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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Questions Remain Over Missing Video in Alleged Police Brutality

Judge finds lost police evidence in Springfield assault case against Michael Ververis 'extremely troubling' 
The Republican by Jack Flynn  -  February 28, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, MA – A judge scolded the Springfield Police Department Tuesday for mishandling a cellphone seized from a witness attempting to film a violent arrest in the entertainment district in January 2011. “It is extremely troubling,” Springfield District Court Judge William P. Hadley said, after pointing out that the cellphone – potentially crucial evidence in a pending criminal case – was given back to its owner last April, who said she threw it away after finding the video had been erased. Hadley is considering a defense motion to dismiss charges against Middletown, Conn., resident Michael Ververis, 24, who claims he was punched, kicked and choked while being arrested by Sgt. Steven Kent and five other officers during a closing-time disturbance on Worthington Street. Following two days of testimony on the motion, Hadley gave lawyers for both sides until March 7 to file final briefs before he issues a decision. Police said the charges against Ververis – disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery on a police officer, and attempted larceny of a firearm – were filed after he tried to steal Kent’s gun as the sergeant pulled him from a vehicle that was blocking traffic on Worthington Street. The defense maintains that police used excessive force while arresting Ververis, then manufactured the assault and firearm charges to justify his injuries. In his closing argument, defense lawyer Luke Ryan said he was stunned by the series of lapses that led to the cellphone being lost as evidence that could have exonerated his client. “If this isn’t bad faith, then it's monumental incompetence,” Ryan said, urging the judge to dismiss the case and “send a message that this is not acceptable.” But Assistant District Attorney Max Bennett said the defense never proved the cellphone video would have shed light on the arrest, assuming the video existed in the first place. “Instead of solid evidence, we have wishful thinking,” Bennett said, adding that the woman who shot the purported video, 38-year old Raquel Perosa, acknowledged that she never saw Kent kicking the defendant after he allegedly tried to steal his weapon. Since neither Perosa nor the defense ever saw the video, Bennett added, “it could just be a fingerprint on a lens.” Earlier Tuesday, Perosa testified that officer Christopher Collins took her cellphone as soon as he realized she was filming the arrest. “I told him if he wanted to erase it, erase it, but I wanted my phone back,” Perosa said, speaking through an interpreter. Under questioning from Bennett, Perosa acknowledged that she could not be sure she saved the video before turning it over to Collins. But an expert witness for the defense, Michael Verronneau of Fairhaven, said the type of phone she had would likely have automatically saved the video. If Springfield police had notified the defense that it has given the cellphone back to Perosa, Ryan said he would have filed an emergency motion requiring her to give it back.

Related Story:

Witness in Michael Ververis case testifies that Springfield patrolman seized her phone after she recorded alleged police brutality
The Republican by Jack Flynn  -  February 28, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, MA – A witness testified today that a city police officer seized her cell phone while she was recording a violent arrest in the entertainment district last year. “It was so fast – one of them comes up to me and takes my phone from me,” said Raquel Perosa, 38, of Springfield. “I said, ‘give me my phone back. If you want to erase something erase it but give me back the phone.’” Perosa was testifying in Springfield District Court in a pre-trial hearing for Middletown, Conn. resident Michael Ververis, who is facing charges of assault and battery on a police officer, attempted larceny of a firearm and other charges from a January 2011 incident on Worthington St. Ververis’ lawyer has filed an motion to dismiss all charges against his client, arguing that police seized the cellphone from the witness, then erased the video, effectively destroying evidence that could exonerate his client. Under questioning from Assistant District Max Bennett, Perosa said she was unsure if she had saved the video on her cell phone before turning it over to a patrolman. But defense lawyer Luke Ryan said he will call an expert witness this afternoon who will testify the video would have automatically saved on that brand of cell phone.

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