Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Connecticut Trend

Judge Sends Cop To Jail

by Paul Bass | January 7, 2008 2:42 PM | | Comments (20)

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Calling letters of support from fellow cops “very troubling,” a federal judge Monday afternoon sentenced ex-city detective Jose Silva (at right in top photo) to three months in jail for his role as an accomplice in the latest cop corruption case. “Life ain’t fair,” said an unhappy Norval Falconer (at left), who spent four weeks in jail after Silva and another detective framed him.

“Police officers are different from other people,” Judge Alan H. Nevas told Silva at the sentencing in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, explaining why he was rejecting emotional appeals to spare him prison time. “You take an oath… to uphold the law and protect the rights of citizens. You didn’t do that…

“How can members of the community have respect for the law when police officers break the law?” Nevas continued.

“We have to send a message to police officers not only in New Haven, but throughout Connecticut. This kind of conduct and behavior will not be tolerated. If the New Haven police department is dirty and cannot clean up its own act, then somebody ought to do it for them.”

Nevas did spare Silva the full year-long jail term recommended under sentencing guidelines, rejecting a pitch from corruption-fighting federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy. (Click here to read the government’s sentencing memo.)

“Split Second”?

Silva spent 12 years as a New Haven cop. Then he got swept up in the FBI corruption probe of the department for his see-no-evil sidekick role to one of the probe’s main targets, Det. Justen Kasperzyk. Silva pleaded guilty to depriving Norval Falconer of his civil rights. Silva watched Kasperzyk plant drugs in Norval Falconer’s Truman Street apartment and wrote reports that framed Silva on drug charges.

Kasperzyk also stole $1,000 from another alleged crime scene, according to the government, and gave half to Silva, who kept it. (The government’s summary can be found in this press release.)

Silva and his attorney, former state trooper Eric Daigle (at left in top photo), admitted the detective’s ancillary role. But they sought to downplay that role in making the pitch to Nevas Monday for avoiding jail time.

“I had to make a split-second decision” when he saw Kazperzyk remove drugs elsewhere in the Truman Street house and place them in Falconer’s apartment, Silva said. “Obviously, I made the wrong one, a decision that will haunt me the rest of my life… I have lost all that I have worked hard to achieve in law enforcement.”

“He believed he was distancing himself” from Kazperzyk, defense attorney Daigle argued. “Who was he supposed to go to [to report the misdeed], your honor, Lt. White?” Daigle was referring to the top suspect in the feds’ corruption probe, former narcotics unit chief Billy White.

Nevas wasn’t buying that argument.

“Isn’t there an internal affairs division?” Nevas asked Daigle.

Yes, Daigle responded — but its director “was best friends with Lt. White.”

Nevas still wasn’t buying. Silva “was an experienced police officer,” he said, one who knew “he could have gone to the FBI,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the state police.

Prosecutor Dannehy also attacked the argument that Silva had made a “split-second” decision.

“He aided Kasperzyk in moving the drugs,” Dannehy said. “Then at the police department he wrote” a report filled with fake details. “Every paragraph was false. That wasn’t a split-second decision.” Silva subsequently filed another false report for the court, she noted.

Meanwhile, Silva “kept money that he knew Justen Kasperzyk stole during a search,” Dannehy said. “If he cared so much about being a police officer, he had choices… It’s a cop-out to say there’s nothing you can do.”

If something’s “fundamentally wrong with the police department,” as Silva’s defense attorney claimed, then “it’s never going to change if somebody doesn’t come forward to say what’s wrong with it,” Danney argued.

Judge Nevas took further exception to letters he received from New Haven police officers asking that he spare jail time for Silva based on his otherwise clean record and his service to the community. Dozens of cops and family and friends filled five rows of seats in Nevas’s second-floor courtroom Monday.

Nevas called the letters “very troubling.”

“Not one letter talked about the victim here [Norval Falconer]. He spent four weeks in jail. He was forced to plead guilty to get out of jail… knowing he was innocent.”

Even after widespread corruption was exposed in the department last March, and Falconer’s charges were dropped, “he lost his apartment. He lost his job. Not one police officer talked about that,” Nevas complained.

(Silva did apologize to Falconer during his remarks before the judge.)

Nevas did not take exception to tear-filled tributes offered by Silva’s brother and Silva’s wife, Maybilene Silva. She described her husband as “someone of great character with high moral standards.” She said that since her husband’s arrest and departure from the police department, she has taken a daytime job to help pay the bills for the family, which includes three sons. Her husband has taken a graveyard-shift job to help pay the bills, too, and to be home to get the kids to school when she leaves for work.

She implored Nevas to keep her husband out of jail in order to spare the family financial hardship.

In the end, Nevas took a middle position between Dannehy’s call for a full year and the family’s plea to avoid jail. In addition to sentencing Silva to 90 days in federal prison, he ordered one year of supervised release. Silva is to report to an as-yet undetermined federal prison no later than Feb. 8.

“Thank God I’m Alive”

Nevas’s sentence didn’t sit well with Norval Falconer, who traveled to Bridgeport to observe the proceedings. He called the sentence too lenient.

Falconer. who’s 28, said he has had trouble getting his life together since his four-week stint in the Whalley Avenue jail on Kazerpzyk’s and Silva’s trumped-up charges. He said he’d been working as a carpenter before the arrest. Since then he’s been unemployed, he said. He spent time at Columbus House shelter; he now lives in a West Haven rooming house.

“My life’s in jeopardy,” he said outside the courtroom after the sentencing. “I don’t trust nobody now. I’m alive now to give my statement. Normally when this happens to people, they’re dead. Thank God I’m alive to testify.”

Falconer noted that his original sentence included four years probation, compared to Silva’s one. “I’m not satisfied,” he said. “I got more probation than him for something I never did.

“Life ain’t fair, no?”

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