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Federal Suits Filed Against Meriden Officers

Charge That Brutality Complaints Against Chief's Son Covered Up


The Hartford Courant

5:31 PM EDT, June 22, 2011


Two federal lawsuits were filed Wednesday against Meriden Police Officer Evan Cossette; his father, Jeffry Cossette, who is the police chief; and several other officers alleging that brutality charges against the younger Cossette were covered up or ignored by the department.

One of the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven was by Pedro Temich, a prisoner who was pushed backwards while handcuffed by Evan Cossette into a jail cell at the police station last May. He fell and cracked his head on a concrete bench, an injury that eventually required 12 stitches.

When the video from the jail cell camera was released, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington and the FBI announced a joint criminal investigation, which is on-going.

Meriden city officials also hired a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office to conduct an independent investigation into allegations raised by two officers, Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan, that Evan Cossette was treated differently when it came to excessive force complaints because his father is the police chief. That investigation also is pending.

An internal affairs investigation of the jail cell incident didn't start until more than six weeks later because none of the supervisors on duty reported it. During his internal affairs interview, Evan Cossette said that he feared the 5-foot Temich, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, was going to head butt him.


WFSB Video

Cossette said that because Temich was so drunk, he tripped himself and cracked his head. The videotape shows Evan Cossette entering the jail cell six or seven times and moving Temich around despite the fact he had an obvious head injury with blood visible on the cell floor.

New Britain attorney Sally Roberts, who is representing both Temich and Robert Methvin, who claims in the second lawsuit that Evan Cossette used excessive force on him during an arrest, said in the lawsuit that despite the fact Cossette was a certified EMT "he did not attempt to use his medical training to assist the plaintiff but continued in his reckless fashion of moving the plaintiff about into various positions, despite the obvious critical head injury which meant the plaintiff should have been immobilized."

The internal affairs investigation by Sgt. Leonard Caponigro, who is also named in both lawsuits, found that Evan Cossette violated the department's policy on the use of force. But when Cossette went before Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos for his administrative hearing the charges were lowered and only a letter of reprimand was placed in Evan Cossette's file.

Temich's complaint was one of seven internal affairs complaints against Evan Cossette in the past 18 months, more than any other officer in the department, records show. None of the other complaints were upheld.

One of those complaints was by Methvin, who was arrested on Oct. 5, 2010 following a disturbance outside his home.

The lawsuit claims that after Methvin had already been subdued and handcuffed by another officer and was on the ground, Evan Cossette drove his knee into Methvin's face, causing serious injury to his jaw and front teeth that required multiple surgeries.

A few days after the incident, Methvin filed an excessive force complaint with the police department. Caponigro did the investigation but never interviewed Methvin.

At the end of the six-minute interview he conducted with Evan Cossette about the Methvin case Caponigro can be heard laughing with Cossette about how big Methvin was and concluded the interview by saying "don't worry, we are just going through the motions" and that the case would be wrapped up in a week or so.

The lawsuits both seek unspecified monetary damages. Other officers named in the Temich suit were Topulos, Marvin Richards and Leighton Gibbs, the other officer seen on the video entering the cell. Others named in the Methvin lawuit are Topulos and Glen Milslagle, who works in internal affairs.




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