Monday, August 12, 2019

Good Cop, Bad Cop Redux

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
 
(Disclaimer: The proprietor of this blog and Mr. Wilson have an ongoing years-long friendship, in which the former has benefited on several occasions by the generosity of the latter. However, that in no way, shape or form has influenced the blog owner’s decision to post an article about his case nor the content of what is written below.)
I never thought I'd ever revisit the convoluted drawn-out travesty of justice against former MA State Trooper Antone Wilson. It was a six part series I'd started better than two years ago in 2017 (The entire series can be found here: Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six.). However, like any good police officer, Antone is indefatigable and simply won't stop pushing, pulling and pressing until he achieves a satisfactory conclusion.
     Tony is currently outside his home state working at a contract job so I thought I'd reach out to him on a personal basis to ask how his case was proceeding or if it was at all. His answers were, to say the least, quite informative and interesting, so much so that we mutually decided this would make a worthy addendum to my original six part series, sort of a poor man's version of Crazy Horse's emerging monument complementing Mount Rushmore.

So, what have you been doing since I posted about your case history?
     Mostly working. Over the last few years I have been working as a private security contractor and special police officer. Since early this year, I have been working with the Army. My grand-sounding title is Law Enforcement/ Counterintelligence Analyst but it isn’t nearly as sexy or cloak and dagger as it sounds. I’m working in an office and it is very structured. Very routine.
     The key point here is that I still have to work. I receive a relatively small pension, I am “retired”, remember, but it isn’t enough to live comfortably on. I am paying some of my son’s expenses as he starts out on his own.
     I’m also following the media coverage of State Police very closely as it pertains to their current “scandals”. I am particularly interested in the way the media covers the stories and the public’s reaction, which is, pretty much outrage. I usually scan the article and then jump to the comments and they are overwhelmingly negative. More importantly, the public seems to understand that the press is under-reporting these stories so they have as much contempt for the local press as they do for the State Police. Seemingly every negative article will be accompanied by some pretty harsh commentary; calling the State Police crooks, gangsters and demanding that the agency be abolished. What surprised me, however, were the many comments that called The Boston Globe a mouthpiece for the State Police implying that the press is complicit in the soft-pedaling the facts. Clearly the public isn’t being fooled. By the way, I don’t believe the State Police should be disbanded.

Do you agree that the State Police need to be restructured and have more oversight?  
     The public turning against the State Police is probably the most unfortunate result of all these scandals. I remember when the State Police were highly-respected. Their reputation as an elite agency is in tatters. I think the Leigha Genduso story, the K-9 Trooper who, prior to employment with the agency, was a drug trafficker and money launderer, did the agency irreparable damage. The State Police were thought of as the best of the best. They have to always look sharp and were perceived to be more of an elite military outfit than a police agency. Even now, the talent on that agency is almost inconceivable. I have police friends from other parts of the country, mostly Florida, who rave about the fact that I have two Masters Degrees and extensive military experience. The implication is that I am almost overqualified to be a street cop. I tell them that, on the State Police, I am average, at best. Almost everyone has a Master’s Degree. There are attorneys on the job, nurses, paramedics, pilots. You are surrounded by talent so you feel this implicit need to always improve, just to keep up.
     The worst aspect of the Genduso story is that she was pushed into an elite position, K-9 officer, with minimal time in service and with an implication of nepotism. She was reportedly dating a senior officer. These stories destroy that elite image, the sense that the State Police really are the Commonwealth’s best young men and women. What’s worse, I guarantee that, of all the applicants to her academy class, there was probably at least one combat veteran, a Military Police K-9 handler who, for whatever reason didn’t make the cut. That soldier should have that State Police job
     As I see it, and I’m speaking from my unique point of view, the agency needs to be more like the military in the sense of developing the sense of and teamwork that we have in the Army. The Army isn’t perfect but the sense of brotherhood, comradeship, the State Police never had that, as I saw it. I remember an agency of cliques and a very mean-spirited command element that seemed to take pleasure in punishing subordinates. It seemed to be joyously vindictive. During the early stages of the Iraq War I served over five years on active military duty and when I demobilized I was very depressed because I didn’t want to leave that professionalism, the brotherhood; especially since I knew what I was going back to. A lot of the demobilized soldiers, particularly the police officers, felt the same way. 

So, would more oversight help?   
     Well, from my own experiences, yes. In my case, my problem was that there weren’t a lot of places I could turn to get a review of my case. At the earliest stages I sensed I was being railroaded. The fix was in, but there was nowhere I could go to complain. If I had access to a dedicated Inspector General or some independent body that investigated wrongdoing at the senior-officer level, I could have quashed the whole malicious prosecution before it got started. In my case I was dependent on support elements within my agency, my union, my legal counsel, who were all compromised by conflicts of interest. Even though I suspected collusion between my defense elements and the prosecution all I could really do was ride out the legal process and hope for impartial review. We saw how that ended. A truly un-biased oversight body would assure that cases like mine never get on track

I'd posted the original six-part narrative in the hopes it would get traction and force your story into the mainstream. It seems that didn’t happen. What’s next?  
     Well, the good news is that the story did get out there. A few months after it was posted a friend e-mailed me to tell me she saw the post and that she was glad the story getting out. So, I know the story has trickled out but, unfortunately, not enough to force the mainstream press to investigate further. The varied State Police scandals have showed me that the media is very reluctant to report negative stories on the State Police. 
     If you recall, the Genduso story only came to light after a blogger, Turtleboy, wrote about it. He was also at the forefront of the story out of Worcester about a Trooper who was forced by command to change a report that was potentially damaging to a judge after his daughter was arrested. That story, by the way, went nation-wide. The local press picked up those stories almost reluctantly. Turtleboy, to his credit, did some real shoe-leather journalism in that story and that and the Genduso story was when the public became aware that the press was sometimes less than vigilant when it came to reporting stories that placed the State Police in a bad light. Those stories led to the immediate resignation of some high-level State Police commanders. All those developments help me because the public is now, more than ever, primed to hear my story once it comes out. My case fits in, exactly, with the shady dealings that were going on in the upper levels of agency.
     About a year ago I was reading a newspaper article on one of the unfolding scandals and I went to the comments to get a feel for the public’s perceptions. The comments were, as always, angrily anti-State Police. There were about 50 comments on that article and the very last one was, "What about the kid in Florida?" That was all. Now, I didn’t know if that was a reference to me and my case but I didn’t know of any other stories that had a Florida angle, though it could have been referring to a Trooper who moved to Florida. Nothing else pertaining to Florida was ever publicized so I can assume it was a reference to my story. I know the story is out there in cyberspace and, since your posts are archived, it is readily available. I’ve used your posts as a case summary when I do inquiries to media elements. It helps not having to constantly summarize the case. It takes hours to write it up. 
 
So, what’s next?
     I am in contact with a fraternity brother who does a far-reaching podcast. He comments on criminal justice issues, public policy, politics and pop culture. I forwarded him your blog posts and he was immediately interested in publicizing the case-nationwide. He told me that he wants to make the jump from commentator to investigative journalist and he intends to do the necessary leg-work to bring the story to light.
      I am also in contact with a Minority Law Enforcement Organization whose focus is the problems unique to minorities in the criminal justice system, police and corrections in particular. As my story becomes increasingly publicized they are going to act as a megaphone, publicizing my story with their newsletter and getting other support organizations involved. Once the story trickles out there are other outlets, particularly in the alternative media that will forward it.
     The most unique aspect of my case is that so many agencies and organizations, to include the Boston Chapter of the NAACP, were compromised to the point that they were working against me. As you reported, my attorneys, very prominent men in the Massachusetts legal community, had conflicts of interest that led them to work against me and eventually the Board of Bar Overseers spiked my formal complaints against them even after I uncovered that conflict of interest. My problem, then, is that no Boston-area attorney will take my case or even comment on it when I give them the particulars because prominent attorneys are involved. Actually, one has since become a judge. They all clammed up. 
     So, I have stopped searching for an attorney in Massachusetts and I am trying to get organizations with no affiliation to the Massachusetts legal community involved. In most cases a person is wronged, they get an attorney a complaint is filed and then the press investigates and reports. In my case that dynamic is flipped. I have to get the alternative media involved, force my story into publication and then compel legal experts to take my case. My problem has always been getting the story into the sunshine. It seems, finally, that is about to happen. My case should further prove the burgeoning influence of the alternative media, the Fifth Estate as you called it.  

What did the NAACP have to do with your case?
     The story got so convoluted there were aspects I didn’t even tell you because it would have made the narrative, which is already too long, even longer. One of my State Police handlers, a Sergeant who was active in the minority Trooper’s organization told me, with great fanfare, that he was getting the NAACP involved after I was suspended. He took me to meet the President of the Boston Chapter and the implication was that he was going to assist me with a legal strategy. That strategy was to include me in an upcoming class-action suit. Nothing about my case in particular or clearing my name. When later I discovered that State Police Command had withheld my disciplinary hearing findings document, thus opening them up to a major lawsuit, I went to him informing him that we had our basis for legal action. 
     He refused his assistance outright. His exact words, I’ll never forget them, were: “…we’ll get ‘em next time.” He also mentioned that the Franklin Police Sergeant, my chief “accuser” and the one who potentially lost the most if the case came to light, was his, the NAACP President’s, family friend. He knew him well. That’s when I realized that nearly everyone I thought was supporting me was actually working against me. The strategy of my supporters was to divert me away from any action that would get my case before a legal review body

Tony, this case has spanned nearly 20 years. Do you think it's still relevant and newsworthy?
     Absolutely, in fact the current scandals make my story more credible, more newsworthy and more relevant. The back story with the police abuse, the fabricated reports, the malicious prosecution, the legal malpractice…they are all relevant and newsworthy but my case is at this point, a wrongful termination. Yes, I was able to retire and get a small pension but I was denied the opportunity to maximize my pension and I was denied the pay and benefits that would have allowed me put my son through graduate school. He recently completed his MBA but he's $80,000 in debt with student loans and I made it clear upon my return from active duty that my primary focus was to ensure that my son was able to complete his education with my assistance. He shouldn't be in crippling debt and I shouldn't have to work unless I want to. At this point I must work so any legal action is focused on getting lost wages and, if possible, having my pension re-calculated to account for lost time and pay.
     As you may recall, when I returned from active duty in 2009, I made it clear that I intended to take legal action against the State Police; picking up where I left off in 2003 when I deployed. When I went for the psych evaluation that every returning Trooper must undergo, I told the clinician the back story of my case and even presented him with documented and bound case history. I told him that I understood the risks with being a whistleblower and that I was fearful of retaliation. He stated that my fear of retaliation was a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 
     I thought that was an odd diagnosis since I never served in combat. I served stateside as an Army Drill Sergeant. Still, his logic was sound. I was being forced to confront a traumatic event that I had, for five years, put out of my mind. All subsequent diagnoses could not cite the legal aspects of the case, though every clinician who evaluated my case cited the improper and illegal actions of the State Police as the triggering factor. 
     The final clinical analysis, however, cleared me to return to work and, at minimum, I could have returned to light duty, as is customary. So, while I don’t know employment law, I know you cannot refuse to reinstate, because that’s what it was- a refusal, a reservist, returning from active duty with a psychological condition brought on by the improper actions of his employer, particularly after I was cleared by a medical professional.
     I’d like to mention also that, by bringing my story to light, nothing like this ever happens again to any Massachusetts State Trooper. I think the Worcester case I cited earlier shows that the coercive, vindictive disciplinary process was still status quo.

Do you have any legal standing at this point?   
     That’s a good question and that is why I need to get an unbiased legal opinion. The precedent I cite is a relatively recent case of Boston Police Officers who were fired from their job in the 1990’s for a drug test that, without getting into particulars, was improperly administered. The ultimate result was that the Civil Service Commission ruled in their favor in 2016 and they received retro pay and benefits as compensation. If my case gets into the mainstream I am going to cite the uniqueness of my case and all the regulatory elements who, in most instances would be working for me, were compelled to conspire against me because of conflicts of interest. There was no place for me to turn. I had no recourse.

Do you really want that job back?
     Well, in theory, I have to prove a wrongful termination and any legal victory would imply that I could and should be re-instated. I have spent the last 10 years taking classes, Army deployments and jobs that have added to my credentials and made me an even more valuable asset to any police agency. Of course, I’ve kept out of trouble. I currently maintain a Top Secret Government Security Clearance which is required for my current counterintelligence position. I still serve in the Army Reserve as a Drill Sergeant. So, yeah, I can still do the job and sometimes I think I’d like to jump back in, applying what I have learned over the last 10 years. One thing I’ve found with all the recent publicity is that quite a few of my Police Academy classmates, men and women my age and older, are still on the job and in positions of authority. It is, potentially, a great job with great pay and benefits. I can see why nobody wants to leave

As long as they aren’t colluding against you to railroad you…
     Yes, of course, as long as they aren’t colluding against you to railroad you.

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