The Last of Three Abusive Bridgeport, CT Officers Indicted

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In 2011 following a chase, Bridgeport, Connecticut Police Officers tased and arrested Orlando Lopez-Soto.  The two officers initially involved, Elson Morales and Joseph Lawlor, repeatedly kicked Lopez after he was laying flat on the ground, compliant.  They pleaded guilty to federal charges of deprivation of rights under the color of law, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 242.  Each face up to a year in prison.

Clive Higgins did not take the deal and was indicted for the violation with bodily injury.  He faces up to ten years in prison and pleaded not guilty.  He has been placed on unpaid suspension by his department, which recently settled with Lopez for $198,000.  Lopez is currently in prison on a 5-year sentence on drug and gun charges.

What is interesting in this case is that Higgins is being represented by a federal public defender.  Why isn’t he being represented by a union attorney?  I can think of two likely reasons, first, that he was not a member, in which case he is an idiot.  Second, that the union cut him loose, not wanting to defend him, in which case they are spineless.  There are, of course, other possibilities, so there may be a good explanation, but that is just my read on the situation.

In any event, all three are pretty much toast, and rightfully so.  While I do not have a problem with force when it is justified, unjustified force must be identified and prosecuted.


Update – Springdale Police Officer Sentenced to Prision

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Earlier I had written about Springdale police officer Mark Thom, his abuse of local citizens, and the city council that enabled him.

Last week Thom was sentenced to prison for a year and a day, and then to 3 years probation following release.  U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak told Thom that he would never serve as a police officer again.

The former police chief Joseph Naviglia said that Thom is “a habitual liar and a very conniving and manipulative person.”  Naviglia also said that the city council protected and covered up for Thom.  You’ll remember that I pointed this out in my past article.

Springdale has had to pay out $225,000 in the incident leading to the criminal charges, and $98,500 in a separate case.  But I guess Dave Finley doesn’t care about that either.

Why Springdale, PA Citizens get Abused – It’s their own fault


Springdale, Pennsylvania is a small town of about 20,000 about 18 miles outside of Pittsburgh.  Recently they have had several incidents of police abuse, and in addition to being abused, they are paying for the privilege.  But that’s OK, because they are getting what they deserve.

In the winter of 2010, Allegheny County Police Officer Ray Hrabos was going to his home in Springdale when he stopped to ask Springdale Police Officer Mark Thom if he could move so he could get by.  Hrabos was immediately assaulted by Thom and thought Thom was going to kill him, even though Hrabos had identified himself as an officer.  Two weeks later, the police department filed terroristic threat, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct charges against Hrabos.  They were dismissed and caused the judge to comment that it was insane to bring that into his courtroom.  Hrabos sued and settled with the city for almost $100,000.

In 2011, Gary Cahill was arrested and was sitting in the back of Thom’s squadcar when Thom began to strike him and to use his taser on Cahill.  Cahill was charged with drunken driving, resisting arrest, and other charges, but all charges were dismissed.  Cahill has also sued, stating that Thom violated his rights and the city had prior notice of Thom’s violent tendencies.

But wait – it gets better.

Earlier this year, Thom pled guilty to violating Cahill’s civil rights in U.S. District Court, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242.  Thom faces up to 2-1/2 years in prison.  So of course Thom resigned as a police officer.  And then Springdale hired Thom in a non-police capacity.

Huh?  This guy has already cost the city $100K, pled guilty to a federal felony for violating civil rights, will cost the city more in the Cahill lawsuit, and you rehire him?  And it is not the department head that did it, it was the city council.

According to Council President Dave Finley, Thom was the victim of “character assassination.”  Finley stated that as far as he was concerned, Thom did a fine job as an officer, and when asked about Thom’s guilty plea, said “I don’t care.”  “Maybe he was wrongfully accused.” “He pled guilty, yeah. You keep harping on the pled guilty. Are you asking me if he’s a good man or did he plead guilty? It’s an obvious thing: he accepted a plea bargain. I’m telling you he’s a good man in the eyes of the residents of Springdale. He has two young children and we take care of our own.”

Well, Finley may take care of his own, but he sure doesn’t take care of protecting the citizens from rogue officers.  Another former officer ,Jeremy Liotta, is facing theft, drug, and impersonating an officer charges.

And the reason Springdale citizens deserve the abuse?  They elected this bozo and the other four council members that rehired Thom.  There has been no indication of protests or concern by the citizens.  You get what you allow, and you’re allowing this to be done to you.  Plus you get to pay for it too.

Past incidents:

  • Joseph Liotta was fired by the council from his position after cash was found to be missing.  He sued and lost his case.  See Liotta v. Borough of Springdale, 985 F.2d 119 (3d Cir. 1993).  It is not known if Joseph is related to Jeremy.


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