HAVERHILL — The trial of an ex-Haverhill police officer who was fired for allegedly stalking his former wife starts tomorrow.
Victor “Manny’’ Pellot was charged a year ago with stalking and unlawfully seeking CORI information. In addition to stalking his ex-wife and her boyfriend, Pellot misused police resources and databases to research the boyfriend’s background, police said.
Pellot’s case is the latest in a series of incidents involving Haverhill police officers that caused them to be disciplined. Their punishments have ranged from unpaid suspensions to demotions to Pellot’s firing.
City Councilor Michael McGonagle, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the cases show there is a system in place to deal with police misconduct and that such issues aren’t swept under the rug.
“This shows that we have a Police Department that tries its best to be transparent,” McGonagle said. “If mistakes were made, then this is the way to get them out in the open, learn from them and move on. And I think that’s what you want any department to do.
“We’re all fallible,’’ McGonagle said. “If mistakes are made, that’s why we have a review system to see what we can do to correct them.”
Other cases bring suspensions, demotions
The other recent disciplinary cases against Haverhill officers involved charges they gave special treatment to retired state troopers who crashed their vehicles.
In 2012, Lt. William Leeman, Sgt. Harry Miller and Patrolman Christopher Pagliuca were suspended without pay after they gave preferential treatment at an accident scene to Charles Noyes, 62, of Haverhill, according to a police investigation. Noyes is a retired state police deputy superintendent who drove his vehicle into a utility pole and was suspected of drunken driving.
As part of his punishment, Miller accepted a demotion from sergeant to patrolman.
Miller was also implicated for misconduct for what officials called his questionable investigation of a 2005 crash involving former state trooper Paul Regan of Rowley, who retired from the state police in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel. The city learned of the Regan incident during the investigation into the Noyes crash.
Pellot was also demoted in the past. In a case unrelated to the charges he stalked his wife, Pellot served a year-long suspension in 2004 and was demoted from sergeant to patrolman after he was found to have been present while on duty during illegal cocaine sales at his cousin’s home in Haverhill in 2002 and 2003, according to a police investigation.
Report: Pellot stalked wife for 7 months
Pellot’s stalking trial will begin tomorrow morning in Newburyport District Court. The case will be heard there instead of Haverhill District Court because charges against a police officer are routinely heard before a judge in a court other than the one officers appear in as part of their job.
Pellot, 50, was fired from the Haverhill force last July, following a Civil Service hearing that concluded the previous month. He had been a member of the Haverhill department since 1983.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro’s recommendation to fire Pellot was the result of an internal Haverhill police investigation triggered by Pellot’s Feb. 27, 2013, arrest by state police on criminal stalking and threatening charges. The charges stem from an incident in which Pellot allegedly chased his ex-wife, Doreena, and her boyfriend, Thomas Ratte of Merrimack, N.H., through Haverhill in his personal vehicle, confronting them at one point, and then continuing the chase on Interstate 495. Pellot has pleaded not guilty to two counts of stalking.
“Officer Pellot willfully and maliciously engaged in a knowing pattern of conduct and an additional series of phone calls, voice mails and texts over a seven-month period that were directed at Thomas Ratte and Doreena Pellot,” reads a separate report by state trooper Lt. Paul Zipper. “The conduct seriously alarmed, annoyed and put Mr. Ratte and Ms. Pellot in substantial emotional distress.”
That report said the Pellots separated in September 2011 after 24 years of marriage and that Doreena Pellot and Ratte began dating on July 7, 2012.
Another report by City Solicitor William Cox documented four instances in which Pellot aggressively confronted his ex-wife and Ratte, including one in which Pellot threatened to kill Doreena Pellot.
According to the Cox report, the first stalking incident happened Sept. 21, 2012, at Ratte’s house in Merrimack, N.H.
A second incident took place on Sept. 15, 2012, when Pellot “suddenly appeared and confronted Ms. Pellot screaming at her as Ratte dropped her off at her job in North Andover,” the report said. Pellot then chased Ratte in his vehicle on Interstate 495 while calling him on his phone and leaving profanity-laced messages, according to the report.
A third incident on Nov. 7, 2012, began near Doreena Pellot’s home and ended at the Haverhill police station after the couple drove there with Pellot aggressively in pursuit, the report said. Pellot followed the couple’s vehicles to the back of the police station, then got out of his car and began screaming at the couple and “attempting to get to Ratte, who had locked himself in his vehicle,” the report said.
Haverhill officer Eric Mackinnnon responded to the back of the station as a result of a 911 made to state police by the couple while they tried to flee Pellot. Mackinnon said Pellot was “visibly angry, yelling and swearing at Ratte” and that Mackinnon had to “physically separate (Pellot) and guide him into the station,” according to the report.
The final incident is the one that led to Pellot’s arrest by state police on Feb. 27 of last year. “While Pellot chased the couple on the highway, the officer sent Doreena Pellot and Ratte profanity-laden messages that stated, among other threats, that he was going to kill Doreena Pellot,” the report said.
Ex-officer, others charged with breaking police rules
After Pellot’s arrest, the Police Department began its own investigation and learned that Pellot had been misusing department resources to harass and stalk the couple, Cox’s report said.
The report details several instances in which Pellot searched the state’s Criminal Justice Information System to research Ratte’s past. Two Haverhill officers said they were asked by Pellot while they were on duty to use the police computer to try to get Ratte’s work, criminal and automobile history.
Pellot was cited in Cox’s report with multiple violations of police rules, regulations and ethics, as well as misusing the police criminal history database, conduct unbecoming an officer, neglect of duty and unsatisfactory job performance.
In the incident that led to the suspension of Haverhill officers Leeman, Miller and Pagliuca, retired state trooper Noyes crashed his Cadillac Escalade in West Newbury on March 30, 2012, then kept driving with his air bags deployed until police found him in the travel lane just over the Haverhill line, police said. The crash snapped a utility pole on Route 113 in West Newbury, cutting power to the surrounding area for almost 11 hours. Several police officers and medics at the scene testified they believed Noyes to be intoxicated, but Noyes was not charged with drunken driving and he was not arrested.
An internal Haverhill police investigation concluded that Noyes was given special treatment by West Newbury and Haverhill officers due to his previous state police position, and that officers acted to cover up their actions in investigating the incident. The probe specifically faulted the officers for not charging Noyes with drunken driving and not arresting him at the scene.
Leeman and Pagliuca are appealing their suspensions.