EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 19, 2013

State to rule on cop punishments

City says officers gave special treatment to former trooper

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Two city police officers suspended without pay for their handling of car accident involving a retired high-ranking state trooper will have their appeals heard tomorrow by the state Civil Service Commission.

Police Chief Alan DeNaro initially suspended Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca for five days each in the case that centered on a March 2012 crash involving Charles Noyes, 62, of Haverhill, former deputy superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. Both Haverhill officers were cited for writing untruthful or incomplete reports, unsatisfactory job performance and violating police ethics.

Mayor James Fiorentini added another five days to Leeman’s suspension following local, closed-door hearings that concluded in October.

Pagliuca and Leeman appealed the mayor’s ruling to Civil Service, triggering tomorrow’s hearing at the commission’s Ashburton Place office in Boston.

Pagliuca’s lawyer, Joseph Padolsky of the Boston firm Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff, said in a statement that he and his client are “confident in the Civil Service process and confident that a full hearing before the commission will show that Officer Pagliuca responded appropriately and in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Haverhill Police Department.”

Leeman and his attorney have declined requests for comment.

A Haverhill police investigation concluded that Noyes was given special treatment by West Newbury and Haverhill police officers due to his previous state police position. The probe found that officers declined to arrest Noyes or charge him with drunken driving, even though they had enough evidence to do so, and that reports by officers were so poorly written that prosecutors could not later charge Noyes with drunken driving.

According to a discipline letter from DeNaro to Leeman, it was Leeman who concluded there was not enough evidence for officers to conduct a drunk-driving investigation at the scene. This was despite the fact that West Newbury police Sgt. Daniel Cena, who was first on the scene, told Pagliuca that Noyes was “legless” and that he detected a strong odor of alcohol from Noyes when Noyes exited his vehicle and “tinned” Cena by showing Cena his state police badge. “Legless’’ is police jargon for intoxicated.

A third Haverhill officer who was disciplined in the case, Sgt. Harry Miller, was to be fired but saved his job by agreeing to forfeit his sergeant’s stripes and his right to appeal the mayor’s decision to suspend him for 10 days. Miller was also implicated for misconduct in a similar case seven years earlier that involved another high-ranking former trooper.

City Solicitor William Cox said Cena is one of several witnesses expected to testify at tomorrow’s hearing. Others expected to testify include Miller, ambulance workers who were at the scene of the Noyes crash, and a Merrimac police officer who also was there, Cox said.

The commission has set aside two days for the hearing, Cox said. Either side can appeal the final ruling to superior court, he said.

On March 30, Noyes crashed his vehicle into a utility pole around 10:30 p.m. on Route 113 in West Newbury, snapping it in half and cutting power to the surrounding area for almost 11 hours, police said. But he kept driving with his air bags deployed until police found him in the travel lane in the area of 12 River Road, just over the line into Haverhill near the Rocks Village Bridge, police said. West Newbury police were first on the scene, followed by Haverhill officers.

DeNaro’s disciplinary letter to Leeman said officers on the scene made “little effort” to locate the keys to Noyes’ vehicle, which were on the passenger seat; that no roadside sobriety test was conducted; and that no mention was made in police reports of the officers’ personal observations about Noyes’ “state of sobriety at the scene.” Reports also indicated that ambulance personnel at the scene believed Noyes had been drinking alcohol.

DeNaro’s letter noted that Miller was at the Noyes’ crash scene for more than 35 minutes and it criticized Leeman for not leaving the police station and traveling to the scene himself before deciding not to proceed with a drunk-driving investigation.

Noyes eventually was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation after admitting there were sufficient facts to find him guilty of negligent driving and leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.