NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Four police officers, including the president of the local police union, were arrested by the FBI on Tuesday on charges that they assaulted illegal immigrants and created false reports to cover up abuses in a New Haven suburb where a federal investigation found life was made miserable for Hispanics.

The East Haven officers assaulted individuals while they were handcuffed, unlawfully searched Latino businesses, and harassed and intimidated individuals, including advocates, witnesses and other officers who tried to investigate or report misconduct or abuse the officers committed, according to the federal indictment.

Federal authorities began investigating police in 2009 in East Haven, where the federal probe last month documented a pattern of abuse. Latino business owners said rough treatment by police drove many newcomers from Mexico and Ecuador to leave the city.

The arrests were welcomed by Hispanic business owners in East Haven, including Luis Rodriguez, an immigrant from Ecuador who had complained of harassment by police at his Los Amigos Grocery store.

“They should have to pay, not with many years, but enough to make an example of them. They should not abuse their power,” Rodriguez said. “All I ever wanted was to be left in peace.”

Officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari and Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller, president of the police union, are charged with conspiracy, deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice.

Federal officials say the officers denied Latino residents and their advocates the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to not be arrested and detained without probable cause and the right to not be arrested on false and misleading evidence.

Miller repeatedly slapped a man handcuffed in his car, while Spaulding threw a man to the ground and repeatedly kicked him while he was handcuffed, according to the indictment. Mayor Joseph Maturo said the four men were arrested around 6 a.m. Tuesday at their homes and at the police department.

Donald Cretella, Miller’s lawyer, said his client has been honored with awards and risked his life in shootouts.

“John Miller is a hero in East Haven,” he said. “He’s decorated. He’s a wonderful family man. Hopefully, we’ll clear his name.”

Frank Riccio Jr., Spaulding’s attorney, said his client is an exemplary police officer.

“At this early stage it’s our position Mr. Spaulding is not guilty of the charges. He’s been nothing but an exemplary police officer. That’s why this is shocking.”

The indictment says Miller reported to a police department leader described as a co-conspirator who blocked efforts by the police commission to investigate Miller’s misconduct. That is a reference to Chief Leonard Gallo, according to a person with direct knowledge who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. A message was left for Gallo.

The indictment also accuses unnamed union leaders of intimidation and interference to protect the officers from investigations of their misconduct.

The U.S. attorney’s office said no more arrests were expected Tuesday.

Maturo, a Republican who took office Nov. 19, recently reinstated Gallo as police chief. Gallo had been on paid administrative leave since federal authorities began investigating in 2010. Maturo said he backs the police.

“I stand behind the police department,” he said. “We have a great police department.”

The U.S. Department of Justice said last month that the police department engaged in a pattern of discrimination against Latino residents. Investigators said their probe was complicated by efforts to interfere with witnesses and by police silence.

Nearly half or a third of the drivers pulled over by certain officers were Latino, and the number of Latinos pulled over by certain squads was “extraordinarily high,” said Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. Latinos who were stopped for minor violations were subjected to harsher punishments, such as arrest or vehicle towing, than were non-Latinos.

The East Haven Police Department of some 50 officers has come under scrutiny previously for civil rights issues. A federal jury ruled in 2003 that a white officer used excessive force and violated the rights of a black man he fatally shot after a chase.

Some officers involved in that case kept their jobs and were promoted, and there was no evidence that anyone received training to prevent similar confrontations in the future, Austin said.
Associated Press writer Michael Melia in Hartford contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Click here to read indictment.

Comments (15)
  1. Karen says:

    The ‘Latinos’ are most likely illegals! I BET next come the law suits. I’ll bet my life on that one! I’m 100% behind the police officers. Too bad more LEGAL citizens aren’t.

    1. Audrey says:

      So what your saying just bcuz they are Latinos they are illegal and deserve to be mistreated and abused…ignorance like that is why there are so much violence and racism…they are human being just like you! I’m hispanic and lived in the border of east haven and i was stopped several times by the police not bcuz im illegal but bcuz i was hispanic…its 2012 grow up…until you are in their position you are last the person to make judgement it seem you have no clue…people like you make this country seem stupid!

      1. Sue says:

        You do sound bitter dear. Something wrong? Are you sure you were born here?

  2. Perry Masonjar says:

    The Fed is involved. The same Fed run by Holder and Obama. Obama and Holder are likely on their way out of office in January 2013. What could they do to avoid that? Create new voters through a Dream Act, or legal indifference and negligence.

    Those 4 officers can’t be so stupid as to abuse their power and do it so that evidence exist so it can be proven. If they are so stupid and abusive, they deserve to be arrested. If not, I’d like to see the proof the Feds are using for these arrests. I suspect the arrests are partially justified, and partially political.

    I’ll enjoy watching the trial, as well as pre-trial posturing and comments to the media.

  3. Karen says:

    Like I said when the story broke, BEFORE they said they were ILLEGALS, here come the law suits.
    And you my dear are also . most probably, taking a ‘free’ handout as well. We are so sick & tired of the ILLEGALS playing the ‘race cards’. Either WORK for a living or go away! That’s why the taxs are so frekin high in this state. Want EVERYTHING for free? Come to Connecticut.

    1. Audrey says:

      wow…your the type of person that make it embarrassing to live in CT I work and never took a handout in my life it doesnt matter if they are illegal no one should be treated with disrespect no matter what race they are…i known illlegals as you call “them” to be very hardworking and they are human beings too not animals there are no different from you! Actually you know what they are not like you because they actually have a heart…its funny how you already stereotyping me also…and what do you mean “WE?” because that i know of “I” pay my taxes never been in welfare and worked since I was 13 yrs old and on top of that I’m well educated with several certifications and degrees…but let me guess just because I’m hispanic I’m beneath you right…please dont make me laugh because your comments just make you look like an idiotic fool…but hey we cant all be as great as you right! Be aware that Hispanics or “Latinos” are becoming the majority in this country so I guess you will have to get use to us Latinos…if that offends you maybe you should consider moving out of this country…

      1. Karen says:

        If anyone should leave it should be you & yours. ILLEGALS are not welcome here. Politicians allow it for votes & votes alone. You know it’s true. Get over it.
        I admire Mayor Maturo for his strength to back up his remark. Did you notice after the taco thing was mentioned, he also spoke of Italian food ?. Why did the ILLEGALS make such a big deal over it? Money & more money. Like I said from the beginning, here come the law suis….just because their feelings were hurt. Poor babies! GO away. You make me laugh.

  4. johnny says:

    karen is an idiot

    1. Nan says:

      johnny, you must be Audreys brother, or significant other!

  5. Audrey says:

    Karen your just looking more and more like a racist…give it up you will never win you can keep insulting hispanic people but all your doing is showing how low class and ignorant you are…like i said before no one has the right to mistreat anyone due to their legal status and race that’s the point! It seem you didnt pay much attention in history class seriously italian, japanese, afro-american, jewish, middle eastern and now hispanics were once or still being persecuted for their race, color, and/or religion you can not be this ignorant to be honest! just bcuz a person cant vote doesnt mean it’s ok to be mistreated, felons cant vote and most likely are “Legal citizens” so should we should start beating them and harrassing them for not being able to vote? No right why because its cruel, duh!You havent hurt my feelings whatsoever actually you made me realize how sorry i feel for your children that they being raised by a closed minded idiotic person like yourself! Your just too funny why would i move away i was born here, i serve my community, i pay my taxes, i volunteer, and omg i vote! And as for the mayor he’s an idiot for making that stupid comment he just lost the latino community votes and all i can do is smile because most likely it will encourage a hispanic person to run for major and with the latino community behind him so there’s nothing to worry about. hey we already have an interracial president so people are becoming more opend minded about race so for sure 1 day there will be a hispanic president, so you can go ahead and make your ignorant comments…honestly it doesnt bother me and i’m growing bored of your ignorance…the fact is we are all human beings and should be treated as such if you cant understand that then i feel so sorry for you…have a wonderful life makes no sense to waste my time and i will definitely will not lower myself to your standard thank you…you actually made my day because where i live, work, friends, fiance, and people I associate with are kind and opened minded people that dont care what color and race i am and would never make ignorant comments like you…goodbye =)

  6. Karen says:

    Audrey , Let’s face it we will never agree on this subject. We are all entitled to our own opinion. I hope babbling on & on made you feel better. Have a nice day dear. You made my day as well! See, we agreed on something! Never thought that would happen.
    Goodbye to you as well!

  7. Louie says:

    I just read on WTIC that an “immigration reform group” plans to deliver tacos as a protest symbol to Mayor Maturos office. Why don’t we all get our friends together & meet there & have a taco party! However, I do suggest we hire a “taster” before any of us eat. Perhaps the delivery boy will be hungry enough?
    I think it’s a wonderful idea!!!!!!!!!!!!Let’ not forget our Italian friends since the Mayor also said he might have pasta . I make a mean sauce. Any volunteers to bring the garlic bread???????

  8. BDDD says:

    LAWYERS FOR THE DEFENDANTS: Challenge the Civil Rights Div. “pattern” in court! No one has EVER obtained a legal definition! It has been challenged 1 time that I know of in Texas. The NAZI’s of the criminal section dropped the case before a ruling could be achieved!

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