Police testimony allowed

Posted
Tuesday, Nov. 24
PITTSFIELD -- A prosecutor and a defense attorney wrangled over the legitimacy of testimony about a meeting between police department officials and a now-former officer on trial for beating a drunken prisoner.

In the Dec. 10, 2008, meeting, according to testimony by North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, defendant Joshua Mantello met with Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco, Cozzaglio, and a department lieutenant, as well as a representative of the police union, to review a surveillance tape of the incident in the booking area in the North Adams police headquarters.

Mantello, 30, a former officer of the North Adams Police Department, is accused of punching, choking and using a Taser on Matthew Trombley, an intoxicated suspect who was in custody at the time. A member of the department for six years, Mantello was fired in March at the conclusion of a criminal investigation.

According to Cozzaglio's testimony, Mantello was called into the meeting to review the tape as part of what he termed an "internal investigation."

After the five attendees had viewed the tape, Cozzaglio said, Commissioner Morocco asked Mantello, "What the [expletive] was that?" to which Mantello replied, "Me, dealing with an unruly prisoner."

Cozzaglio said Morocco then asked, "And you arrest him for assault and battery on a police officer? What the [expletive] were you thinking?" Cozzaglio then testified that Mantello replied, "I wasn't."

Berkshire County assistant district attorney Joseph Pieropan elicited the testimony despite an objection from defense attorney Thomas Drechsler, who cited several legal precedents. The precedents, he said, render statements made during an internal police investigation inadmissible in court.

Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini said he would research the cases cited and make a later ruling on the objection, but he allowed the testimony to continue.

Mantello waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead to allow Agostini to make the final judgment in the case.

Mantello is on trial for two counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, one count of assault and battery, one count of witness intimidation, and one count of filing a false police report about the incident.

Trombley was arrested on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 28, 2008, after officers responding to a disturbance call discovered the intoxicated Trombley outside a North Church Street apartment.

Trombley, who was 28 at the time, allegedly banged on people's doors and defecated on a welcome mat, according to earlier testimony in the trial.

Trombley initially was charged with assault and disorderly conduct. Those charges were eventually dropped after a Massachusetts State Police investigation led to Mantello's indictment.

According to earlier testimony, four officers were involved in trying to subdue the troublesome suspect, who was covered in his own vomit and feces.

Defense attorney Drechsler noted during the trial last week that of the four on-duty officers at that time, Mantello was the one who "did the dirty work," noting that one officer had to desert his post to vomit.

Meanwhile, Berkshire First Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello continued to maintain that Mantello not only overreacted while dealing with Trombley but assaulted the intoxicated man multiple times.

Mantello punched Trombley, banged his head against the wall, and choked him "for a significant amount of time," according to the prosecutor.

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.


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