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Justice for Titasheen Mitchell Police Brutality!: Stratford Police Union Tries To Oust Councilman Alvin O'Neal - Who Attempted To Stop Police Cpl. David Gugliotti From Beating A Child

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stratford Police Union Tries To Oust Councilman Alvin O'Neal - Who Attempted To Stop Police Cpl. David Gugliotti From Beating A Child

Stratford Police Union Tries To Oust Councilman Alvin O'Neal - Who Attempted To Stop Police Cpl. David Gugliotti From Beating A Child

2006-07-13 STRATFORD, CONNECTICUT - The Stratford police union this week leveled misconduct charges against Councilman Alvin O'Neal (D-2), who earlier this year accused a police officer of misconduct and brutality. The union also asked the Town Council to remove O'Neal from office.

The inflammatory charges, just days before a scheduled protest rally against alleged unfair treatment of minorities by police, may further strain relations between the town's police officers and African-American residents in the South End.

One of the officers who presented the union's complaint against O'Neal Monday evening, Ulysses Munoz, is a member of a new police unit in the South End that was formed with the hope that it would restore residents' confidence in the police.

The union representatives also said O'Neal was involved in a road rage incident on May 1 in which he allegedly intimidated and verbally abused an elderly resident, John Tabak, 84, of Flora Drive. Tabak reported it to police last week.

O'Neal said the new charge is a slanderous fabrication. "They are doing everything in their power to discredit me," he said.

Town Council Chairman James Feehan (R-9) refused to allow any discussion of the matter, referring it to Town Attorney Richard Buturla because of a question over whether the council has the authority to take any action against O'Neal.

The police union cited several sections of the Town Charter prohibiting council members from interfering with administrative officials in their official duties, and authorizing the council to remove a member from office for a violation.

However, those sections do not appear in the new charter voters adopted in the 2003 election, which rewrote the sections related to the Town Council to accommodate the powers of the newly created office of mayor.

Feehan also cautioned the other council members not to make any statements on the matter, to avoid the appearance of bias in case the complaint does come before them for a decision.

O'Neal accused
O'Neal was arrested on charges of interfering with a police officer and breach of peace on March 21 in a tense, racially charged incident at the corner of Woodend Road and Main Street, when he intervened while Police Cpl. David Gugliotti was attempting to arrest a teenage girl. Gugliotti is white, O'Neal and the girl are black.

O'Neal made a citizen complaint against Gugliotti, claiming the officer punched him and the girl and cursed at him. However, a police department internal affairs investigation ruled that conflicting eyewitness accounts of the incident provided insufficient evidence to support O'Neal's complaint.

Munoz and Police Officer Carlos Castro, both members of the police union's executive board, charged that O'Neal "grossly and repeatedly violated the town charter" by interfering with Gugliotti's arrest.

Regarding the road rage allegation, Munoz, Castro and Police Officer Shawn Farmer, the union president, said they did not know why Tabak waited more than two months to report O'Neal's alleged outburst.

Tabak told police he stopped on Church Street, a narrow, one-way lane in Stratford Center, waiting for another motorist to back into a parking space. He said a driver in a vehicle behind him began blaring his horn impatiently, angrily insisting he move.

Tabak said when he proceeded to the stop light at Main Street, the driver, whom he identified as O'Neal, got out, approached his vehicle in a manner Tabak described as menacing, and shouted repeatedly, "Do you know who I am?" at the elderly man. Tabak reported he was frightened and locked his car doors.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Tabak said he didn't decide to report the incident until he read news reports about O'Neal's plans for the rally at Town Hall.

Tabak told the Star he is angry with the police union for using his report for political purposes. He said he only intended to give police information to use in O'Neal's trial on the interfering charge, and now that he was used as a pawn he would never file a report again.

In response to O'Neal's counter-accusation that Tabak's charge is false, Farmer replied, "Based on his previous statements and actions, this is just what we'd expect from him."

The three police officers scoffed that they had better things to do than invent false charges against O'Neal.

Officer reprimanded
However, the officers now have to field problems of their own. Earlier on Monday, Police Chief Michael Imbro reprimanded an unidentified officer on the order of visibly angry Mayor James R. Miron for harassing Marcia Mitchell-Davis, the mother of the girl O'Neal defended on March 21.

According to O'Neal - and confirmed by Miron - the police officer appeared Monday morning at Mitchell-Davis' Caribbean Delights restaurant at Woodend and Main and ordered her to remove sandwich signs from the sidewalk.

Miron said the signs violate the town's zoning regulations, but police officers normally do not enforce zoning rules.

"How does it look?" Miron asked.

It is the second time police were accused of harassing Mitchell-Davis. Shortly after the March 21 incident, while Gugliotti was on administrative leave pending the internal affairs investigation, Mitchell-Davis said she saw Gugliotti and another officer, Sean Martinez, drive past her restaurant with a video camera.

That allegation was dismissed, along with the other charges against Gugliotti. Imbro said Martinez was on patrol in another part of town when the alleged video drive-by took place.

Mitchell-Davis' daughter, now 15, faces charges in juvenile court of assaulting a police officer, assault in the third degree and breach of peace.

O'Neal was scheduled for a pre-trial court appearance in Bridgeport Monday, but his case was continued until next week.

Rally on Saturday

O'Neal appeared with Miron and an NAACP representative, Wayne Winston, last Thursday to announce that the rally will take place Saturday, July 15, to give town officials time to prepare for traffic and crowd control.

The rally, which will feature state NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile as a speaker, previously was scheduled for last Saturday.

O'Neal said the rally will focus on resolving the racial conflict, not on the alleged police brutality - Miron, in fact, announced he also will be a speaker - but that was before the police union raised the new controversy.

Miron has been supportive of the police and said in an interview last week that the officers feel they have been unfairly attacked in news media reports and under-appreciated.

But the mayor, normally even-tempered and cheerful, was visibly angry with the union officials Monday.

"It's offensive to me that the Stratford police union would take this action," he said before cutting reporters' questions short and storming away.

Miron noted that O'Neal has not been charged with a crime related to Tabak's allegation, and he should be presumed innocent if he were.

New charges by the Stratford police union against District 2 Councilman Alvin O'Neal and a demand that he be removed from office were referred to the town attorney this week along with the question of where some key sections of the Town Charter went.

The police union cited Sections 2.2.14, 2.2.15 and 2.1.4 in its complaint against O'Neal, which prohibit councilmen from interfering with town officials, including police officers, in their official duties, and authorizing the council to remove a violator from office.

Councilmen have no authority to order an administrative official to do something, but they might threaten a budget cut that eliminates the official's job, which is why the provision was there.

When the councilmen looked up the specific sections in their official Town Charter booklets, they weren't there.

That is only one of the questions that have landed in the lap of Town Attorney Richard Buturla, a former council chairman.

Buturla said beside the mystery of the missing charter sections, he must determine what powers the Town Council actually has.

The best explanation at this point is that the sections were inadvertently omitted when Section 2, defining the powers of the Town Council, were rewritten in the last charter revision, adopted by the voters in a referendum in the 2003 election.

Council Chairman James Feehan (R-9) said he would soon propose an ordinance to create a new Charter Revision Commission to address numerous technicalities and conflicts between the new powers of the mayor and the council.

A new Charter Revision Commission could reinstate the missing sections. It could also rewrite town history from 2005, when the campaign for the town's first mayor took place, although Feehan said that isn't his intention.

Buturla said the more pertinent question he must answer includes whether the new charter includes any prohibition against a councilman using his office to influence the conduct of a member of the administration in his duties.

He said the town's Ethics Code is too narrow in scope to apply in such a case.

Beyond the question of what the charter says, Buturla said he must determine if any state statutes apply and override the Town Charter.

Lastly, he said he must see if there is any legal case law that affects the situation.

O'Neal was arrested on March 21 for interfering with a police officer, Cpl. David Gugliotti, while he was arresting a teenage girl.

Following his arrest, O'Neal filed a citizen complaint alleging that Gugliotti had punched him and swore at him, and used unnecessary force while arresting the girl.

When a Police Department Internal Affairs investigation ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the complaint, police union leaders called for O'Neal's removal from the council, and on Monday they made formal charges against him.
Appeared Here

Stratford Connecticut Councilman Alvin O'Neal In Trouble After Trying To Stop White Police Officer David Gugliotti From Beating Black Child, Police Officer Evan Sarris Removes Signs Demanding Justice

2006-07-13 STRATFORD, CONNECTICUT - The controversy in Stratford surrounding the incident involving Councilman Alvin O'Neal, D-2, Police Officer David Gugliotti, a town restaurant owner and her daughter has taken an unfortunate - and a sobering - turn for the worse.

The debate stems from a confrontation between police and O'Neal in March. O'Neal, who is black, claims that he tried to stop Gugliotti, who is white, from hitting 15-year-old Titasheen Mitchell, who is also black, during a police matter outside the South End restaurant owned by the young woman's mother.

O'Neal was arrested on the spot for interfering with the officer but is contesting the charges in court.

The matter has touched on the sensitive issues of race and police brutality, and it's sadly turned Stratford into a hornet's nest of resentment and accusations.

Now, Marcia Mitchell-Davis - the mother of Titasheen Mitchell - has accused Stratford police officers of harassing and intimidating her at her restaurant.

Mitchell-Davis had three signs in front of her business, including one that demanded "justice" in the O'Neal controversy, forcibly removed by Officer Evan Sarris on Monday.

Sarris told Mitchell-Davis the signs violated town zoning ordinances and told her to take them down "or else." When she refused, the officer threw them to the ground.

Of course, the signs had little to do with law enforcement. In Stratford, complaints concerning signs in front of businesses are always handled by a zoning enforcement officer, and in this case Planning and Zoning Administrator Gary Lorentson told the Connecticut Post there had been no complaints against the restaurant.

All this has occurred while a rally to protest local racism and police actions looms on Saturday.

It's difficult to determine whether the officer's actions were based on intimidating Mitchell-Davis, but knocking the signs down certainly was an outrageous and unnecessary action.

Mitchell-Davis has every right to speak out against what she considers an oppressive police department, and if police officers think otherwise they had best brush up on the U.S. Constitution.

Plaudits to Stratford Mayor James H. Miron and top Stratford police administrators for publicly chiding the officer for his actions. By knocking down the signs, he made a bad and simmering situation much worse.

It will take levelheaded, straightforward and strong leadership by Stratford government and police officials in the days ahead to calm the emotions surrounding this issue and to assure that all Stratford citizens get fair treatment and a chance to be heard.

Appeared Here.

Connecticut State Appellate Court Rejects Evidence Police Obtained During Illegal Stop And Search, Which Resulted In Man's Unlawfull Conviction For Evidence Found


DANBURY, CONNECTICUT – Edward Dalzell's flawless driving one February day in 2004 may be his ticket to freedom.

The state Appellate Court, in a unanimous ruling released Wednesday, said the Danbury police officer who pulled Dalzell over for failure to wear a seatbelt did not have sufficient evidence to suspect him of driving under the influence of drugs. That suspicion led to Dalzell's arrest after Officer Adam Marcus found four glassines of heroin inside a cigarette pack during a subsequent search of Dalzell's car.

Dalzell is serving a five-year sentence on charges including possession of heroin and driving under the influence of drugs.

Prior to trial, Dalzell had filed a motion to suppress the evidence gathered against him, saying there was nothing to justify Marcus' suspicion that he was not wearing a seatbelt or his belief that Dalzell was under the influence of drugs. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and Dalzell was convicted.

During a suppression hearing, Marcus testified that he saw Dalzell driving his 1991 Ford Escort on Feb. 27, 2004 and noticed he wasn't wearing a shoulder-style seatbelt. Marcus said he followed Dalzell for about a mile, and that he must have obeyed all speed limits and other traffic rules. Otherwise, the officer said, he would have stopped him.

Upon stopping Dalzell, Marcus testified, he noticed that Dalzell's pupils were contracted, his nose was red and running and there was a rolled up dollar bill in the car's center console. He said Dalzell also was slow in locating his registration and insurance.

The Appellate Court said that wasn't enough to warrant Dalzell's arrest for operating under the influence and subsequent seizure of contraband from his car.

"We cannot separate the four facts observed by Marcus, all of which are indistinguishable from otherwise innocent conduct, from the fact that he followed [Dalzell] over a considerable distance along a winding path of intersecting roads beset with stops and traffic signals without observing any traffic violation," Judge Antoinette Dupont wrote. "Under the totality of the circumstances, the officer's conclusion there was probable cause for the arrest of [Dalzell] for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs must fail."

The Appellate Court said Marcus had sufficient reason to stop Dalzell for failure to wear a seat belt, and that the stop was not "pretextual", or a ruse by Marcus to look for evidence of criminal activity. But, the court ruled, the subsequent search and seizure violated Dalzell's rights under the Connecticut constitution.

Senior Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Inkster, who argued Dalzell's case on appeal, said she is waiting to see whether the state asks the Supreme Court to review the case.

"The message is, you just can't go trolling for evidence," Inkster said. "Fishing isn't allowed.

"I'm thrilled for the client and I'm thrilled the court ruled this way, but I was not surprised," Inkster said. "When you look at what the officer had, it just wasn't enough to arrest Dalzell for operating under the influence. They made it very clear in this case that the Connecticut constitution is not going to tolerate these leaps of faith that have no foundation in fact."

The Appellate Court reversed Dalzell's convictions on all counts except the seatbelt infraction, and sent the case back to the trial court level with orders to suppress the evidence seized by Marcus. The state has 20 days to file an appeal.

Inkster said Dalzell, 46, has been incarcerated since his sentencing in January 2005, and will probably remain behind bars at least until the next step in the case is clear.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Robert Scheinblum could not be reached for comment.

Appeared Here.


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