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Closing Arguments Set in Police Discrimination Case

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A federal jury in Connecticut was expected to begin deliberations in the trial of two East Haven police officers accused of violating the civil rights of local Hispanics and their advocates.

The prosecution and defense in the case of David Cari and Dennis Spaulding were scheduled to present closing arguments to the jury Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford. The judge will then give jurors instructions, and deliberations will begin.

Cari and Spaulding, who pleaded not guilty, were among four East Haven officers arrested by the FBI last year for allegedly harassing, abusing and intimidating Hispanic immigrants and covering it up. The other officers, Jason Zullo and John Miller, await sentencing after pleading guilty to reduced charges.

Cari and Spaulding could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Federal prosecutors presented 14 witnesses over 15 days of trial, including two fellow officers and a Roman Catholic priest who recorded some of the officers’ actions on video. Defense lawyers rested their cases without calling any witnesses.

A federal indictment said the four officers assaulted people while they were handcuffed, unlawfully searched Latino businesses and harassed and intimidated people, including advocates, witnesses and other officers who tried to investigate or report misconduct or abuse the officers committed.

Police treatment of Hispanics in the seaside city was under federal scrutiny since 2009, when the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights probe that found a pattern of discrimination and biased policing.

The case heated up when the Rev. James Manship was arrested in February 2009 while taking video of Cari and Spaulding in a Hispanic business owner’s store. Manship had been trying to document the alleged police abuse by recording officers on the job, and some of those recordings were shown to the jury.

A police report said Manship was arrested at the store because he was holding an unknown silver object and struggled with an officer who was trying to take away the object.

But the video clearly showed that Cari knew Manship was holding a video camera. Cari asked Manship why he was recording the officers, then tells Manship “I’ll tell you what, what I’m going to do with that camera” before the tape goes blank.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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