Four East Haven police officers were indicted on Tuesday for illegally targeting the Latino community, prompting Mayor Joseph Maturo to voice his support of the embattled officers. When asked by a New York City-based WPIX reporter what he’s doing to support Latinos, the Republican mayor said, “I might have tacos when I go home.”
The remark set off controversy and a strong rebuke from Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat. In a statement, the governor said:
The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo are repugnant. They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable. Being tired is no excuse. He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he’s going to do to repair the damage he’s done. And he needs to do it today.
Maturo, who was a former five-term mayor before being elected again in November, later on Wednesday.
My sincerest apologies go out to the East Haven community and, in particular, the Latino community for the insensitive and off-collar comment that I made to WPIX reporter Mario Diaz yesterday regarding the recent events affecting our community and our police department. Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation. I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.
When he was elected by margin of several dozen votes last year, , "I'm going to work hard to give everyone a community that they can be proud of."
“Bullies with Badges”
The four East Haven Police officers arrested earlier this morning "allegedly formed a cancerous cadre that routinely deprived East Haven residents of their civil rights," according to Janice K. Fedarcyk, assistant director-in-charge of the New York Office of the FBI.
“The public should not need protection from those sworn to protect and serve. In simple terms, these defendants behaved like bullies with badges," Fedarcyk said.
More Than 30 Incidents
According to allegations contained in the 10-count indictment, from approximately 2007 through 2011, East Haven police officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller "conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community in violation of their Constitutional rights."
The indictment alleges more than 30 overt acts by the four defendants and others in furtherance of the conspiracy. The acts include:
• A July 2007 incident during which Miller and another officer used unreasonable force against a victim in the vicinity of the Saltonstall Parkway;
• A November 2008 incident during which Spaulding used excessive force against an individual in the parking lot of a Latino-owned restaurant and bar. Spaulding then arrested the individual under false pretenses to cover-up the assault, and prepared a false report to justify the false arrest;
• A January 2009 incident in the same parking lot during which Spaulding and Zullo arrested three individuals under false pretenses and with Miller and Cari present. Zullo then used excessive force against two of the individuals in the EHPD station, and Spaulding prepared a false report to justify the arrests;
• A February 2009 incident during which Spaulding, Cari and other officers illegally searched a vehicle parked outside of a Latino-owned grocery store. Inside the store, Cari and Spaulding, under Miller’s supervision, then arrested a religious leader, who is also an advocate for Latinos, on false pretenses. At Miller’s direction, Cari, Spaulding, Zullo and others 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. In the months following the incident, Spaulding engaged in behavior intended to intimidate the religious leader and others.
• A January 2010 incident during which Miller used excessive force against an individual in the vicinity of Thompson Avenue, and then reprimanded a fellow officer who witnessed the assault and reported it to a supervisory sergeant;
• Intimidation and harassment of East Haven Police Commissioners who were attempting to investigate the arrest of the religious leader and certain alleged misconduct involving Miller;
• Intimidation of EHPD personnel, including threatening statements about an EHPD officer who was believed to be cooperating in an investigation of EHPD.
Each of the four defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Miller, Spaulding and Zullo are also charged with one count of use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Additionally, Spaulding is charged with two counts and Cari with one count of deprivation of rights for making arrests without probable cause. Each of these counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to $100,000.
Finally, Spaulding is charged with two counts and Cari with one count of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing false reports to justify the false arrests. Each of these counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
This story was updated at 11:50 a.m. to include party affiliations and reflect that Mayor Joseph Maturo apologized.