Man seeks $10M from police, city in drug setup

NEW HAVEN, Nov 11, 2008 (New Haven Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- CSCO | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Norval Falconer, who was charged with eight felony drug charges after New Haven Police Department detectives planted the drugs and then falsely arrested him, filed a $10 million civil rights lawsuit Monday against the detectives, former Police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. and the city.

In addition to Ortiz and the city, the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, names as defendants former detective William White, head of the department's Narcotics Enforcement Unit at the time of the incident, and two other former detectives, Justen Kasperzyk and Jose Silva.

All three detectives have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and were sentenced to prison. Kasperzyk and Silva acknowledged their actions led to Falconer's arrest two years ago in an apartment on Truman Street.

"The pattern of abuses in the Narcotics Unit was widespread, blatant and of long standing," Falconer's attorney, Diane Polan, said Monday as she stood beside him on the steps of the federal courthouse.

"This corruption went beyond Billy White and his crew," Polan charged. "This was the official policy of Chief Ortiz and the city of New Haven."

Robert Smuts, the city's chief administrative officer, said he had not seen the lawsuit, so he could not comment on its specifics. But he said, "The implication that these three individuals were encouraged to break the law, that it was somehow a directive, is absurd."

Smuts added, "No one denies the actions of the three detectives were illegal and reprehensible. They were motivated by greed; nothing more, nothing less."

Smuts said the FBI and the Police Executive Research Forum concluded the corruption was limited to the three detectives. "It was not systemic," he said.

However, Polan said the PERF study revealed there were no strict policies or procedures governing the drug unit.

She quoted the report: "There was a systemic problem that allowed officers and supervisors to create their own policies and practices as to informants, their use and documentation of confidential funds."

Ortiz could not be reached for comment Monday. But Smuts said, "There is no reason to believe that Cisco (Ortiz) or anybody else beyond those three individuals condoned or encouraged the illegal actions."

Nevertheless, Polan said Kasperzyk testified in a deposition "that Ortiz, White and the NEU enforced a policy of planting evidence, falsifying arrest warrant affidavits, taking keys from drivers in order to illegally search their homes and making arrests that officers knew were unlawful."

Polan added, "Kasperzyk testified that Ortiz gave detailed orders to NEU, i n c l u d i n g what specific a d d r e s s e s t o raid and specific persons to arrest."

P o l a n s a i d K a s p e r z y k ' s account also made it clear " t h a t O r t i z g a v e W h i t e his marching orders, and that there was a 'hang 'em high' atmosphere of making narcotics arrests at any cost, regardless of their legality."

In Polan's legal complaint, she said that on Nov. 9, 2006, members of the NHPD, its narcotics unit and state police executed a search warrant at a first-floor apartment at 65-67 Truman St. The officers allegedly broke down the front door and detained Falconer, who was visiting there.

Kasperzyk searched the building and found cocaine and marijuana in the basement, Polan said. She added he then hid the drugs in his jacket, went upstairs to a bedroom of the first-floor apartment, placed the narcotics on a dresser next to Falconer's ID card and shouted, "Look what I found!"

Polan's complaint stated Silva wrote an incident report in which he knowingly included the false information implicating Falconer. White supervised the raid, Polan added.

Falconer spent a month in jail because he could not post $350,000 bail. In December 2006, he pleaded guilty to one of the charges, Polan said, in order to get out of jail before Christmas.

Three months later, Kasperzyk and White were arrested by the FBI in connection with NEU's illegal activities. Shortly afterward, the charges against Falconer were dismissed.

Kasperzyck was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in Falconer's arrest and other illegal actions. Silva received a three-month sentence, which he already has served. White received a 38-month sentence and is still in prison.

According to the lawsuit, Falconer, who was 27 at the time of his arrest, suffered "embarrassment, emotional distress, anguish, loss of liberty, loss of employment and homelessness."

Falconer appeared too nervous to say much during the news conference Monday. But he did state, "I'm still scared."

Polan explained, "He's afraid of the police."

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