Meriden Officer Indicted In Brutality Case
By DAVE ALTIMARI
6:19 PM EST, November 14, 2012
A Meriden police officer was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on police brutality charges following an investigation into a 2010 incident during which he shoved a handcuffed prisoner into a jail cell, cracking the man's skull.
The criminal investigation of Evan Cossette, the son of the department's Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, started after the videotape of the jail cell incident surfaced and two officers, Brian Sullivan and Donald Huston, complained to city officials that Evan Cossette had gotten favorable treatment because he is the chief's son.
Cossette also faces an obstruction of justice charge for filing a false report of the incident. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Nov. 20 in New Haven before U.S. Magistrate Joan G. Margolis.
Use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer carries a maximum 10 year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000. The obstruction charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
While Cossette was the only one arrested Wednesday sources said the joint investigation by the FBI and state police is still on-going.
The videotape shows Cossette pushing the handcuffed prisoner, Pedro Temich, backward into the jail cell, causing Temich to cut open his head on a concrete bench. The indictment calls it a "firm shove" of the "compliant and handcuffed" Temich causing him to fall back.
The tape shows Evan Cossette entering the cell at least six times and moving the unconscious Temich around, twice propping him up against the bench and another time putting him back on the floor so that the man's handcuffs could be removed. There is blood visible on the floor where Temich fell.
A dispatcher who saw the unconscious Temich in the cell made the first call 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. An internal affairs investigation by the then head of that unit, Sgt. Leonard Caponigro, found that Evan Cossette had used unnecessary force. At an administrative hearing, Deputy Chief Timothy Tupolos overruled those findings and issued a letter of reprimand.
Cossette was ordered to take four hours of training on the use of excessive force.
After that ruling, Evan Cossette had six more internal affairs complaints filed against him, including three other complaints alleging excessive force, records show. All of the cases were not sustained.
Two of the men who filed excessive-force allegations, Robert Methvin and Joseph Bryans, have been interviewed by FBI agents and have filed lawsuits against the city, as has Temich. All three lawsuits against Evan Cossette are still pending.
All three men are represented by New Britain attorney Sally Roberts who said Wednesday her clients are looking forward to their day in court.
"We have waited a long time for this moment,'' Roberts said. "My clients are adamant that they were assaulted by Officer Cossette. We believe the videos speak for themselves and clearly show Officer Cossette out of control in using excessive force against my clients."
The investigation started after Sullivan and Huston filed a complaint with City Manager Lawrence Kendzior, alleging that Evan Cossette got favorable treatment within the department because he is the chief's son.
The city hired a former federal prosecutor, Thomas V. Daily to do an independent investigation of the officer's claims. Following a 13-month investigation, Daily issued a report exonerating the department, concluding there "was not adequate evidence that there was special treatment or consideration given to Officer Evan Cossette because of his status as the son of the chief of police."
Cossette was placed on administrative duty during the cities investigation but returned to the road once it was over. City officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon in what they plan to do with Cossette now that he is facing federal criminal charges.
After Daily finished his report Meriden police opened an internal affairs investigation against Sgt. Leighton "Buddy" Gibbs for changing his story.
Sources said that Gibbs testified to the federal grand jury and to Daily that he originally lied about what he saw when Cossette brought the handcuffed Temich into the booking area. Gibbs originally backed up Evan Cossette's version of events when interviewed by internal affairs, telling Caponigro that Temich was uncooperative and that "it really wasn't that big of a push."
But when he appeared before the grand jury earlier this year Gibbs changed his story saying that "he didn't notice any struggle occurring" and that he heard Cossette yell profanities at Temich and "warn him to sit down five to seven times," according to a notice of intent to the sue the town filed by Gibbs.
The notice of intent to sue said that Gibbs saw Cossette move his arms quickly towards the suspect and then he heard what "sounded like a melon splitting."
Gibb retired in March on a disability pension. The internal affairs case against him was dropped when he left.
Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant