Reading in between the lines
Murtha Settlement on the Table
Jeffrey B. Cohen
on April 28, 2009 5:10 PM
The city is considering settling a lawsuit brought by former police officer Robert Murtha, who was fired after he shot a fleeing suspect twice in the arm in 2003.
A jury eventually found Murtha not guilty of first-degree assault, fabricating evidence and falsely reporting an incident. In 2007, Murtha, at left, filed suit against the city, seeking reimbursement for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and back pay owed him.
Now, six years after the incident and two months before trial, the city council is considering a settlement offer following a court mediation in February.
"Based on the discussions with the judge, we made a demand to them and said, 'Here's what we will accept,'" said Donn Swift, Murtha's attorney. "They now will have to evaluate it." (Courant Photo)
Swift, who would not discuss the details of the settlement, said he had "no indication if [the city's response will be] a yes, or a no, or something in between."
Murtha was accused in January 2003 of shooting Elvin Gonzalez twice in the arm as Gonzalez fled in a stolen car. Gonzalez, a convicted felon, admitted at trial that he was drunk and high on marijuana when he fled from Murtha. Gonzalez has a federal lawsuit pending against the city.
The city council has had the matter on its agenda at least twice. Earlier this month, some of its members met in a closed-door session with attorneys to discuss the settlement offer. There was no apparent result of that meeting.
Then, on Monday, the council was again to discuss the matter in executive session -- but the meeting was stymied by those on the council who thought the city's attorneys had not followed state Freedom of Information laws.
City councilors asked about the proposed settlement would not discuss it, as the information they had came from a closed-door session of the council.
"I am unsure as to whether the council wants to support a settlement in this matter," said Councilman Pedro Segarra, the board's budget chairman.
Murtha, through his attorney, declined to comment.
Attached is Murtha's third amended complaint, as provided by Swift.
Third Amended Complaint - dap 03-12-08.doc
And below is the Courant's story from when his lawsuit was initially filed.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
FORMER POLICE OFFICER SUES CITY
ACQUITTED OF CHARGES, MURTHA SEEKS PAY AND BENEFITS LOST SINCE 2003
TINA A. BROWN; Courant Staff Writer
Former Hartford police Officer Robert Murtha, acquitted last year of first-degree assault and fabricating evidence in a 2003 police shooting, is suing the city of Hartford, seeking pay and benefits he lost over the past four years, plus legal fees.
Murtha filed the suit Monday asking for back wages, pension and health benefits, vacation and sick time and legal costs. The price tag if Murtha is successful could be as high as $1 million, defense lawyer Michael A. Georgetti said, including $300,000 in legal fees due to him and attorney Hugh Keefe.
Last October, a Superior Court jury in Hartford found Murtha not guilty of first-degree assault, fabricating evidence and falsely reporting an incident. He was accused in January 2003 of shooting Elvin Gonzalez twice in the arm as Gonzalez fled in a stolen car.
Gonzalez, a convicted felon, admitted during his testimony at the trial that he was drunk and high on marijuana when he fled from police.
Hartford State's Attorney James Thomas, the prosecutor in the case, unsuccessfully tried to convince the jury that Murtha needlessly fired at the suspect and then lied to cover it up. In his case, Thomas used a video of the incident recorded by a camera in a police cruiser.
The video was not enough, the jury foreman Mark Smith said after the trial. It didn't capture the fact that Murtha was ``dealing with a dangerous criminal and had only a split second to make his decision,'' Smith said.
Soon after Murtha was fired in 2004, the Hartford Police Union objected to his dismissal and filed a claim with the state labor board, union President Richard Rodriguez said Tuesday. A hearing in that case was postponed until after Murtha's acquittal. Then, Rodriguez said, the union asked the city attorney to give Murtha his job back and to compensate him with back pay.
``The city's position as I understand it today, they said absolutely not,'' Rodriguez said.
A labor board hearing on Murtha's case has not been scheduled. But Rodriguez said, ``We intend to represent him at the labor board. We hope that the outcome will be that he gets his job back. ... We are just going by what that statute provides. He's entitled to be indemnified by the city and made whole.''
Murtha, who is now a lawyer, was ``acting under the color of law. ... We are asking for back pay from the date of termination until he is reinstated,'' Rodriguez said.
Georgetti said Murtha is entitled to much more.
``If they do not reinstate him, he is asking for his lost wages for what he would have earned as a police officer if he worked a full 20 years,'' Georgetti said.
Murtha had been on the force four years at the time of the shooting.
The city has paid back wages and benefits to some other current and former Hartford police officers after they faced criminal charges and were cleared in court proceedings.
Earlier this year, the city settled with John Nisyrious, a 19-year veteran who resigned after he pleaded guilty to 2003 larceny charges and was given a special form of probation by the court, Rodriguez said. He was given two years of back pay, health insurance and holiday benefits, he said.
Additionally, Juan A. Morales received $225,000 in payments in 2003. He was reinstated on paper but never returned to the job. Joseph Davis and Matthew Rivera also received lump sum payments after the larceny charges against them were dismissed. And Eric Smith received more than $120,000 in 2003, after he was cleared of sexual assault allegations, according to previous Courant reports.
The city has until May 1 to respond to Murtha's lawsuit. The city attorney handling the Murtha case was unavailable to comment for this story.
Contact Tina A. Brown at email@example.com.
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Do most White Male Police officers in Connecticut think that White Officers shooting Blacks in the back, killing them, are justified? Well, the case of the "Teflon Badge", Hartford, Connecticut, Police Officer Robert Lawlor begs that question. [more]
EAST WINDSOR [Connecticut] -- An East Windsor police officer has been placed on paid suspension after being arrested by Yale University police Thursday on charges of sexual assault and kidnapping.
Rafael Crespo Jr., 29, is charged with two counts each of first-degree kidnapping with a firearm and first-degree sexual assault. He is also charged with third-degree assault, second-degree unlawful restraint and second-degree threatening.
Lt. Mike Patten, a spokesman for the Yale University Police Department, declined to discuss the case - refusing to say when the crimes are alleged to have taken place or to give the gender of the victim. On Friday, Judge Richard Damiani ordered the warrant for Crespo's arrest sealed in Superior Court in New Haven, citing the law designed to protect the identity of sex crime victims. [more]
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[click here] for:
The Connecticut State Trooper Gene Pool?
[click here] for the New York State Police Internal Affairs 168 page official report on Connecticut State Police misconduct [more of the above]