The union says the four officers had been suspended with pay.”

    From the Indictment
    “Defendent MILLER was a leader of the union that represented officers of the
    EHPD ( the union), including serving as President of the union from in or about December 2010 to the present.”

  8. #8 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Don’t you have to give Bush credit whenever you credit Obama? That’s a joke…because that’s how some readers see things.

    Next step: let’s see if they get convictions that stick.

  9. #9 |  Jim | 

    and after that sentences that matter….

  10. #10 |  crazybob | 

    Manship’s actions (investigating police harassment of Latino’s in his city) makes me want to reconsider my “lapsed” status. Since journalists have abdicated this sort of thing I’m glad there is a priest their to step in.

  11. #11 |  Radley Balko | 

    To commenter “Croaker” —

    I don’t tolerate racial epithets on this site. You’ve now had your one warning.

  12. #12 |  Difster | 

    More convictions please!

  13. #13 |  Scott Jacobs (@AblativMeatshld) | 

    I’m glad to hear the DoJ is nailing these guys, but ask this question:

    “Would they be putting this sort of effort forward if the store owners had been white?”

  14. #14 |  Bergman | 

    That conspiracy charge is the one that carries the highest penalty on conviction.

    18USC242 makes it a crime for a public official using official authority under color of law (the FBI refers to these cases as simply “color of law offenses”) to infringe upon or deny any civil, statutory or constitutional right. The law doesn’t distinguish between local, county, state or federal rights. A simple verbal discouragement is worth a year in federal prison if convicted. The mere threat of deadly force (or its actual use) elevates the penalty to ten years in prison. If anyone actually dies, if sexual abuse occurs that wouldn’t have happened without the infringement or the victim is a minor, the penalty jumps to life in prison or execution.

    18USC241 is conspiracy against rights, essentially two or more people working together to break 18USC242. The theory here is that such bad actors are the rare one bad apple in a group, so the chance for someone to think “wait a moment, this isn’t right” increases with population, so if they just forge ahead and follow the herd, they deserve what they get. All penalties start off one step more severe than those in 18USC242. Yes, this means that if two police officers are infringing upon your rights, and one rests his hand suggestively on his holstered pistol, both of them are guilty of a capital crime.

    Whether or not simply being visibly armed with a deadly weapon while committing a crime constitutes a threat of deadly force is a gray area. Courts have gone both ways on it.

  15. #15 |  Dante | 

    From the article:
    “At its core, this is an abuse of power case,” said Assistant US Attorney General Thomas Perez.”

    (Predicted) Response from police:
    Just an isolated incident. One bad apple does not spoil them all. Those officers were just doing their jobs, and like anyone else they just want to go home to their families at the end of the day. These officers are heroes. These officers have sacrificed themselves for the public. These officers are serving the public. We support our valiant officers. Those officers don’t make the laws they were enforcing. If the citizens weren’t doing anything wrong they should have nothing to hide.

    Did I forget any?

    Might as well add “The dog ate my homework”.

  16. #16 |  Charlie O | 

    #13 Scott Jacobs.

    Your question is irrelevant. The cops most likely would not have been harassing the store owners had they been white in the first place. There would be no DOJ action to be taken. And why does it matter?

  17. #17 |  EH | 

    Thank golly it’s an election year, eh?

  18. #18 |  nigmalg | 

    And it has to be said.. Can you imagine if it wasn’t filmed?

    No collection of witness testimony is enough to convict cops; it’s hardly enough to indict them. Thank god for the video evidence. I’m surprised the cop didn’t tie up the loose ends and crush the camera.

    What happened to the IA investigation? Why did the Feds have to come in?

  19. #19 |  Ron | 

    #15 Dante: You forgot the one about

    “these heroes put their lives on the line for YOU every day blah blah blah”…

  20. #20 |  BamBam | 

    To appease the masses. For every instance of rightful punishment, there are likely thousands such instances going justly unpunished.

  21. #21 |  Deoxy | 

    “Would they be putting this sort of effort forward if the store owners had been white?”

    Your question is irrelevant.

    Not with this administration, it isn’t. The instances of their race-based decisions and treatment is overwhelming.

    And actually, I think it should NEVER be irrelevant, whichever race you plug in there. The answer to “Would [the government] be putting forth the same level of effort if [person in question] was/wasn’t [insert race here]” should always ALWAYS be “Yes.”

    White, black, brown, yellow, or purple, it should be the same. Skin color should be absolutely irrelevant.

  22. #22 |  Len | 

    While it’s nice to see these punk cops get their comeuppance, it’s not really a victory. It is actually just more usurpation by the federal government into state powers, meaning more accrual by the federal government, meaning more entrenchment, meaning it’s easier for tyranny to take place because the reach of the monster has increased. Regardless of whether one is an anarchist, minarchist, or whatever, the closer we come to true republican federalism, the better our state.

  23. #23 |  Mark Z. | 

    Len: “While it’s nice to see these punk cops get their comeuppance, it’s not really a victory.”

    The hell? It’s not a victory when one government manages to do its fucking job and enforce our civil rights against the aggression of another government? What do you want, a pony?

  24. #24 |  bacchys | 

    Following on Scott Jacobs’s comment:

    While I applaud DOJ’s action here, it is tempered by the recognition that this prosecution is rooted in identity politics. Civil rights remains an issue of group rights to the Federal government. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of egregious violations of civil rights will go unprosecuted because DOJ can’t find a race, sex, sexual orientation, or some other identity politics hook to rouse their interest.

  25. #25 |  Peter H | 

    The enforcement of constitutionally guaranteed rights extended under the 14th amendment against the states is a legitimate federal role. Like it or not, the reconstruction amendments were quite explicitly limiting the sovereignty of the states with respect to those states violating their citizens’ rights.

    “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. … The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

  26. #26 |  Brent | 

    Were any of them officer of the month/year?

  27. #27 |  Tim W | 

    A prominent CT civil rights attorney offers some wry commentary about this case on his blog.
    http://www.pattisblog.com/

  28. #28 |  celticdragonchick | 

    While it’s nice to see these punk cops get their comeuppance, it’s not really a victory. It is actually just more usurpation by the federal government into state powers, meaning more accrual by the federal government, meaning more entrenchment, meaning it’s easier for tyranny to take place because the reach of the monster has increased.

    Bullshit. If the state was doing its job, the feds would not have had to get involved. This is not much different from the Mississippi civil rights murders in the early 60′s when the state was either looking the other way or even abetting the criminals in law enforcement. I don’t think that Connecticut was helping the cops…but somebody at the the state level was not doing anything about it.

    Bonus footage of the mayor of East Haven being an utter asshole and mocking Latinos at a news conference.
    http://www.wpix.com/news/wpix-conn-officers-arrested-mayor-reax,0,2435685.story

  29. #29 |  picachu | 

    I sincerely hope those cops get the same mercy they’ve shown to non-cops.

  30. #30 |  Arthur | 

    Although I would say this is clearly a PARTIAL victory, I think Len (#22) makes an important point. The fact that there is any accountability at all for these thugs is a victory. The fact that there is almost never any accountability at the local and state level for badged thugs necessitates the DOJ intervention. The bad news is that relying on federal agencies to police LEOs is awful policy for reasons too numerous to list.

  31. #31 |  Joseph Maturo’s Dinner | The Agitator | 

    [...] the mayor of a small city in Connecticut. Four of your police officers have just been arrested by the FBI on federal civil rights charges. They’re accused of harassing and abusing the [...]

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