HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ One of two former East Haven officers convicted of violating Latinos’ civil rights was sentenced Tuesday to 2 1/2 years in prison.
David Cari was sentenced in federal court in Hartford, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The sentencing of the other officer, Dennis Spaulding, was continued until Thursday.
A jury convicted them in October of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of Hispanics, making false arrests and filing false reports. Spaulding also was convicted of using unreasonable force.
They were among four East Haven officers charged in 2012 with harassing and abusing Hispanics. The other two officers pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Cari asked for a three-month prison sentence, while Spaulding is seeking home confinement and community service. Both were allowed to retire from the force.
Prosecutors sought multi-year prison sentences to send a message that no one, not even police, are above the law.
Lawyers for Cari and Spaulding have said federal prosecutors didn’t prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, while prosecutors said the evidence showed the defendants engaged in racial profiling and harassment.
Prosecutors told jurors that Cari and Spaulding had extreme bias against Hispanics, engaged in racial profiling, made up bogus allegations and wrote false police reports.
Federal prosecutor Richard Schechter said Cari falsely arrested a Roman Catholic priest who recorded Cari and Spaulding on video in a
Hispanic-owned store in 2009 in an effort to document East Haven police abuses. Schechter said Cari was upset that he was being recorded and made up a story in a report saying he thought the priest might have a weapon and interfered with an investigation.
Spaulding’s lawyer, Frank Riccio II, and Cari’s attorney, Alex Hernandez, questioned the credibility of government witnesses, saying their testimony at trial conflicted with what they told a grand jury. They also said the arrests that prosecutors called false were actually supported by probable cause, the officers’ reports were true and they did not engage in racial profiling.
Hernandez said Cari’s arrest of the priest, James Manship, was done “by the book” and Manship interfered with a police investigation. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Manship.
Cari is among the most decorated officers in the history of the East Haven Police Department, Hernandez said in court papers. He was injured numerous times on duty, including being shot in the back by a suspect leading him to eventually be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Hernandez said.
Police treatment of Hispanics in East Haven has been 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.
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