EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 12, 2014

In assault case, city garage cameras prove useless

LAWRENCE – Charges against a woman allegedly involved in a brawl in a city parking garage were dismissed this spring after the 25-year-old security cameras at the garage failed to provide clear images of the incident, leaving prosecutors and the defense with only conflicting statements from those involved.

The failure of the garage’s cameras to help get a conviction is but one of the reasons the city needs to overhaul its parking lot and garage management and equipment.

District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik subpoenaed the video tapes from the city at the request of Christian Colwell, the lawyer who represented Maria Fiato, who

was charged with two counts of assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in the Jan. 14 incident at the Museum Square garage.

Fiato was charged after becoming involved in a dispute with a garage employee and his girlfriend.

The accused’s attorney subpoenaed tapes from the city owned cameras because Fiato “denies the charges against her and asserts she was first assaulted by the alleged victim, Henry Brizuela, who is an employee of the garage.”

“The Commonwealth’s case will turn primarily, if not exclusively, on the credibility of the witnesses in this case. The video recording of the events will either support or contradict the witnesses versions of the events and as such are highly relevant and material,” he wrote in the court documents.

When the tapes arrived, they proved useless, Colwell said.

“When they came to get the tapes, I told them the quality wasn’t that good,” said David Rodriguez, the city’s parking supervisor, who manages the Museum Square garage.

“It’s a VHS system from 1989. The tapes are used over and over. Four cameras are not working and the ones that are working are not good quality.”

Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokesman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, agreed that conflicting statements by witnesses made prosecuting Fiato difficult, but said the tapes were not an issue in the June 23 dismissal.

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