Mass. Police Confiscate Witness' Cell Phone; Delete Video; Destroy Evidence
March 9, 2012 @ 1:43AM
In January 2011, Springfield police pulled a man out of the passenger’s seat of a car as it sat in traffic in an entertainment district in Massachusetts, forcing him to the ground as several officers repeatedly kicked him before dragging him in the snow to a police car.
"You can't even call the fucking cops cause they're cops," exclaimed one frantic woman who was recording from above, possibly out of a window or balcony.
A third witness who recorded the incident had her phone confiscated where it remained in police custody for three months.
When police finally returned the phone, she discovered they had deleted the footage.
That flagrant violation of her Constitutional rights, not to mention destruction of evidence, prompted the judge in the case to describe their actions as “extremely troubling,” according to The Republican.
The case, which is still pending, is indeed troubling because Michael Ververis, the 24-year-old man police pulled from the car, is facing several years in prison on charges of assault and battery on a police officer as well as attempted larceny of a firearm.
The two available videos, which are unable to be embedded, can be seen on a site called Justice for Michael.
Although police confiscated the phone that recorded the third video as “evidence” without the required subpoena, they never mentioned it in their reports.
A police sergeant acknowledged Monday never mentioning that officers confiscated a possible cell phone video in his report on a violent struggle and arrest last year in the entertainment district.
“In retrospect, I wish I had,” Sgt. Steven Kent said during a pre-trial hearing for Middletown, Conn., resident Michael Ververis, who is facing assault and battery on a police officer, attempted larceny of a firearm and other charges from the January 2011 incident on Worthington Street.
“Was that a mistake?,” asked Northampton defense lawyer Luke Ryan.
“It was an oversight,” Kent replied.
Judge William P. Hadley is currently reviewing the evidence and is expected to make a decision soon.
Police claim Ververis was yelling out the window, trying to incite a fight between two groups of people on the sidewalk.
They also claim he not only refused to move after being ordered to do so, he spat at the officers as they approached him, then tried to grab an officer’s gun as they pulled him out of the vehicle.
But not only was Ververis not driving, traffic was at a standstill, making it impossible to move.
Unfortunately, erasing the footage from the cameras of citizens is not limited to the Springfield Police Department.
It not only happened to me in my last two arrests, it happened to a man in Baltimore and a man in Memphis. And those are just the cases that come to mind as I write this.
It’s gotten so bad that the U.S. Department of Justice had to remind the federal judge presiding over the Baltimore case that police who delete footage are in violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
And the Department of Justice has shown it is not afraid to go after bad cops as it did in Connecticut earlier this year in a case where a priest was arrested after video recording cops shaking down immigrants.
Those are the reasons why I will be filing a complaint with the Department of Justice against Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez, the public information officer who had me arrested and most likely was the cop who ordered my footage deleted.
Fortunately, I was able to recover the footage, which exonerates me, proving that I was not obstructing police or resisting arrest as they claim in their report.
But Raquel Peroza apparently was unaware that she could have possibly recovered the footage, testifying that she ended up throwing the phone away after realizing police had deleted it.
Unfortunately for Ververis, that footage could have already exonerated him.
Patrolman Christopher Collins testified that he saw a woman apparently using a cell phone to film the arrest, and asked her if she had filmed the entire encounter.
“I said: Did you record it? She said: Yeah, from start to finish,” recalled Collins, who said took the cell phone over the woman’s objections, telling her it was potential evidence.
Under questioning from Ryan, Collins said he did not get a warrant to search or seize the phone.
Collins testified that he did not initially mention the confiscated cell phone when questioned several months later by the department’s Internal Affairs Unit. “I assumed they knew about it,” he said.
As much of a liar Collins is, he already said enough to incriminate himself. So hopefully the Department of Justice will open an investigation because we obviously can't depend on this department's internal affairs division to conduct a proper investigation.