Society

Investigation Finds Massachusetts Police Department Paid Criminal $1,000 For Testimony

| by Jonathan Wolfe

On October 23, Massachusetts resident David Rivera was shot and killed outside of a club. By all accounts, Rivera lived a life laden with crime. He is known to have sold drugs and was put in prison on more than one occasion. But it's one particular crime-related instance from Rivera’s life is gaining some attention.

In 2009, Rivera was paid $1,000 by police to testify as a witness in the murder of Rudy Cruz. Cruz was shot and killed two years earlier, and Rivera saw the shooting take place from his car.

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His testimony was ultimately revoked because he was paid off by police, but questions still surround the officers' decision to pay Rivera money for his testimony in the first place.

“He was excluded from testifying by the judge because we were not given notice that he was given these rewards, promises and inducements for his testimony,” said Ronald Ranta, Cruz’s defense attorney.

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Rivera’s deal with police fell apart after he wrote a note to his own attorney saying that he did not want to testify in Cruz’s trial and was only doing so because he had been paid.

Questions now surround the motive of the payment, as it is not clear whether Rivera was paid to testify or paid with the intent of admitting that he was paid in order to invalidate his testimony. He was one of only a few witnesses to the shooting.

“He was one of only two or three who identified my client as being the shooter, so it was a pretty significant witness for the Commonwealth,” Ranta said.

The Lawrence District Attorney office conducted an internal investigation of the payment, and, for one reason or another, found nothing wrong with the payment.

“…We found no criminal wrongdoing,” a statement said. “We referred it back to Lawrence police for their own internal disciplinary process.”

Interestingly, former Lawrence Police Chief John Romero defended the police officer’s payment and said the practice is not uncommon.

“I don’t think it happens a lot,” Romero said. “But confidential informants are paid from time to time.” 

The Boston area newspaper Eagle Tribune first reported the story, and has filed a Freedom of Information Act in order to get to the bottom of the suspicious payment. 

Sources: Eagle Tribune, Weil