Saturday, December 16, 2006

More On the Police Misconduct State, Corrupticut

Hartford cop gets special probation in evidence tampering case
By: Heather Nann Collins, Journal Inquirer

A Hartford police detective arrested days after his retirement in 2004 on charges of falsifying an arrest warrant has been granted a special form of probation that could lead to his arrest record being expunged.

The retired officer, Sgt. Franco Sanzo, was granted accelerated rehabilitation by Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas P. Miano on Wednesday.

If Sanzo, 45, avoids arrest or prosecution within the next two years, his arrest on a single charge of tampering with evidence will be erased and his record wiped clean.

The decision came after a hearing in which Sanzo's lawyer, Jake Donovan of Middletown, called another retired officer who said that police frequently sign their names to warrants - and swear before judges - that they've seen things they haven't.

That officer, retired detective Stanley Wasilewski, said that while police weren't "creating" information, they would, in the interest of expedience, rely on their partner's assertion that they'd witnessed something, and say in the warrant application that they, too, had witnessed an event.

"There's times when this is written and that's not quite the way it happened," Wasilewski told Miano in an Oct. 25 hearing.

Miano said Wednesday that he is troubled by such a claim because "it leads me to think perhaps this is more widespread, and that is a concern."

The Fourth Amendment - a guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, and the requirement of the establishment of probable cause in seeking warrants for search and seizures - is "the wall" between citizens and an unreasonable government, Miano said.

"Judges have to be confident that what's being represented to them in ... an arrest warrant application or a search warrant are as accurate as can be," he said.

Warrant applications that say police have witnessed something, as opposed to confidential informants witnessing something, are given more weight, Miano said.
Confidential informants are presumably "in the criminal milieu," he said, and "there is no presumption of credibility."

The warrant at the center of Sanzo's arrest claimed that he and Officer Nathaniel Ortiz had witnessed people buying drugs from a convicted felon in Hartford's north end on Aug. 27 and 28, 2004.

However, police and prosecutor Dennis J. O'Connor say the warrant was based on false information, and that the convicted felon was actually in jail at the time Sanzo and Ortiz claimed to have seen him.

The warrant was used in a search of the felon's mother's apartment. Ortiz and another officer, William Ward, say they bought crack cocaine from the woman. She later complained to the Police Department that items were stolen and property destroyed during the search.

The internal affairs investigation turned up other inconsistencies, police say: In their report after the "drug buy," Ortiz and Ward made no mention of Sanzo being present to witness drug buys, as he'd said in the warrant.

And Ward, in an interview with internal affairs, said that an informant bought crack cocaine - not marijuana as was submitted as evidence and written about in the search warrant application by Ortiz and Sanzo.

Ward said he "had never seen" the marijuana and police believe it was added to the evidence bag after Ward completed the paperwork documenting the informant's drug buy.

Ortiz is charged with two counts of tampering with evidence; his case is pending in Superior Court.

Miano said that he hadn't intended to grant the special probation program to Sanzo, but later changed his mind.
"I am satisfied that Officer Sanzo did not intend to mislead the court," by signing the warrant, Miano said.

Instead, he said, he believed that Sanzo signed off on Ortiz's claims "to facilitate matters" more quickly and get the warrant signed.

"Well, it shouldn't be done that way," Miano said. "We can't be lackadaisical about it."

O'Connor said Wasilewski's testimony raised a number of troubling questions and the specter that there is a "systemic problem" within the Police Department.

After that testimony, O'Connor said, he met with Hartford State's Attorney James Thomas. Thomas immediately contacted Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts to discuss with him proper and legal procedures for obtaining warrants, O'Connor said.

"The Hartford Police Department is on notice how this is improper conduct," he said.

©Journal Inquirer 2006

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Click Here for a story about the former CT Gov. Rowland's $500,000 home purchase and the donating of his speaking fees to charity just after having been released from prison, and the corruption goes on...


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