Thursday, September 02, 2004

Raw Deal

He Paid For Police Mistake

Man Spent Six Months In Jail After Being Wrongly Convicted Of Risk Of Injury To A Minor

July 22, 2003 By KIM MARTINEAU, Courant Staff Writer, Hartford Courant, Connecticut

Michael Seri went to the library to study Greek tragedy, not expecting to set one in motion.

A lawsuit he has filed against the town of Newtown reads like a drama Sophocles could have written - replete with themes of sexual perversion, police misconduct and unwarranted punishment.

He Paid For Police Mistake

Seri, 45, spent six months in prison on charges that he exposed himself and masturbated in front of a 15-year-old Girl Scout in the Newtown public library.

His conviction was overturned with the help of an FBI-agent relative whose own investigation exposed obvious flaws in the police case, the lawsuit charges.

Police did not pursue evidence that suggested they had the wrong guy, then pressured at least one witness to identify Seri while the real culprit walked free, he alleges.While Seri sat in jail, a girl studying for a Spanish exam at the same library saw a man masturbating. His appearance fit the description the scout gave some 15 months earlier."This is an example of a clearly innocent person wrongly convicted," said Hubert Santos, Seri's lawyer on appeal.

Newtown First Selectman Herb Rosenthal defended the investigation, pointing out that a jury convicted Seri at trial.

Police Chief Michael Kehoe, one of several officers named in the suit, declined comment.The scout was visiting the library with her troop when a man sat down at her table on the third floor and started to masturbate, she told police.

She ran to her mother, but the man was gone by the time she returned. Librarians remembered that a man had been in the area earlier, studying Greek tragedy works he had called ahead to reserve. Seri's phone number was still on the books.

Police visited the farmhouse Seri was renting. At first, he answered their questions freely, he said. But as the questioning continued, he began to worry. Three months later, a judge signed a warrant for his arrest. Prosecutors recommended he plead guilty to serve less time.

But he refused. "I'm not going to admit to being a pervert for a crime I didn't do," he said.At the time, Seri was painting houses and was studying in his spare time for a bachelor's degree in English literature.

He was arrested despite the prominence of his father, Michael Seri, a former state representative, gaming commissioner and Danbury town clerk known to friends as "Tweezer."Seri claims police and prosecutors made a series of blunders in their investigation:

The scout described a Mexican-looking man with dark hair. Seri is Caucasian, balding, and at the time wore long sideburns and a goatee.

The girl also failed to pick Seri out of a police lineup. His fingerprints did not match prints lifted from two books found at the crime scene, yet the police refused to run the prints through a national crime database, where they would have been found to match that of a 44-year old convicted sex offender.

Finally, the police threatened to arrest a potential witness, a library page, unless she identified Seri as the masturbator, the suit claims.At trial, the scout and her mother, the troop leader, identified Seri as the culprit they saw on the third floor.

Their testimony was bolstered by a fingerprint expert who said he couldn't rule out the possibility Seri's prints were on the two library books because police didn't take enough of his handprint for comparison.

Seri took the stand, but his unusual appearance - long sideburns that suggested Elvis-gone-bad - worked against him, as did the judge's decision to let the jury hear about a 1980 felony conviction that took place while he was battling heroin addiction, his trial lawyer said."They sat there and looked at me like I was Charles Manson," Seri said.

After one day of testimony, the jury took less than a day to convict Seri of risk of injury to a minor, a felony, and two misdemeanors."Even though he was convicted by a jury of his peers, it's beyond me that the case went to trial," said his trial lawyer, Joseph Dimyan.

He spent the next six months at a maximum security prison, locked down most of the day. He kept his case secret from the other inmates, fearful of being exposed as a sex offender.

To pass the time, he wrote poems and read. Instead of focusing on the injustice and growing bitter, he thought about what he had to be thankful for: regular visits from friends and family and a relatively short sentence to serve.

Many of his peers were in for life. During his imprisonment, he came to understand the critical irony of freedom."When you have it," he said, "you don't realize how lucky you are."He finished his sentence in July 2002, but remained a registered sex offender.

His probation officer barred him from returning to his apartment because his landlord had a young daughter. He couldn't live with his siblings, who also had young children. Seri slept in his car until a friend found him an apartment in Danbury."To us, there was no end," said his sister, Pam Ginsburg, a registered nurse from New Fairfield.That summer, his luck turned.

A friend came across Angel Laporte's name in the police blotter of The Newtown Bee. While Seri was still in jail, Laporte, a Hispanic man with dark hair, had been arrested for masturbating in front of a girl who was studying at the Newtown library for a Spanish exam, in June 2002.

The girl followed Laporte out of the library and wrote down his license plate number as he drove away, according to police records.

All along, Seri's uncle, Richard Macko - an FBI agent who helped lead the corruption investigation into former Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr. - had focused on the only hard evidence in his nephew's case:

the fingerprints found on the two library books.

At first Macko asked the police to run the latent prints through a national crime database to see who came up - a request they refused, he said.

When he learned about Laporte, he asked police to compare Laporte's prints with the book prints.

Still they refused, he said.

Macko arranged for the analysis independently. Seri's lawyer got the book prints through the appeal process. Seri was able to pull Laporte's prints from his public court file.

A fingerprint expert confirmed that at least one fingerprint on the books matched that of Laporte, who has a history of arrests for public indecency, including at libraries in Fairfield, New Milford, Brookfield and Newtown, court records show.

In fact, Laporte was known to the Newtown police as far back as 1992.

In 1994, Brookfield Det. Jeffrey Sullinger discussed his investigation into a public indecency complaint at the Brookfield library with Newtown Det. Robert Tvardzik, who told him he was "familiar with Laporte," court records say."All they had to do was check their own records," said Macko.

In February, Judge Gary White granted a new trial in Seri's bid to clear his name as a sex offender. He was successful.

Assistant State's Attorney Anthony Bochicchio dropped the charges, causing the case to be dismissed. Bochicchio, who also prosecuted Laporte, declined comment. White did not return a call for comment."The court never apologized," Seri said. "It was like, `Let's just get him out of here.'"Laporte was confronted with the new evidence suggesting he was at the library on March 13, 2001, when the Girl Scout was victimized.

He denied it, even after prosecutors promised not to punish him for the crime, said Raymond Lubus, his New Fairfield lawyer.

Laporte offered to take a lie detector test, though ultimately the test couldn't be given for medical reasons.Laporte, a computer programmer who is married and has a child, had been taking medication to control a "compulsive disorder" but relapsed after he went off his drugs on the recommendation of his doctor, said Lubus. "This was a limited relapse," he said. "There [weren't] two incidents."In November 2002, Laporte pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a minor and public indecency in the June incident and was sentenced to one year in prison.

He's being held at Cheshire Correctional Institution. Newtown Capt. Joe Rios refused to say if the 2001 incident is still under investigation.Seri's lawyer, Paul Spinella, says the case points to the state's need for more rigorous screening of evidence before trial.

While most states use some form of a grand jury to review the evidence to decide if the government should go forward, in Connecticut that power rests solely with a judge in most criminal cases.

Some defense lawyers say it's not enough."The judge doesn't do their own investigation," said Hartford lawyer Richard Brown, an advocate for the grand jury system. "The judge doesn't know if police left out key facts. They rely on the competence and integrity of these police officers."Seri has maintained a philosophical outlook.

He wants to publish a book of poetry he wrote in prison - "Ulysses in Solitary." He even wants to apologize to his accuser."I hope one day I can hold her and say, `I'm sorry for what happened - to you and to me,'" he said. But most of all, he wants an apology - from police and prosecutors for what he calls a gross abuse of power. "They need to admit their mistake," he said. "Nobody is above the law."

* * * *

My Story:

I asked Arthur L. Spada, head of Dept of Public Safety, Connecticut State Police, to remove the US Dept. of Justice webpage from the Connecticut State Police website citing that the polices were not being followed. I sent a copy to the US. Dept of Justice.

I was sentenced to one year in prison, 3 years probation, for having pepper sprayed a police informant that had stalked, harassed, threatened and terrorized me for weeks before beating me from behind in the dark trying to rob me in my driveway.

I was declared the victim, my assailant was not arrested, and Judge Jonathan Kaplan was aware that my assailant had threatened to kill me through my tenants and had demanded money before the assault on me (robbery, isn’t that illegal in Connecticut?), yet sentenced me while mocking me that prosecutors and judges can decide who they prosecute and who they don’t.

I lost everything I had ever worked for, contact with my family, pets, credit, $500,000 in investment property (2 I had fixed up from a boarded up condition in Stafford Connecticut), my retirement- the sum total of my life.

I had no previous record and I am probably the first robbery/assault victim to be put in prison for having used pepper spray where my assailant was not arrested. It is very rare for anyone to go to prison for my charges and also not be offered Accelerated Rehabilitation where the charges can be erased in months for a $100 fee, something all other 1st time offenders are offered.

I did nothing illegal defending my life on my own property.I had blasted police, prosecutors, judges in newspapers and even tried to have Judge Jonathan Kaplan fired through local politicians and 2 landlord boards I sat on BEFORE I had any legal trouble and before Connecticut State Police officers told me to leave town or else.

I had complained about drug use/sales on my property, thefts, when I was threatened, property damage, teens drinking/selling drugs, frauds, child abuse, prostitution etc where they were ignored and I was imprisoned for being a pain in the ass calling in to police complaining/begging for service.

-Steven G. Erickson

P.S. any lawyers interested in taking my case in suing the Connecticut State Police for violating my rights and in suing Connecticut are encouraged to contact me at stevengerickson@yahoo.com

Atty Agranoff of Stafford charged me over $17,000 legal fee, allowed a worker for police to be jury foreman, did not call witnesses, refused to challenge police perjury and the prosecution, and I have claims of ethical and financial misconduct I would like to pursue.

Website from the US Dept of Justice, I asked Arthur L. Spada to remove from the Connecticut State Police website: (If these policies were followed I would have my $6500 gross monthly rents as I had just finished years of work on the properties and was finally turning a profit, and would have my family with me and a quality of life)

* * * *

http://www.state.ct.us/dps/CommunityPolicing.html (now expired, text lies below)


Please read the following from the Department of JusticeU.S. Department of JusticeOffice of
Community Oriented Policing Services COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING SERVICES U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICEA DEFINITION OF COMMUNITY POLICINGDIRECTOR THOMAS C. FRAZIER

As the COPS Office continues to advance community policing nationwide, a clear definition of ''Community Policing'' will help police departments improve the qualityof life in our neighborhoods.

A Four-Tiered ApproachCommunity oriented policing is proactive, solution-based, and community driven. It occurs when:''A law enforcement agency and law abiding citizens work together to do four things:
· Arrest offenders;

· Prevent crime;

· Solve on-going problems;

· and improve the overall quality of life."

Arrest Offenders

There is nothing ''soft on crime'' about community policing. Ensuring a safe environment is dangerous and arduous work for the men and women of American law enforcement. Community policing is pro-active law enforcement, where officers arrest those who harm others or steal their property. This serious responsibility can best be accomplished when police officers have the support of their communities.

Community policing creates an environment where true partnerships between the community and law enforcement can thrive. It creates safe environments where neighborhoods can prosper. Prevent CrimeCrime prevention has two major components. The first is a Combined effort in traditional prevention areas of proactive Police-community programs and personal safety awareness.

Traditional prevention efforts include exterior lighting, deadbolts on doors and windows, and walking with an escort at night.

The second essential area is understanding that our children make important life decisions - whether to get involved with drugs or not, whether to obey the law or not - by the time they are ten years old. Giving children the tools they need to make important life decisions is good crime prevention. Poor decisions and involvement in criminal activity are costly choices- costly to our children and costly to taxpayers as we arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate offenders.

Solve Ongoing ProblemsWorking together to solve ongoing problems means police andCitizen partnering to implement strategies that provide longterm solutions. Problems can best be eliminated when thecommunity and government coordinate and cooperate.

For example - police may be called repeatedly to a boarded-up house to arrest trespassers. With interagency cooperation, that house could be rehabilitated and turned into a home that local residents are proud to have in their neighborhood.

Improve the Overall Quality of LifePolice strategies are evolving. Instead of concentrating exclusively on enforcement, today's police officers areimproving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Community policing officers not only stabilize neighborhoods, but mobilize and motivate citizen participation in programs such as block watch and neighborhood clean-ups.

America's men and women in law enforcement are good conveners, facilitators and problem solvers - they make things happen. Using their community oriented policing skills, officers become essential building blocks in community oriented government.

Posted by Vikingas on 08/19 at 10:36 PM
-->



dude. i just so dont care.
Posted by on 08/20 at 09:30 AM #

i thought i was the only one who felt that way!
Posted by Will Bonilla on 08/20 at 06:56 PM #

* * * *

My picture and more:
http://www.injusticebusters.com/04/Erickson_Steve.htm

* * * *
* * * *

The first comment below is filled with false information. It sounds like something Attorney Michael H. Agranoff might write. [click here] for information on who might be the worst, most dishonest attorney in all of Connecticut.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks Mr. Erickson always leaves out the details that would expose his false stories. He has failed to mention the new DNA database which could and will exonerate the alleged masturbater soon. Remember public masturbaters leave behind evidence.

In Mr. Erickson's case he leaves out that his so-called assailant was not just a "police informant" but actually an undercover anti-drug taskforce agent who was reaching for his badge not a knife! Judge Kaplan had access to the electronic surveillance as all judges do. It amazes me how dense a person can be not to see the the many "hints" left for him by so many people to just back-off and let the feds and CSP do their job. He just didn't get it! Your assailant was obviously playing a part like an actor in a bad Shaft movie you numb-skull! Your meddling may have jeopardized the operation and make life worse for Stafford citizens like the way you helped the minor drug-addicted Mr. Clayton Varno. He's serving a 14 month sentence at Robinson. Now since you so carelessly leave your details all over the internet the people of Connecticut know where to go to thank you personally for your part on the war on drugs here. Kudos dude!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW Spada is already on his way out because Governor Rell wants him out due to unrelated issues...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger The Stark Raving Viking said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, March 20, 2005 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger The Stark Raving Viking said...

These above comments are very old, maybe near the time of the post in 2004.

But I will respond now, March 20, 2005.

Brian Caldwell has no badge he is a violent, drug using, alcoholic criminal.

I might have had something to do with Spada's removal.

Anonymous, you should get your facts straight. Or if you had any balls, you wouldn't be anonymous.

Sunday, March 20, 2005 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger The Stark Raving Viking said...

The 10:42 PM post was mine. I just corrected typing mistakes.

I had put "There" instead of "These"

Sunday, March 20, 2005 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger The Stark Raving Viking said...

The only person I remember mentioning anything about Clayton Varno and my blame for anything, is that lame defense attorney, "Mr. DCF Specialist", Michael H. Agranoff.

Varno was 18 when he worked for me temporarily, contracting, years ago. I don't do drugs, didn't hang out with him, and he was never high or under the influence when he worked for me. He seemed like a nice enough kid, but seemed harassed by police and misunderstood by his parents.

Varno told me he got started on marijuana when an older girl at the bus stop, who first got him on cigarettes, then had him try pot.

Clayton is a perfect example of the "cure" being worse than the disease. Putting teens in prison doesn't make them better. Clayton did nothing different than other kids two decades before him did. The law is just about making numbers and wrecking lives, especially in Connecticut. Citizens like me who propose legislation to help kids like Clayton avoid the pitfalls of the legal system are targets of police for arrest and being kicked out of the state. Been there, done that.

The Courant piece on policing shows just how far police go to make a suspect guilty regardless of whether they're guilty, or not. It is laziness, arrogance, and the lack of any quality control of Connecticut police and too many police departments across America.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 3:38:00 PM  

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