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News & Noteworthy

Former Meriden police officer loses appeal in brutality case
 

Published: November 25, 2014 | Last Modified: November 25, 2014 06:54PM

By Mary Ellen Godin Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN — The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of former police officer Evan Cossette on charges of excessive force and obstruction, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

Cossette, son of Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, was convicted of the charges in federal court by a six-member jury in September 2013. He is serving a 14-month sentence in federal prison.

The government arrested Cossette on charges he willfully deprived prisoner Pedro Temich of his civil rights when he pushed him into a holding cell in 2010. The push knocked the intoxicated and handcuffed Temich onto a concrete bench, causing a serious head injury that left him unconscious. Cossette was also charged with falsifying a report about the incident.

At trial Cossette tried unsuccessfully to block the jury from viewing a holding cell surveillance video of him shoving Temich. The video was released to state media outlets in 2011 by Temich’s attorney, and caught the eye of the state’s attorney’s office. The FBI launched a probe into the incident and other allegations against Cossette and other members of the Meriden Police Department.

The Temich assault was the only arrest stemming from the two-year FBI probe. But the city hired former federal prosecutor Thomas Daily to launch an independent investigation after two former officers— both of whom were the subject of internal affairs probes and disciplined— complained that Cossette received preferential treatment from top brass. Cossette, who was disciplined by Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos, received a letter of reprimand in his file and was required to take four hours of additional training in the use of force after the Temich incident.

Chief Jeffry Cossette could not be reached for comment about the appeal.

The officers— one has since been fired, the other retired on medical leave— also alleged disparate treatment and corruption involving other members of the department. After an 18-month investigation, Daily found no instances of biased treatment or corruption .

One of the officers, Donald Huston, has filed a wrongful termination complaint with the state Department of Labor Relations.

In his appeal, Cossette claimed he did not have “fair warning” that his conduct violated the charged statutes. The three-judge Second Circuit panel disagreed stating “law enforcement officers have been on notice that the Fourth Amendment prohibits their use of excessive force during an arrest.” It also maintained that Cossette “willfully” used excessive force and “the court correctly charged the jury that the government bore the burden of proving such willfulness beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The court also rejected Cossette’s claim he lacked fair warning that when he filled out a report about such use of force the matter would be the subject of an investigation. In making its ruling, the Second Circuit judges used Cossette’s own acknowledgment that it was “common knowledge amongst police officers that if they use excessive force, the FBI might investigate it.”

Hartford attorney Elliott Spector filed the appeal on Cossette’s behalf, and could not be reached for comment.

 

 


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