Federal judges sentenced two former Connecticut police officers last week to jail sentences of varying lengths for charges relating to civil rights abuses. Retired New Haven Police Officer David Cari was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, while former officer Dennis Spaulding was given a sentence of five years.
The primary piece of evidence used against the officers was a 26-second video shot by Rev. James Manship, a pastor who began taping an arrest in an East Haven general store. Manship was attempting to catch Cari on camera ordering two employees at the store to take down the license plates that were hanging on the wall. Cari reacted to Manship's camera, ultimately handcuffing and arresting the pastor.
“Never did I think that video would get us to where we are today,” Manship said outside the courthouse after Cari’s sentence was handed down, the New Haven Register reports.
Manship’s video proved to be such strong evidence because it directly contradicted Cari’s police report, on which he claimed Manship was interfering with police and displaying disorderly conduct. Manship claimed that the reports specifically attempted to defame his character. Cari was subsequently charged with falsifying a police report, a charge which has a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
During the court proceedings, Cari’s family commented on the former officer’s own character, citing an incident in which he took a bullet for another officer. This incident resulted in a struggle with PTSD that forced Cari to retire four years later.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson claimed that Cari’s former actions did not justify his behavior towards Manship. He claimed that Cari may have been heroic in other situations, but he “at the same time tried to destroy the career of a victim (Manship) whose mission is also about public service."
"[Manship] could well have gone to jail had it not been for the audio portion of that recording,” Thompson said before delivering his sentence.
Thompson’s words regarding Officer Spaulding were not quite as sympathetic.
“His actions as a police officer made people not want to work, shop or live in the places he patrolled. His conviction was not about aggressively enforcing motor vehicle laws or racial profiling, but about the reports from the victims whose rights he violated,” Thompson said before delivering the harsher sentence of five years to Spaulding.
Several of the victims mentioned were Latino residents of New Haven, who accused Spaulding of abusing and racially profiling them on a regular basis.
According to the New Haven Register, another officer, Jason Zullo, was convicted in December on simlar charges.