UPDATE: Sounds like it was in the city’s best financial interests to move quickly to pay Orlando Lopez-Soto $198,000 to settle a lawsuit following his police stomping in Beardsley Park in 2011. Two city police officers Joseph Lawlor and Elson Morales entered guilty pleas on Tuesday to civil rights violations in federal court.
The video shows three officers Lawlor, Morales and officer Clive Higgins stomping the tasered Lopez-Soto.
In announcing a settlement about the lawsuit, police spokesman Bill Kaempffer said two weeks ago “Considering costs associated with proceeding to trial, a resolution was reached that is fair and reasonable for all parties in this case.”
Statement from Police Chief Joe Gaudett:
“The Bridgeport Police Department cooperated with the federal authorities since the date this video surfaced. As chief, I am satisfied with the outcome of the criminal prosecution and with the fact that these individuals will no longer serve as Bridgeport police officers. Their actions are not reflective of the good work done day-in and day-out by the overwhelming majority of the men and women of the Bridgeport Police Department. The Bridgeport Police Department will continue to cooperate fully with the federal authorities until they conclude their investigation.”
News release from Connecticut U.S. Attorney:
Deirdre M, Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that Bridgeport Police officers ELSON MORALES, 42, and JOSEPH LAWLOR, 41, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer in Bridgeport to violating an individual’s civil rights by using unreasonable force during the course of an arrest.
According to court documents and statements made in court, on May 20, 2011, officers MORALES and LAWLOR engaged in a pursuit of a van driven by an individual who was suspected of having a firearm and had failed to submit to a traffic stop. After the pursuit, the individual was apprehended in Beardsley Park in Bridgeport. MORALES used his department-issued Taser to incapacitate the individual during the course of his apprehension. Despite the fact the individual was effectively incapacitated by the initial use of the Taser, MORALES deployed the Taser a second time and LAWLOR kicked the individual several times.
“The use of unreasonable force during an arrest is not only a clear violation of an individual’s civil rights, but also gravely undermines the community’s trust in law enforcement,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “he overwhelming majority of officers in the Bridgeport Police Department are public servants who dedicate their lives to protecting the public. However, any law enforcement officer who crosses the line during an arrest risks federal prosecution.”
U.S. Attorney Daly stated that the investigation is ongoing.
“Today’s guilty pleas are such an important reminder to those of us who are sworn to uphold the law, that we are not above the law,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick. “Law enforcement officers of this state, and beyond, should rightfully be held to a high standard. Morales and Lawlor’s actions three years ago profoundly undermined that standard and the public’s faith in law enforcement to protect and to serve. It is an absolute honor and privilege to serve a community and the good men and women of the Bridgeport Police Department know that, where so many have served with both pride and distinction.”
MORALES and LAWLOR each pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to $100,000.
Judge Meyer scheduled sentencing for September 2, 2014.
As part of their plea agreements, MORALES and LAWLOR have agreed to resign from the Bridgeport Police Department and not seek employment as a police or peace office during any period of supervision.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anastasia E. King and David E. Novick.