David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Mary Galligan, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport returned a superseding indictment today charging East Haven Police Officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding, and Jason Zullo with conspiring to violate and violating the civil rights of members of the East Haven community.
According to allegations contained in the superseding indictment, from approximately 2007 through 2011, Cari, Spaulding, and Zullo, while acting under color of law, conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate individuals in East Haven in violation of their constitutional rights. It is alleged that Cari, Spaulding, and Zullo engaged in unreasonable searches and seizures, including unlawful arrests without probable cause or based on false and misleading information. Spaulding and Zullo are also charged with using unreasonable force during arrests, and all the defendants are charged with obstruction of justice as they wrote false reports to cover up their illegal arrests and assaults.
The indictment further alleges that Spaulding and Zullo intimidated, harassed, and humiliated members of the Latino community and their advocates and conducted illegal searches at Latino-owned businesses. Spaulding is additionally charged with following, intimidating, and harassing advocates who worked to defend the rights of members of the Latino community.
The superseding indictment alleges 35 overt acts committed by the three defendants and others in furtherance of the conspiracy.
On January 18, 2012, a federal grand jury in Bridgeport returned an earlier indictment charging Cari, Spaulding, Zullo, and John Miller with various civil rights offenses. The superseding indictment removes Miller as a defendant, as he pleaded guilty on September 21, 2012, and adds three additional counts against Zullo, including two counts of unreasonable force and one count of obstruction of justice. In addition, the new indictment includes additional overt acts committed by the defendants.
The new charges against Zullo stem from an October 2008 incident when Zullo is alleged to have repeatedly hit a motorcycle carrying two individuals with his police car, causing the motorcycle to crash and the two victims to be thrown to the ground. After the crash, it is alleged that Zullo punched one of the victims who was injured and pinned to the ground. Zullo then prepared a false report to justify the assault.
Each of the three defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights. Zullo is charged with three counts and Spaulding with one count of use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer. Additionally, Spaulding is charged with two counts and Cari with one count of deprivation of rights for making arrests without probable cause. Each of these counts carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000, except the false arrest charge against Spaulding, which carries a one-year term of imprisonment and a fine of up $100,000. Finally, Spaulding is charged with two counts and Zullo and Cari with one count of obstruction of a federal investigation. Each of these counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Civil Rights Squad of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
U.S. Attorney Fein stated that the investigation is ongoing and encouraged individuals with information that may be helpful to the investigation to call the FBI at 212-384-2240.
Deputy United States Attorney Deirdre M. Daly and Assistant United States Attorney Krishna R. Patel are prosecuting the case with assistance from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.