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Lawsuits Filed vs. Cops, City and Chief

MERIDEN - Federal lawsuits on behalf of two men who claim they were brutalized by Officer Evan Cossette, son of the police chief, have been filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven. The defendants were served Tuesday, according to the attorney for the two men.

Both Pedro C. Temich and Robert A. Methvin are suing Cossette, his father, Jeffry Cossette, several other officers and the city. They are seeking compensation and punitive damages and request a trial by jury.

Their attorney, Sally A. Roberts of New Britain, is working with other clients with complaints against the department, including officers Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan.

Federal and state officials are investigating the department in the wake of an April 1 complaint Huston and Sullivan filed with the city alleging nepotism and lax discipline for Evan Cossette, who faced three accusations of excessive force in seven months but was reprimanded in only one instance.

The city has hired its own investigator. The probes are ongoing.

Chief Cossette could not comment Wednesday because of the pending litigation, he said.

Both the Temich and Methvin suits are associated with police surveillance recordings.

In the Temich filing, Roberts states that Evan Cossette violently hurled the handcuffed Temich "backwards into the holding cell at the Meriden Police Department, causing him to fall and strike the back of his head against a concrete bench," rendering him unconscious and bleeding. Temich was later taken to MidState Medical Center, where he received 12 staples in his head, she wrote.

After the shove, Cossette entered the holding cell six or seven times, propping Temich up against the bench and moving him into other positions, but did not use his emergency medical response training to assist him, according to the suit.

Lt. Marvin Richards is named in the suit because he was shift commander during the May 1, 2010 incident. The suit faults him for allegedly watching Evan Cossette push Temich but not stopping him or alerting his superiors.

The department has also been criticized for not investigating the incident until six weeks later.

Sgt. Leonard Caponigro, of Internal Affairs, who is named in both lawsuits, found that Cossette had violated police rules for use of force, but Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos, who is also named in both cases, applied a lesser charge. He issued a letter of reprimand and ordered four hours of training for Cossette, who did not have any prior infractions - a reason given for the lesser discipline.

The suit also names Officer Leighton Gibbs as a defendant. Sgt. Glen Milslagle, who works in Internal Affairs, is named in both lawsuits.

Methvin's case alleges that Cossette delivered knee strikes to his head while he "was lying defenseless face down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back."

Detective John Cerejo had subdued Methvin, who police say was drunk and disorderly outside his Pasco Street home in the October 2010 incident, when Cossette came to assist Cerejo.

Afterward, Cossette is heard on audio recorded by his body microphone telling Cerejo that he had kneed Methvin, whose teeth were pushed through his lower lip. Methvin suffered facial injuries and lost blood, the filing says, and required treatment at MidState.

The lawsuit calls the knee strike unnecessary and says it was "delivered for the sole purpose of causing serious physical injury."

Caponigro investigated the incident but did not interview Methvin. The suit claims Methvin came to the department "numerous times" to give a statement but was denied access to Caponigro.

The excessive force allegation was not sustained and Caponigro can be heard telling Evan Cossette in their recorded interview not to worry because he is just "going through the motions" before speaking to Cerejo to close out the matter.

Methvin was convicted in 2010 on charges of interfering with an officer/resisting arrest, according to the state Judicial Branch website.

Attempts to reach the other named officers late Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Lt. Patrick Gaynor, the police union president, said complaints and lawsuits are recourses for people who take issue with how an officer treated them.

"People don't often agree with the officers when they're the subject of a use of force," he said. "That's why they have police professional liability insurance and expert defense attorneys and witnesses."

Roberts said via e-mail Wednesday that "the factual details outlined in the complaints speak for themselves."

She also said a lawsuit on behalf of Joseph Bryans, who claims Evan Cossette brutalized him in an incident at MidState in January of this year is a "work in progress," since it is more complex.

Internal Affairs cleared Cossette in the incident, in which Roberts says he tackled and shocked Bryans multiple times with a Taser before handcuffing him tightly to a hospital bed, causing nerve damage.

Record-Journal staff Record-Journal



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