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Lawyer decries prosecutor's failure to sign warrant to arrest Enfield officer

By Jonathan Bissonnette Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 11:45 am

The lawyer representing a Windsor man who has accused Enfield police of brutality called it "incredible" that a Hartford prosecutor rejected an arrest warrant application prepared by Enfield police, who sought to arrest one of their own in the case.

And the lawyer, A. Paul Spinella of Hartford, representing Mark Maher, 24, said Thursday that a special prosecutor outside of Hartford County should have been assigned to review the warrant application.

Spinella described it as "an extraordinary circumstance" to have a police department file an arrest warrant against a fellow officer, in this case an officer involved in the arrest of Maher in April — Enfield Officer Matthew Worden.

Enfield police had sought to charge the officer with third degree assault and fabricating evidence in connection with Maher's arrest.

"In order for that to happen, the wrongdoing has to be extraordinarily flagrant, as it is in this case," Spinella said about the Police Department seeking to arrest the officer. "To have that happen and to have the prosecution declined, it's pretty puzzling to say the least."

Spinella, on Maher's behalf, has filed an intent to sue the town and Police Department in connection with the incident.

On April 1, Maher was arrested by Worden and three other officers and charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest in connection with an incident at the Donald Barnes Boat Launch on River Street.

Within days of his arrest in April, Maher filed a brutality complaint against Worden with Enfield police officials, who are conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident.

Worden, a 10 year veteran of the Police Department, was placed on paid administrative leave in May while the investigation was underway.

Hartford State's Attorney Gail P. Hardy concluded in a five page letter sent July 16 to Police Chief Carl Sferrazza that the state could not prove charges of third degree assault and fabricating evidence against Worden.

In his application for the arrest warrant, submitted July 10 to Hardy, Enfield Lt. Lawrence Curtis concluded that Worden punched Maher four times and that "these punches were neither necessary or needed" to handcuff Maher.

Curtis also wrote that Worden's own report was "misleading and conflicts with the video recordings of the incident," since Worden wrote that he had only punched Maher two times.

Hardy, however, concluded that the number of times Worden struck Maher is "factually insignificant" since Worden admitted to striking Maher and didn't continue to strike him after Maher was handcuffed.

She said Curtis' analysis was "erroneous" to the charge of tampering with physical evidence, which referred to what Worden wrote in his police report detailing Maher's arrest.

Spinella said this type of case should have necessitated a prosecutor with no connection to Hartford County, which is where the Enfield Police Department and the courts that handle its arrest cases are located.

"The ideal circumstance would have been to have an outside prosecutor make the decision on whether or not the prosecution should've gone forward here," Spinella said. He said that "from a structural point of view  when you're investigating a department that you work with closely like that, it seems to me that the better practice is to have someone from outside the county review the facts."

Spinella declined to say what sort of communications he has had with Maher since learning of the prosecutor's decision.

In the intent to sue the town of Enfield and its Police Department, Maher claims that officers "used excessive force against him, causing multiple injuries," which includes "personal injuries, including but not limited to, injury to left limb; eye damage; emotional distress and psychological pain and suffering."