Lawsuit Claims Police Task Force Beat Suspect
Police said in a press release that Morales collapsed as he stepped from the car and was found to have a head injury ...
... Morales, 50, sustained an "open-depressed skull fracture" two centimeters wide ...
Doctors had to perform a craniotomy to remove blood from Morales' brain ...
"He had a hole in his head ... "
By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY
The Hartford Courant
May 1, 2009
A lawsuit filed in federal court today accuses members of a regional police task force of "savagely" beating a suspect during a drug bust in Glastonbury, giving him what his lawyer called "a hole in his head."
Members of East Central Narcotics, also known as ECN, punched and kicked Rafael Morales of Hartford with such force, Morales, 50, sustained an "open-depressed skull fracture" two centimeters wide, said the attorney, A. Paul Spinella.
Spinella said he filed the lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Hartford. The suit asks for a trial, plus punitive and compensatory damages.
Early in the morning on Jan. 9, narcotics officers converged on a van in which Morales was a passenger in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn in Glastonbury. At the time, police said in a press release that Morales collapsed as he stepped from the car and was found to have a head injury. He was brought to a hospital for treatment.
According to the lawsuit, the officers, who were planning an undercover drug purchase, surrounded the vehicle and took the driver into custody. Moments later, they began to remove Morales from the passenger seat when "one of more of them began to savagely beat him by punching and kicking him in his face and head." At least one of the officers admitted hitting Morales, it states.
Doctors had to perform a craniotomy to remove blood from Morales' brain, Spinella said.
"He had a hole in his head," Spinella said.
Morales, who Spinella describes as a Fordham University graduate and four-year Navy veteran, is now at the Hartford Correctional Center, Spinella said, but Spinella is requesting that he be moved to a place where he can get better medical care.
A state police investigation of the incident continues, said state police Sgt. Chris Johnson.
ORIGINS OF THE REGIONAL
NARCOTICS TASK FORCES
From Law & Justice In Everyday Life, 2nd edition, 2002
Chapter 2, At Large In Stamford And Darien
Excerpt: Time To Find Pellicci's Killer [November 2000]
EDITOR'S NOTE: The late Stamford police lieutenant and drug dealer / killer Larry Hogan was among the founders of the statewide narcotics task force. The Pellicci case remains open. Connecticut Magazine asked in 2005: Everyone in Stamford seems to know who killed Joe Pellicci. So why won't the cops make an arrest?
The Joseph Pellicci murder case will be easier to solve now than it was 27 years ago.
Why? Stamford, Conn., now has a modernized, corruption-free police force and strong leadership. All it's lacking is the force of will to finally close this case.
Pellicci, partner in a popular Stamford restaurant whose clientele has included Joe Dimaggio, Tony Bennett, Howard Cosell, Nancy Sinatra, Danny Glover and Walter Cronkite, was shot twice in the head and once in the body in February 1973. He was found wrapped in a blanket, his hands tied with a cord.
The blanket and the cord have been linked to the prime suspect, who is still alive. A witness gave police a partial identification of the initials on the suspect's license plate. This is a murder that has enough evidence to go forward. But it's still stalled.
There are many reasons, known and unknown, why this case has languished for so many years. On at least two occasions, police believed they had solved the case and were ready to make an arrest. Cops who worked on the case were puzzled about why they could not bring it to the next level.
To understand why the case did not close almost immediately, we must go back to the darkest era in the history of the Stamford Police Department -- the decade of the 1970s.
The lead detective on the Pellicci case, Larry Hogan, was in the process of becoming a consummate shakedown artist and agent of the Gambino organized crime family, as detailed in news stories by Tony Dolan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his expose of mob influence in Stamford.
One of Hogan's top men, Sgt. Duke Morris, ran narcotics. By this, I mean he sold drugs out of the police station and arrested the competition.
"Duke was a very capable guy," one Stamford police officer said.
Morris became a suspect in as many as five murders. His specialty was said to be two bullets from a .22 behind the ear. After being arrested, Morris died in a shootout with other drug dealers in New York.
Hogan died of cancer before he could go to trial.
Essentially, Stamford police in the 1970s were too busy running their own rackets, including burglary rings and gun-running to Northern Ireland, to solve many crimes.
The Pellicci case was one lost in that corrupt and inept era. The investigation would be marred by lost evidence and failure to pursue leads. For example, dog hairs were found on the blanket and the victim and in the suspect's car. They were not retrieved. Witnesses were threatened with impunity.
And on a cold February day in 1973, the suspect drove his car -- the one identified by a witness -- through a car wash with the windows open. The day before, the suspect had washed his car at home. Police have never publicly identified the suspect.
A bust of Joseph Pellicci, sculpted by his brother, Anthony, who runs the restaurant today, is mounted by the entrance to the dining room. The inscription reads, "Those of us who remember Joe remember him with a loving smile for his friends and all children."
"We want people to know that he was a good person, a nice person, whom we all loved," Anthony Pellicci said. The unresolved case is like an open sore for the family. Like any family, the Pelliccis want resolution and closure.
Today's  Stamford Police Department is led by a former New York prosecutor, Dean Esserman [now chief in Providence]. In the late 1970s, a reform chief took over, and the bad apples retired or were arrested.
Officers from Stamford and other jurisdictions have shared information over the years in hopes of closing the Joseph Pellicci case with an arrest, but for reasons still unexplained, nothing more has ever come of the case.
It's time for Esserman to show what his department is truly made of. It's time to re-activate the Pellicci investigation.
Law & Justice In Everyday Life by Andy Thibault at Amazon.com
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