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Feds: Former East Haven Officer's Sentencing 'Sad Day' for Law Enforcement

“It is our hope that today's sentencing allows the community of East Haven to rebuild the trust they have with their police department," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos stated, referring to the sentencing of David Cari.

The following is a press release from the Office of the United States Attorney District of Connecticut.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that former East Haven Police Officer DAVID CARI, 36, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.

According to court documents and statements made in court, this matter stems from a criminal investigation into members of the East Haven Police Department using excessive force during arrests, conducting unconstitutional searches and seizures, and filing false police reports. 

As a result of the investigation, CARI, Sergeant John Miller and Officers Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo were charged with various civil rights offenses.According to the evidence presented during the trial of CARI and Dennis Spaulding, in February 2009 the defendant officers illegally searched a vehicle parked outside of a Latino-owned grocery store. 

Inside the store, CARI then arrested a Catholic priest, who is also an advocate for Latinos, on false pretenses.  The officers then conducted an illegal search of the back room of the store in an effort to unlawfully seize the store’s video recording equipment. 

In the days following the arrest, CARI drafted various false versions of an arrest report to cover up the false arrest of the religious leader.

“David Cari was entrusted to protect the people of East Haven,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “Instead, he violated that trust by arresting a priest when there was no basis to do so and attempting to cover up that illegal arrest with a false police report.  Today’s sentence is appropriate as corrupt law enforcement cause great harm to the integrity of the legal system.  It is always a sad day when a police officer is sentenced to prison as the vast majority of officers in East Haven and in this country serve honorably and bravely.” 

 “There is a basic trust the public has in those who are sworn to enforce the law – they are there to keep the public safe, not promote their own agenda,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos.  “It is our hope that today's sentencing allows the community of East Haven to rebuild the trust they have with their police department.”

On October 21, 2013, the jury found CARI guilty of one count of conspiracy against rights, one count of deprivation of rights for making an arrest without probable cause, and one count of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing a false report to justify the false arrest.  He has been detained since that date. 

Spaulding was also found guilty of the same offenses, as well as use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 23.

On October 23, 2012, Jason Zullo pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction stemming from his filing of a false police report in order to prevent a possible excessive force investigation. On December 16, 2013, he was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment.

On September 21, 2012, John Miller pleaded guilty to one count of violating an individual’s civil rights by using unreasonable force during the course of an arrest.  He awaits sentencing. 

This matter has been investigated by the Civil Rights Squad of the FBI’s New York Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna R. Patel and Senior Litigation Counsel Richard J. Schechter.

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