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Feds To Take Over Probe Of Meriden Police

Grand jury expected to be convened

6:29 PM EDT, April 14, 2011

MERIDEN — Federal authorities have taken over the investigation into police brutality charges against the son of the Meriden police chief, and a grand jury is expected to be convened quickly to start hearing evidence.

Sources said that federal authorities and New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington met earlier this week and agreed to conduct a joint investigation into allegations that police brutality charges against Officer Evan Cossette were dismissed by the department because he is the son of Chief Jeffry Cossette.

But the sudden interest of federal authorities in the case likely means that the investigation could expand beyond just the allegations against the chief's son.

New Haven defense attorney William Dow III said the federal intervention into the case also probably means that the investigation won't be done quickly and could expand to investigate other allegations that might come up.

"The power of a federal grand jury is imposing and effective, and they can compel people to give testimony or evidence that they might not normally provide,'' Dow said.

Dearington had announced earlier this week that he was asking the state police Western District Crime Squad to investigate allegations made by two Meriden police officers, Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan, that there was a disparity in how the department disciplined officers, specifically when it came to the chief's son.

The investigation was initially going to focus specifically on a May 2010 incident in which Evan Cossette pushed a handcuffed prisoner, Pedro Temich, backward into a concrete bench in a holding cell, cracking Temich's head.

A videotape shows Cossette entering the cell at least six times and moving Temich around, twice propping him up against the bench and another time putting him back on the floor so that his handcuffs could be removed. There is blood visible on the floor where Temich fell.

A dispatcher who saw the unconscious Temich in the cell called for medical help. Temich was taken to MidState Medical Center in Meriden and required 12 stitches in the back of his head.

The incident wasn't reported to police administrators until six weeks later. After an internal affairs investigation found that Evan Cossette had used unnecessary force, he was given a letter of reprimand and ordered to take four hours of training on the use of excessive force by Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos.

The Temich case was the first of three excessive force allegations made against Evan Cossette in less than a year, records show. Cossette has been a certified officer since March 2009.

In two cases, Cossette was exonerated. In one of those cases, in which Cossette admitted kneeing suspect Robert Methvin in the face, internal affairs Sgt. Leonard Caponigro found the allegations baseless after conducting a six-minute interview with Cossette.

Caponigro ended that interview by telling the chief's son not to worry because he was "just going through the motions" and would wrap the case up quickly.

The third brutality complaint was filed in January 2011 by Joseph G. Bryans after an incident outside the MidState Medical Center.

Bryans said in an interview that he had gone to the hospital because he had cut his thumb, but after sitting around for several hours waiting for medical help, he went outside to smoke a cigarette. Hospital personnel called Meriden police, claiming that he was intoxicated.

Evan Cossette responded and arrested Bryans, shooting him several times in the back with a stun gun, according to Bryans and a notice of intent to sue the town filed by his attorney, Sally Roberts.

Bryans said he was handcuffed to a hospital bed and several times told Cossette that the cuffs were too tight and that he couldn't feel his hand. Bryans said he has nerve damage in his right hand as a result.

Roberts filed an unnecessary force complaint with the department on Bryans' behalf. Cossette was cleared of any wrongdoing in that case by internal affairs.



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