The towns of Darien, Easton, Monroe, Trumbull and Wilton will pay Ronald Terebesi $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from a fatal 2008 police raid in Easton.
The U.S. Supreme Court previously denied an appeal by the five Connecticut police departments. The high court’s action meant a federal lawsuit by Terebesi, formerly of Dogwood Drive in Easton, could go forward against the Easton, Monroe, Trumbull, Darien, and Wilton police departments, the named police defendants in the case, and the municipalities of Easton and Monroe.
“Mr. Terebesi is satisfied,” according to Gary Mastronardi, Ronald Terebesi’s lawyer, a former member of the FBI. “Money is always important; what he feels is equally significant and quite impressive is that in order to get us to accept it they had to agree to allow judgments to enter against each and every one of the defendants, both the municipalities and the individual defendants, for multiple violation of his constitutional rights.”
On Monday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal (pdf) filed by police officers who participated in the 2008 raid on the Easton, Connecticut home of Ronald Terebesi, Jr.
If you recall, the SWERT tactical team composed of officers from six neighboring towns raided Terebesi’s house in response to a tip from an exotic dancer who said two men were smoking crack cocaine in Terebesi’s living room. The raid — which involved all the usual hallmarks: flashbangs, battering down the front door, setting the house on fire — ended with cops shooting and killing Terebesi’s unarmed friend Gonzalo Guizan. Paraphernalia and less than a tenth of an ounce of a suspicious substance was recovered from the house. Terebesi completed a brief drug program and was never charged with any crimes.
Both Terebesi and Guizan’s estate filed civil suits against five of the towns (Westport being the outlier) and the individual officers involved. The Guizan family settled with the towns for $3.5 million. In Terebesi’s case, the cops argued that their acting in their official capacities as town employees granted them qualified immunity and requested summary judgment. Both the District Court and the US Court of the Appeals for the Second District disagreed, and now SCOTUS has tacitly done so too.
The case is headed to trial in New Haven and currently assigned to Judge Janet Bond Arterton, the same District Court judge who wrote the scathing decision denying the officers’ qualified immunity in the first place:
[Monroe police sergeant Jay] Torreso maintains that he is entitled to qualified immunity because his personal conduct was objectively reasonable. However, Torreso is alleged to have been personally involved in what is plausibly described as an objectively unreasonable raid, given the minimal threat posed, the extreme force used, and the circumstances surrounding his no-knock entry. … Therefore, he has not shown that he is entitled to qualified immunity at this stage.
Arterton, who has a reputation for dropping the hammer, has presided over a number of high-profile cases; she recently sentenced former governor John Rowland to 30 months for campaign fraud and conspiracy. And I’m sure the judge will turn a fond eye upon the testimony of William Ruscoe, one of the SWERT cops named in the suit, who’s currently serving time for raping a teenager.
Terebesi’s lawyer, Gary Mastronardi, believes the case will go to court this year. “Because of the age of the case, the judge will be riding roughshod over the lawyers to move this quickly,” he said.
As for his client’s chances, Mastronardi said, “Both rulings in the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court were expected. Evidence is the evidence and they can’t make the evidence disappear.”
This happened last month but I just learned about it: William Ruscoe, a Trumbull police officer who was a member of the SWERT team that murdered Gonzalo Guizan during the May 2008 raid in Easton, CT, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for raping a teenager. Ruscoe’s plea bargain called for five years prison time in exchange for him pleading guilty to second-degree sexual assault. Instead the judge gave him half that. Why? Because some animals are more equal than others, of course:
During the emotion-packed hearing the victim urged the judge to impose the plea bargained 5-year prison term on Ruscoe.
“I was completely betrayed by someone I looked up to as a role model,” the girl told the judge. “I still wake up in a pool of sweat after having a nightmare where I yell stop and no, the two words I yelled that night at him.”
State’s Attorney John Smriga added that five years was the appropriate sentence.
“It’s not that he (Ruscoe) just had a bad day, this was an action that was planned out,” he said.
But [Superior Court Judge Robert] Devlin, while acknowledging that children need to be protected said he was giving Ruscoe credit for his years of good service with the police department.
As if after Ferguson and Eric Garner anybody needed more proof that there is one rule of law for police and another for the rest of us. I know that plea bargains aren’t set in stone and I’ve read several stories where defendants received harsher sentences than what they agreed to, but I’ve never read about someone being sentenced to less than the prearranged jail time. William Ruscoe is a monster. And frankly, so is Judge Devlin.
Via Simple Justice.
Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision regarding the 2008 tactical raid in Easton, CT that killed Gonzalo Guizan. After homeowner Ronald Terebesi and Guizan’s estate sued the police involved for civil-rights violations, the cops had asked for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, which the district court denied. The police then appealed.
The Appeals Court affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment on every point save one: that because “there is no clearly established right in this Circuit to be free from the deployment of a tactical team in general,” [Easton police chief John] Solomon was within his rights to activate the SWERT team in the first place (the town of Easton, probably upon reviewing their insurance premiums after the settlement with Guizan’s estate, appears to have disagreed: Solomon’s contract was not renewed and he was shown the door). But on every other count the court tilted in Terebesi’s favor, noting that the use of stun grenades, being pinned by the officers’ shields, the poor planning and approval of the raid, and even the failure of officers to intervene to stop it are constitutional grounds for a trial.
Coyotes. According to biologists who are doing a better job than the Connecticut DEP, western coyotes have successfully penetrated New England — and picked up wolf genes along the way, making them larger and more capable of dropping bigger prey. Meanwhile, the telephone poles in my town resemble those of Santa Carla in The Lost Boys, papered with “lost dog” fliers. Not all of them ran away or were hit by cars…
Easton raid. Daniel Tepfer at the Connecticut Post has a solid update on the fatal police raid four years ago this month. It’s such a thorough piece — compensating for the Post’s previously shallow reporting on the event — that I’m tempted to go through it line-by-line, but I’ll confine my remarks to “Chandra Parker,” the informant. If, like me, you’re obsessed with discovering the counter-narrative of what really happened that day, then she is the crux of the whole matter. Why did an obvious liar and drug addict willingly walk into a police station to rat and/or lie about Terebesi? One attorney involved in the case suggested to me that Terebesi had a habit of disobeying the first law of engaging prostitutes and this was her revenge (the shotgun shooting of the house less than two weeks earlier may have been related or evidence of similar bad judgment). From Tepfer’s rendition, it sounds like the officers who took her statement were confused by Parker/Pankov’s presence but Solomon seized upon it as the wedge he wanted. So was it serendipitous (for him) — or prearranged?
Sunday sales. You won’t hear me say many good things about Governor “Tax” Malloy, yet I have to admit he accomplished something none of his predecessors could — albeit still in the name of taxes. Here’s a post from the co-owner of Mrs. Kuhl’s wine shop, who specifically entered the business so he could have a guaranteed Sunday off from work. I see his point but protectionism is protectionism; there was a time when all Connecticut shops were closed on Sundays, and nobody is nostalgic for that.
Easton raid. Readers may recall my coverage of the 2008 police raid in Easton, Connecticut, wherein cops hungry for a big drug bust stormed into a house, killed one of two occupants — and found only residual drug traces. Susana Guizan, the mother of the slain man, filed a civil suit against the six towns which contributed men and materiel to the raid. A newspaper reported the case was supposed to go to trial in October 2011 but the attorney for the Guizan family told me it is currently scheduled for May or June of this year. Discovery is complete and the court is now litigating motions for summary judgment.
Smedley’s gravestone. Permitting is underway to have Samuel Smedley’s fallen gravestone removed and reinscribed. Vanguard Bill Lee, who painted the art composing the cover of Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer, is scheduled to appear before the town selectmen this week as part of the process. While there’s no doubt Smedley will have a refreshed gravestone sometime this year, I don’t believe it will be ready by June 13.
Paddleboarding. My boys and I had another strong season of adventure, albeit one cut short by Irene and the ensuing high bacteria counts in the water. Alas, the increasing mass of my two lieutenants means we’re edging closer to our Versa Board’s maximum weight allowance of 300 lbs. The Versa is still great on rivers or in the marshes but on the Sound with all three of us it’s like paddling a rock. I think this year I’ll pick up an inexpensive inflatable board for my oldest and then either keep the Versa for a final summer or sell it and buy a lighter board for me and the youngest. So if you’re in the market for a used but well-maintained Versa Board, make me an offer.
jacksonkuhl.com. Unique visitors in 2011 were nearly double those in 2010, with just under 37,000 more hits as well. The top five countries of origin also made more sense than in 2010: USA; Germany and the Netherlands (logical considering my last name); and China and Russia. These last two results can only be a combination of hackers, spammers, and government censors. Seriously — you should see the spam queue.