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Tuesday
Nov212017

911 call: IRS agent put a gun in her mouth and sexually assaulted her

Howard is quoted in this story in the Boston Globe: 911 call: IRS agent put a gun in her mouth and sexually assaulted her. Back in July, a college student intern alleged that her coworker, a special agent for the IRS, sexually assaulted her while holding a gun in her mouth. The special agent has not yet been charged with any crimes. He is still working as a law enforcement agent for the IRS.

Monday
Nov132017

BUSTED: Watch LA cops plant drugs in black suspect’s wallet – unaware their body cams were on

We recommend this article: BUSTED: Watch LA cops plant drugs in black suspect’s wallet – unaware their body cams were on. Once again, police officers’ body cameras recorded officers planting drugs during an arrest. The police officers may not have realized that their cameras are programmed to save the 30 seconds of footage immediately before the officer activates the camera. Earlier this year, this 30-second feature revealed Baltimore police officers planting drugs. Although juries are reluctant to believe that police officers would plant drugs, perhaps videos from body cameras will show that this practice is more common than many people believe. 

Tuesday
Oct242017

First Circuit Judge Kermit Lipez reflects on the decision he wrote in Glik v. Cunniffe finding that people have the right to record the police performing their duties in public

Judge Kermit Lipez, Senior Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, recently published an essay in the Maine Law Review reflecting on the case our firm handled with the ACLU on behalf of Simon Glik, who was unlawfully arrested on the Boston Common for filming the police with his cell phone. In 2011, Judge Lipez wrote the landmark Glik opinion confirming civilians’ First Amendment right to record the police performing their duties in public.

Judge Lipez’s essay provides a rare opportunity to understand the judge’s view of the opinion. It gives insight into the Glik decision as well as the judge’s reflections on how smartphones, body-worn cameras and other technologies are revolutionizing both policing methods and communities’ responses to policing. Judge Lipez calls the act of filming the police a “potent tool of accountability” and discusses how videos of police have forced the recognition that “black Americans experience the criminal justice system, including police interactions, differently from their white neighbors.” Judge Lipez accepts the legitimacy of the black community’s grievances about police misconduct while honoring the work of the police as a whole. He believes that the power of video will help bridge the divide between communities and their police officers.

Our firm agrees with Judge Lipez that videos of police misconduct have become a powerful tool to validate black communities’ grievances about deep-seated racism in our police departments. As for the notion that video can help bridge the divide? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, more and more police officers will be held accountable for their actions as more and more courts agree with Judge Lipez’s statement in Glik that filming the police is “a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”

Tuesday
Oct172017

City of Lowell Pays $750,000 to Settle Our Cases Alleging Confidential Informants Planted Cocaine

The City of Lowell agreed to pay $750,000 to settle our three cases alleging that the City used unreliable confidential informants due to its long standing practice of ignoring the need to properly investigate informants and to document their work. This resulted in officer Thomas Lafferty using informants who planted cocaine in the motor vehicles of our three clients. The Lowell police falsely arrested and charged each of our three clients with trafficking in cocaine. They faced mandatory minimum prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.

We recommend this article about the cases: Lowell officer's mishandling of confidential informants proves costly.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Massachusetts Super Lawyers recognizes Howard and David

Super Lawyers, an attorney rating service, has announced that Howard Friedman and David Milton are 2017 Massachusetts Super Lawyers. Howard Friedman has received this recognition for over a decade; David Milton has since 2013. The rating system names no more than 5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Super Lawyers.

Tuesday
Oct032017

Our Client Fred Weichel, Now Free After 36 Years in Prison, Files Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit against the Commonwealth

Yesterday we filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on behalf of our client Fred Weichel, who is seeking compensation for being convicted of a murder he did not commit. He spent over 36 years behind bars. Under Massachusetts General Law chapter 258D, compensation up to $500,000 is available to people who, like Mr. Weichel, were erroneously convicted of a felony and served time in prison.

Watch this story by 5 Investigates: South Boston man sues state for wrongful conviction.

Tuesday
Aug152017

Howard Friedman listed in The Best Lawyers in America© for Civil Rights Law

Howard was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017 in the field of Civil Rights Law. Howard and his team have successfully handled civil rights cases involving police misconduct, police brutality, false arrests, wrongful convictions, illegal strip searches, violations of prisoners’ rights, violations of the Massachusetts public records law, and more.

Thursday
Aug102017

David Milton speaks to civil rights lawyers about the right to record the police

Last week, David spoke about recording the police to a group of over 100 civil rights lawyers at an all-day seminar in Washington, DC, put on by the National Police Accountability Project, “Police Misconduct in the Age of Trump.” David was on a panel about litigating First and Fourth Amendment cases in an era of increasing law enforcement repression of political protest. David gave an overview of the state of the law nationwide and predicted that eventually all courts would recognize the First Amendment right to record police officers performing their duties, as the federal appeals court in Boston did in the landmark 2011 case Glik v. Cunniffe, handled by our firm.

Wednesday
Aug022017

Fairness should have no time limit

Howard is quoted in this article: Judge asks jurors in 1985 murder case about bias allegations. Darrell Jones is serving a life sentence after an all-white jury convicted him of murder when he was 19 years old. Darrell always maintained his innocence. Now, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge has summoned the jurors back to court after allegations that two jury members said they believed Darrell was guilty because he was black.

Tuesday
Aug012017

Baltimore prosecutor drops 34 cases after police officer caught planting drugs

Monday
Jul312017

Follow the law, not the leader

Police officers must follow the constitution and avoid using unreasonable force. Many police departments have stated this basic principle of our constitution in light of these statements by the President. We hope Massachusetts police departments will reassure the public that police officers here will follow the law rather than following the leader. Our constitutional democracy depends on it.

Monday
Jul242017

Body camera video shows police planting drugs

Take a look at this video, which shows a Baltimore police officer planting drugs in an empty lot, walking away, then returning to the lot to “find” the planted drugs. The video comes from the officer’s own body camera, which he activated just before he walked back to “search” the area where he had planted the drugs. Two other officers watched him plant the drugs.

Fortunately for the person charged with possession of heroin, the officer’s body camera was programmed to save the 30 seconds of footage immediately before the officer activated the camera. After the defendant’s criminal defense attorneys obtained the full video, the charges were dropped. Had the video not existed, the defendant—who had been in jail since January since he was unable to pay $50,000 in bail—would in all likelihood have been convicted. Juries are reluctant to believe that police officers would plant drugs and lie about it, although this is more common than many people believe.

Thursday
Jul132017

Boston Police fail in second attempt to fire police officer

Yesterday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed an arbitrator’s decision to allow David Williams to rejoin the Boston Police Department. He had been terminated for his assault and choking of our client, Michael O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien was a Sheriff’s deputy and correctional officer and was in the Army National Guard at the time of the incident. Officer Williams had been fired once before, in the Cox case. Michael Cox, a Boston police officer in plain clothes, was badly beaten by fellow officers thinking he was a civilian. Read a Boston Globe article about the recent decision here. Read the SJC decision here.

David Williams is one of a small number of Boston police officers with a large number of complaints by people in the community. It is important for the public and the police department that these officers either change their behavior or find new jobs outside of law enforcement. The BPD did not investigate this incident promptly or properly. The decision indicates that if the BPD charged Williams with lying or if applying a chokehold was against BPD policy, the termination might have been upheld. Mr. O’Brien said he was choked; he reported this to a doctor that night and there was physical evidence to support it. Officer Nguyen acknowledged he saw Williams with Mr. O’Brien in a chokehold. Officer Williams denied using a chokehold. This shows Williams was not truthful in his report. This alone should have been enough to fire him.

Neither civil rights activists nor the Boston Police Commissioner are happy with this ruling. Many changes could help, including those suggested in the SJC decision, including making clear that chokeholds are never permissible and giving arbitrators less authority to override police department disciplinary decisions/less authority to determine what constitutes excessive force. Most importantly, police departments should make police internal affairs investigations of officer misconduct readily available to the public, as required by the public records law. Internal affairs investigators frequently fail to ask police officers the right questions that would lead to a proper understanding of the facts. Public review of these investigations is needed to make sure the investigators are doing their job.

Tuesday
Jul112017

Third Circuit affirms the right to record the police, quoting brief written by David Milton for the National Police Accountability Project

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently issued an opinion affirming a vital right granted by the First Amendment: the right to record police officers. The opinion cites an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, brief that David Milton wrote on behalf of the National Police Accountability Project (“NPAP”). Amicus briefs provide courts with information and arguments that the parties to the case may not raise. 

David is well-acquainted with the right to videotape police officers. In 2011, he argued Glik v. Cunniffe, which resulted in the First Circuit Court of Appeals confirming the right to audio and video record police officers in public. The recent Third Circuit opinion relies on Glik and quotes David’s amicus curiae brief twice.

David’s brief for NPAP argued that recordings made by civilians—typically, cell phone videos—promote police accountability and can expose police misconduct or brutality that would otherwise remain hidden. For example, judges and juries are more likely to give police officers the benefit of the doubt despite the well-documented prevalence of police perjury. But a civilian’s cell phone video can provide the irrefutable evidence necessary to convince these supporters of law enforcement to admit that a police officer may lie. Video has proved to be critical evidence in civil rights cases against police.

In the case before the Third Circuit, Richard Fields v. City of Philadelphia, et al., police retaliated against Mr. Fields for taking a photo of on-duty police officers performing their duties in public.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun202017

Massachusetts’s highest court rules in favor of our client PETA in public records case

Last week, the highest court in Massachusetts issued an important decision in a public records lawsuit affirming the public’s broad right of access to government records. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a government agency cannot withhold records on “public safety” grounds unless the agency can provide specific factual support that releasing the records would jeopardize public safety. The case was being closely watched by public records advocates, since government agencies have increasingly been withholding records based on bogus “public safety” claims. The opinion makes clear that courts will not rubber-stamp these claims.

The lawsuit, which the firm filed in 2014 for our client People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. (“PETA”), seeks to compel the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (“MDAR”) to provide public records about the transport of monkeys and other non-human primates into and out of Massachusetts.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun082017

Settlement Reached for Our Client Beaten by MBTA Officers

Our client Mary Holmes has settled her case against the MBTA police officers who beat her in 2014. We recommend this article about the case from necn.com.

Thursday
May182017

We Sued a Westport Police Officer for Setting Up a Dangerous Unauthorized Roadblock

Yesterday we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of our client, Derek Pereira, against Westport Police Officer Jarrod Levesque for setting up a dangerous and unauthorized roadblock, which caused serious injury to Mr. Pereira. A nearby security camera and a camera in Officer Levesque’s vehicle captured the incident. The news coverage by CBS Boston includes video of the crash.

On August 22, 2016, Mr. Pereira was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Rte. 6. At about 2 a.m., Westport Police Officer Doug Wenson attempted to stop Mr. Pereira for speeding, a civil infraction. When Mr. Pereira failed to pull over, Officer Wenson alerted Officer Levesque, who was located less than two miles east.

In violation of Westport Police Department’s policy, Officer Levesque used his marked police SUV to create a roadblock on Rte. 6.

Click to read more ...

Monday
May152017

The Rodney King video changed everything — and nothing

Howard is quoted in this article: The Rodney King video changed everything — and nothing. The article discusses the 1991 beating of Rodney King, one of the first cases where video captured police brutally beating a human being. Then it discusses some of the many recent horrific incidents, captured on video, of police officers using excessive and at times lethal force. Video is changing the conversation about police officers’ use of force, since officers cannot plausibly deny recorded facts. People no longer doubt that at times police officers use too much force. Video often shows that police reports were not truthful. But, even with video, prosecuting brutal police officers is not easy. Disciplining brutal officers still rarely takes place. More work is needed to hold police officers accountable and change the way police departments hire, train, supervise and discipline police officers. The police culture must change.

Tuesday
May092017

Police union contracts hinder police accountability

This article in the Duke Law Journal explains how police union contracts often serve as a barrier to police accountability. The article notes that some police misconduct is unavoidable, citing as examples “racial profiling, excessive use of force, unlawful searches and seizures, failures to cooperate with investigations involving fellow officers, dishonesty at trial, and the planting of evidence.” This is why civilian review and strict supervision is crucial in police departments.

Tuesday
Apr112017

Federal court rules our clients’ cases alleging Lowell Police informants planted drugs may go to trial

We recommend this article about our clients’ cases: Lawsuits over police use of informants move forward.

The article explains that a federal judge ruled that our three clients who allege civil rights violations against Lowell police officer Thomas Lafferty and the City of Lowell have enough evidence to go to trial. The cases allege that officer Lafferty used police informants who planted illegal drugs to frame our clients.

The decision—which you can read here—says our clients have evidence that the City’s policy on the use of confidential informants, written in 1989, was not enforced. Several officers in the Special Investigations Section (SIS)—the squad where officer Lafferty worked since 2005—testified about systemic failures to investigate informants before using them or to document the use of confidential informants. One of the informants who allegedly planted drugs on our clients was known to be a drug dealer by members of the SIS, and was previously deemed unreliable but this was not documented. The decision says a jury may find that officer Lafferty did not properly investigate this informant before using him.

The opinion says our clients have evidence that Lafferty’s informants were both caught selling drugs in Lowell while working as informants and that Lafferty failed to determine the reliability of the informants’ information. From the evidence a jury could conclude that Lafferty “turned a blind eye” to his informants’ possible planting of evidence. The judge denied the defense motions for summary judgment, determining that a reasonable jury could conclude that officer Lafferty and the customs of the Lowell Police Department caused a violation of our clients’ civil rights. The trial date has not been scheduled.