Monday, June 30, 2008

David Woodman dies days after Arrest

A 22-year-old man who stopped breathing while in police custody after his arrest during the June 18 Boston Celtics NBA championship celebration died yesterday, prompting an investigation by Boston police and the Suffolk County District Attorney's office into his death.

The parents of David Woodman, a former Emmanuel College student who was living in Brookline, said their son did not receive prompt medical attention while lying unconscious, face down on Brookline Avenue with his hands cuffed behind his back. They also accused police of failing to give them a full account of what happened.

Boston police say they immediately administered cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, flagged an ambulance after noticing Woodman was in distress, and did everything they could to help him before he was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But Jeffrey and Cathy Woodman of Southwick say their son must have been deprived of oxygen for at least four minutes because he suffered significant brain damage.

"We don't know what happened," said Jeffrey Woodman, contending that police have left them with more questions than answers. "We are left to surmise that something occurred while he was in police custody that stopped his heart."

Woodman said his son had a preexisting heart condition, but he led an active life and had been playing basketball earlier that day. He said doctors told him his son's heart was functioning normally.

Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he understands the family's anguish, "but nothing those officers did that night caused his death."

He said that the officers, who have not been identified publicly, have cooperated with the investigation, and that the family's questions will be answered.

David Woodman, who was charged with drinking in public and resisting arrest, remained hospitalized after the incident and awoke June 23 from a medically induced coma. His parents said he recognized them but had difficulty communicating and whispered, "What happened?"

He smiled at a Globe reporter during a brief visit Thursday, spoke softly to his parents, and appeared confused. A large scrape was visible near his right eye. On Saturday, he was asking to go home, according to his parents, who believed he would survive and face lengthy rehabilitation.

At 2:30 a.m. yesterday he died at the hospital. The family is awaiting autopsy results.

Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said Conley "pledged a thorough and impartial review of the facts."

The Boston Police Department launched an internal investigation shortly after the incident into how the officers handled Woodman and will join the district attorney's office in investigating his death, Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the Boston police, said yesterday. Several officers were treated for stress and have returned to work, she said.

MCI-Concord officer charged with drug trafficking

A Massachusetts correctional officer faces arraignment today on drug charges after the Middlesex district attorney's office said he attempted to sell eight pounds of marijuana to a State Police trooper working undercover in Lowell.

The case against Robert Sweeney, 48, of Dracut, who works at MCI-Concord, is not related to the arrest of another correctional officer on Thursday in Winthrop, said Corey Welford, spokesman for District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.

Investigators were led to Sweeney in June, when they first learned he was allegedly dealing marijuana, the DA's office stated. About 3:15 p.m. Saturday, he attempted to sell the marijuana to the trooper for $10,000, according to the office.

Police executed a search warrant at his address after the arrest and seized two pounds of marijuana, 100 bottles of steroids, and six tablets of ecstasy, Leone's office said.

Investigators do not believe Sweeney sold drugs while on the job or used his position for criminal activity, the office stated.

Sweeney was suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the state Department of Correction, said Diane Wiffin, a department spokeswoman.

On Thursday, Scott Sears, 36, of Winthrop, a correctional officer with the Middlesex Sheriff's Office, was charged with transporting drugs to inmates at Billerica House of Correction, where he works, authorities said.

An undercover agent met with Sears at a doughnut shop in Winthrop and gave him drugs in a coffee cup. As payment, Sears allegedly received $150 in cash and 3 grams of cocaine. He has been suspended without pay from his job.

Sears was charged with two counts of possession, one with intent to distribute; committing a drug violation near a school or park; and delivering drugs to a prisoner.

Sweeney was being held on $20,000 cash bail on four counts of possession, two with intent to distribute; one count of distribution; and one count of conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.

He is to be arraigned today in Lowell District Court.

Accused officers' drugs cases at risk

After an Indianapolis police officer appeared in court this morning on charges he knowingly sold a firearm to a convicted burglar, the Marion County prosecutor admitted he’s worried about the fate of the investigator’s pending drug cases.

Jason Barber, 32, appeared in Marion Superior Court on charges of selling a handgun to a felon and official misconduct. Barber, a narcotics detective, was arrested at his home Friday. He is the fourth police officer to be arrested in the last two weeks.

“These officers were in this court several weeks ago testifying against defendants,” Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said after the hearing. “Now they are defendants.”

Barber is the third narcotics officer to be arrested, although police say Barber’s alleged crime had nothing to do with the federal investigation that landed his colleagues, former officers Jason Edwards and Robert Long, in jail.

The arrests have damaged more than a dozen other pending cases and could lead to successful appeals for convicted drugs dealers who may have been sent to prison based on testimony from one of the tainted officers, Brizzi said.

“Every other man and woman on the force is tarnished by this,” Brizzi said. “Every single case these officers were on becomes less strong.”

Long, Edwards and former patrol officer James Davis are accused of stealing marijuana and cash from drug dealers. They are being held in the Marion County Jail while awaiting trial in U.S. District Court.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Indiana State Police Officer Donna Elam, assigned to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, used a confidential informant to catch Barber illegally selling the handgun.

The informant, who was not identified, gave $110 in marked cash to Barber in exchange for a .25-caliber Sundance handgun on March 16. The informant wore a hidden recording device during the transaction, which took place inside Barber’s car in the parking lot of the Walgreen’s at 711 E. 38th St., according to the document.

Barber was held Monday in the Marion County jail with bond set at $100,000. He will appear in court on Wednesday to seek to have his bond reduced.

Feds say Yonkers Cop used Excessive Force


A Yonkers police officer appeared in federal court this morning on charges that he assaulted a woman and violated her civil rights when he slammed her to the ground before handcuffing her at a city restaurant last year.

Wayne Simoes, 38, is accused of using excessive force against Irma Marquez after she tried to get a better look as medical assistance was being provided to her niece following a confrontation at La Fonda early on March 3, 2007.

The incident was captured on videotape and showed Simoes grab Marquez around the waist, lift her into the air and throw her face down to the floor, according to a criminal complaint by FBI Special Agent Kristina Norris that was filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains.

Norris said that other Yonkers officers who were present in the restaurant that morning said later that "Simoes' use of force against Marquez was unreasonable and excessive."

Marquez, suffered a broken jaw and other facial injuries but was charged with obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct. She filed an $11.3 million federal lawsuit against Yonkers police last month after a jury in City Court acquitted her of all charges.

Marquez' lawyers have criticized District Attorney Janet DiFiore for prosecuting their client and questioned whether her office could properly handle cases of police misconduct. DiFiore said after the lawsuit was filed that her office's handling of the case is being reviewed and that she has "reassigned personnel pending completion of the inquiry."

U.S. Magistrate George Yanthis released Simoes on $300,000 bond. The officer, who lives in Yonkers and joined the police department there in 2000, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is due back in court on July 23.

NYPD Officers Accused of False Arrest


A team of New York Police Department narcotics officers is under investigation for falsely arresting two brothers and two other men in January, claiming they were selling drugs in an Elmhurst club called Delicioso.

New surveillance video obtained last week by defense attorneys does not show any evidence the men sold cocaine or any other drugs to undercover police in the club, authorities said.

The brothers and other two men arrested were charged in January with selling two bags of cocaine worth $100, according to The Washington Post.

On Thursday, those charges were dropped when surveillance video showed that the undercover police officers had never been in contact with the men they arrested, the paper reported.

"How lucky these tapes existed," Rochelle Berliner, who represented brothers Maximo and Jose Colon, told the Post. "Three cops' words against theirs? Who is the jury going to believe?"

But the false charges came at a cost. Jose Colon lost his grocery store business after the arrests, and he was furious with police because of it.

"I just don't know why they would do this to us," he told the Post. "They know who deals drugs on the street, and they just made up everything."

Authorities at the district attorney's office and with the NYPD confirmed to the Post that an investigation into the officers involved in the false drug bust was under way, and according to the paper, at least six police officers have been questioned in connection with the incident in the last few days.

Two of the undercover officers involved in the bust were placed on modified assignment on Tuesday, according to the Post. The third officer left the NYPD and is now working for Nassau County police, the paper reported.