Connecticut Officers Arrested on Conspiracy Charges

Posted on 08/15/13

Four East Haven, Connecticut, Police Officers Charged with Targeting Illegal Immigrants

This week, federal authorities arrested four East Haven, Connecticut police officers on charges of conspiracy, false arrest, excessive force, and obstruction of justice. First, it is important to remember that the officers are innocent until they, individually or collectively, are proven to be guilty in a court of law before a jury of their peers.

The charges stemmed from the officers’ (known as the Miller Boys) alleged targeting of Latinos or Hispanics in the Connecticut community. The four arrested are Sgt. John Miller and three officers, David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo. As described by the New York Times, “They stopped and detained people, particularly immigrants, without reason, federal prosecutors said, sometimes slapping, hitting or kicking them when they were handcuffed, and once smashing a man’s head into a wall. They followed and arrested residents, including a local priest, who tried to document their behavior.”

If the allegations have merit, I expect a related civil lawsuit will be filed soon, if one has not been already. Such a lawsuit would most likely utilize Section 1983 of Title 42 of the Civil Rights Act. This section essentially provides that when a governmental official violates a resident’s civil rights, sovereign immunity is waived (allowing the resident to sue the government), and the resident receives a monetary remedy to compensate for the deprivation.

It is important to note, Section 1983 allows any “person in the jurisdiction” (the United States) to bring suit, and therefore even if the people the officers are accused of targeting immigrated to this country illegally, they may still have a cause of action against the officers and the Town of New Haven. While a recent fifth circuit decision held that illegal immigrants do not have fourth Amendment rights, it is clear in the second circuit (where Connecticut resides) that all people have a right to freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures.