Monthly Archives: January 2016

COPS Gone Wild!

 

The official motto of the Pittsfield Massachusetts Police Department is:

“Dedicated to Excellence”

A civil suit was recently settled with the Simonetta family after five Pittsfield police officers stormed their home and wreaked havoc.  They smashed down the door, placed Joseph Simonetta in a choke-hold, sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, delivered a series of “knee-strikes” to Debra’s groin, and slammed their daughter Joline to the ground and dragged her by her shackled arms and drew their weapons on her, with one going so far as to point their weapon in her face.

One would think the Simonettas were violent criminals; heavily armed and extremely dangerous.  Not even close.  Joseph and Debra merely refused to relinquish custody of their granddaughter when Department of Children and Families workers arrived unannounced, without a copy of the court order that allegedly authorized them to remove the child.

Apparently, the beating wasn’t enough.  The Simonettas were hauled away and charged with various crimes, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer.  The charges were dismissed, according to court records.

Perhaps a more appropriate motto for the department would be:

“Dedicated to Insolence”

 

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/11/case_of_pittsfield_family_vs_p.html

http://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/ci_29128991/simonetta-family-settles-federal-suit-against-pittsfield-police-state-dcf

Not One Sheet Of Paper

The importance of documentation cannot be emphasized enough to crime scene investigators.  Hence, it’s preached to them during classroom instruction, drummed  into their into heads during field training, and throughout their careers it’s brought up repeatedly by colleagues, supervisors and prosecutors.  Why so much emphasis on documentation?  Because it’s the foundation of crime scene investigation.

Documentation is critical for a number of reasons, mainly because of the vast number of cases that a crime scene investigator encounters.  It is virtually impossible for any CSI to remember every detail of every case without documentation.  Quite often this information is subpoenaed months or even years down the road, long after a case has been opened.  As the result of courtroom testimony, CSIs often condemn defendants to lengthy prison sentences.  With such influence and responsibility, crime scene investigators have the legal, moral, and ethical obligation to convey only that which is known to be true and accurate.  This is accomplished by reviewing case file documentation.

In the heat of trial, forensic evidence must be iron-clad as it will be monitored by the judge, attacked by defense counsel, and scrutinized by the jury.  No crime scene investigator in his or her right mind would compromise the integrity of legal proceedings by arriving empty handed, neglecting the documentation needed to authenticate, corroborate, and substantiate evidence.  And yet, the investigator in my case did just that.

Despite two years of trial preparation Pittsfield police crime scene investigator Mark Trapani sauntered into the courtroom without case notes, documents, or photographs.  He compensated by flaunting the forensic guru image portrayed to the jury by second assistant district attorney  Joan M. McMenemy.

Transcript excerpt, lack of documentation

 

A Cop Caught Stealing? Say It Ain’t So!

Pittsfield law enforcement wouldn’t hesitate to arrest you for stealing fifteen cents.  Yet one of their own was caught red-handed ripping off $150,000 from his own police union!  Don’t they teach cadets at the academy that larceny is against the law?

Pittsfield cop fired, accused of stealing $150,000 from union

http://snewsi.com/id/15423956757

http://nepr.net/news/2015/12/01/pittsfield-police-officer-fired-accused-of-stealing-money-from-union/

If they can think it, they will ink it!

On the evening of October 21, 2004, Pittsfield police responded to the scene of a sexual assault.  While searching the victim’s car for evidence, crime scene investigator Mark Trapani captured a latent print of the assailant’s left index finger.  The bottom half of the print was significantly smudged, rendering just the top portion suitable for forensic analysis.  Further examination of the print revealed an abnormality, which Trapani referred to as:  A blank area of friction ridge skin.  The print was run through the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS), however, no match was found and the case went unsolved.

On February 23, 2005, I was arrested by Pittsfield police on specious misdemeanor charges.  As per departmental protocol the booking officer was required to process my fingerprints by recording them digitally, through the use of an electronic scanner.  But delusive circumstances enabled police to circumvent this protocol.  Moments before I was to be fingerprinted, the booking officer announced that the scanner had suddenly malfunctioned.  He stated that due to technical difficulties my booking fingerprints would be ink rolled rather than electronically scanned.

Following the dubious creation of my ink rolled fingerprint card, someone within the police department made a digital copy using the same electronic scanner that was supposedly out of order.  The scanned version was deceptively introduced as the original, not as a copy generated from pre-existing ink rolled prints.  The ink rolled fingerprint card then became a well-kept secret, withheld from the district attorney’s office and defense counsel.

Over the next few days my ink rolled fingerprint card underwent an amazing transformation.  At some point between February 23rd and March 1st, a surface abnormality appeared on the left index finger.  A surface abnormality that looked exactly like the blank area of friction ridge skin identified months earlier on a certain crime scene latent print.  Oddly enough, this abnormality didn’t appear on the scanned fingerprint card that is part of my official record.

As it turned out, investigator Mark Trapani  had pinned his unsolved crime on me!  On March 1, 2005, he obtained an arrest warrant by feigning a match between the surface abnormality of the crime scene latent print and the new surface abnormality that appeared on my ink rolled fingerprint card while in his possession.  An abnormality that, to this day, doesnt appear on my official fingerprints.

Had it not been for an inadvertent release of information by police personnel,  I never would have discovered the police department’s illegal toggling of fingerprint cards.

Fingerprints

 

Unqualified, but not Disqualified

The job description of a crime scene investigator is complex and multi-faceted, as a number of subspecialties exist within this profession.

Responsibilities to include, but not be limited to the following:

  • Identify, isolate and secure crime scenes
  • Preserve, collect and record impressions, including tool marks, footprints, tire marks, bite marks, and fingerprints
  • Collect DNA evidence, including blood, semen, hair, skin, blood stain patterns, bodily fluids and nails
  • Collect trace evidence, including gunshot residue, fibers, accelerant, paint, glass, etc.
  • Collect firearms evidence, including weapons, spent casings, bullet fragments, cartridges, and gun powder patterns
  • Follow protocol when working with evidence, as it is necessary to have it admissible in court
  • Take precise measurements to produce scale drawings
  • Prepare detailed reports on the observations and activities at the scene
  • Provide testimony in court regarding the findings and processing methods used at the scene

However, in Pittsfield Massachusetts…

The outcome of my trial was contingent upon one particular CSI whom the prosecutor introduced to the jury as, an individual with specialized knowledge in the field of forensic fingerprint science.  But during trial, under cross examination, it became public record that this so-called crime scene investigator:

  • Had taken no qualifying exam for the position
  • Had no college degree in criminal justice or forensic science
  • Had no IAI crime scene certification
  • Was not a certified criminal investigator, CCI ®
  • Was not a certified forensic analyst (GCFA)
  • Had not attended the F.B.I. fingerprint school
  • Proved unfamiliar with new technology regarding fingerprint processing techniques
  • Admitted to never reading the departmental book that outlines duties, responsibilities, and guidelines for an investigator

With standards this low one could ascend the departmental ladder, from janitor to police chief, in no time!

Child’s Play

There’s a hole in the case file dear Lieutenant, dear Lieutenant
There’s a hole in the case file, dear Lieutenant – a hole

Then mend it, dear Detective, dear Detective, dear Detective
Then mend it, dear Detective, dear Detective – then mend it

But how shall I mend it, dear Lieutenant, dear Lieutenant
But how shall I mend it, dear Lieutenant – but how?

Make duplicates, dear Detective, dear Detective, dear Detective
Make duplicates, dear Detective, dear Detective – make duplicates

But what shall I duplicate, dear Lieutenant, dear Lieutenant
But what shall I duplicate, dear Lieutenant – but what?

Original evidence, dear Detective, dear Detective, dear Detective
Original evidence, dear Detective, dear Detective – original evidence

Oh where are the originals, dear Lieutenant, dear Lieutenant
Oh where are the originals, dear Lieutenant – oh where?

In the case file, dear Detective, dear Detective, dear Detective
In the case file, dear Detective, dear Detective – in the case file

But there’s a hole in the case file , dear Lieutenant…

Transcript Excerpt, Detective Is Questioned Regarding Missing Evidence

 

Dominance and Submission

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law, and with the colors of justice …”

– U.S. v. Jannotti, 673 F.2d 578, 614 (3d Cir. 1982)

 

Really!

Do police officers purposely fabricate or embellish details within arrest reports?  In an ideal world, no.  It is called “lying,” and it’s a great way to end your law enforcement career if you’re caught.

Well…except in Pittsfield Massachusetts

In 2005 my life was irrevocably destroyed by a misinformed, misguided, and misled police detective named James Casey. Casey, along with his sidekick officer Dale Eason, wrongfully arrested me in regard to three misdemeanor incidents, all of which were later determined to have never occurred. Turns out, not only was I not the culprit, there never was a culprit. But fabricated details within the arrest report told a much different story…

As the duo stormed into my Richmond Massachusetts home, Casey was chomping at the bit to rifle through my personal belongings.  Seeking notoriety within the police department, he not only planned to arrest me on misdemeanors, he plotted to search the premises and find clothing items that could be used to make it appear as if he’d wrapped up several unsolved felonies.  Of particular interest, Casey was hoping to find a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt that matched a garment described by witnesses to the felonies.  But Casey and Eason were precluded from exploring my home…legally. The unsolved felonies had nothing to do with me so Pittsfield Police Captain Patrick Barry had denied Casey’s formal request for a search warrant.

With complete indifference to chain of command, Casey illegally rummaged through my house anyway.  Coming up empty handed, feeling foolish, he responded by snatching random articles of clothing that were meaningless to his investigation. He was merely gathering props to give the illusion of securing “evidence”.  What he ended up grabbing amounted to nothing more than the jeans and shirt I’d worn to work earlier that day. (Prior to police barging into my home I had disrobed, hopped into the shower, and hadn’t yet tossed these items into the laundry hamper).  Armed with a handful of useless garments, the rogue detective could now stroll into the police station carrying something…anything tangible.  Really?

While documenting the confiscated jeans and shirt, Casey doctored his report to include a dark colored hooded sweatshirt.  A sweatshirt that didn’t actually exist.  And of course there was no mention in the report of an illegal search being conducted without a warrant or proper authority whatsoever.  Really?

To cover his ass Casey wrote his report to make it seem as if I’d voluntarily steered him directly to incriminating evidence, lying in plain sight, in the center of my bedroom floor.  But how could there be incriminating evidence when the sweatshirt to which Casey was referring didn’t actually exist?  Moreover, my arrest occurred in late February of 2005.  The unsolved felonies associated with a dark colored hooded sweatshirt transpired in October of 2004.  So for four months I left incriminating clothing lying in the center of my bedroom floor, then for no logical reason I led cops directly to them?  Really?

For added authenticity, Casey embellished his report with details regarding inane comments I’d supposedly sputtered during the arrest. He wrote that I’d nervously denied ownership of the clothing (sweatshirt) and that I’d expressed concerns over clothing items being tested for DNA. Again, there was no sweatshirt!  And If I was so scared of having my clothing lab-tested, why lead police directly to them?  Really?

The inevitable outcome of Casey’s fabricated arrest report went as follows: During trial it was revealed that no dark colored hooded sweatshirt had ever been catalogued into evidence. No such item is listed on any Pittsfield Police Department Evidence/Property Form, and no one has ever laid eyes on such a sweatshirt. No evidence was ever presented regarding any type of DNA lab testing on the jeans and shirt. This makes perfect sense considering the items weren’t actually evidence.  Out of the ten misdemeanor charges levied against me by Casey, five were dropped by the district attorney and five were laughed out of court by an incredulous jury.  Really?

What punishment did Casey and Eason receive for circumventing chain of command? What happened as a result of searching my residence after being denied a warrant? What disciplinary actions were taken in the wake of: (1) Making false statements within a police report, (2) Offering a false instrument for filing, (3) Fabricating evidence, (4) Misleading a grand jury, (5) Lying to the District Attorney?

NOTHING!  Within the Pittsfield Massachusetts Police Department such behavior is not only tolerated, it’s encouraged…even rewarded.

 

Click link below to access trial transcript excerpt regarding Detective Casey’s testimony regarding no search warrant:

Transcript excerpt Detective

Click link below to access page three, paragraph six, of Detective Casey’s narrative titled 05-249-AR in which he fabricated evidence:

Excerpt From Arrest Report, fabricated details

 

 

 

 

 

Out With The Trash…

Imagine for a moment that you’re a Pittsfield police detective who is hell-bent on arresting someone…anyone.  You create a photo array that includes your suspect of choice and display it before several witnesses.  Darn!  Each participant selected someone other than the individual whom you wish to collar.

No worries.  Later in the week you create a second array, once again including the key photo, and show it to witnesses.  Crap!  No one selected the person you’re striving to lock up.

Thinking that the third time will be the charm you create yet another array, once more throwing in the exact same photo and sticking it under the witnesses’ noses.  Son of a bitch!  What is wrong with these people?  Why will no one finger your man?

You repeat this procedure a fourth time…a fifth time…a sixth time, to no avail.  Not a single witness is to be coerced.  Much to your chagrin the case file now holds six array reports that undermine your efforts.  Hmmm, what’s a detective to do?   You can’t just discard a stack of photo identifications, they’re evidence!  Such an act would violate law enforcement chain of custody protocol.

Oh wait…this is Pittsfield.

Trial transcripts regarding chain of custody