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    That infamous Connecticut speeding case



    Background

    Rennteam readers may recall that last July I was stopped in Connecticut for allegedly driving 99 MPH in a 65 MPH zone (159 km/h in a 105 km/h zone). I was interrogated, arrested, my car was towed, I was fingerprinted, photographed and ultimately released on US$1000 bail which my 70+ year old mother had to get from various ATM machines at 1 o'clock in the morning and bring to the police station which was in a very seedy part of town. There is an earlier Rennteam thread which describes the events of that night in more detail:

    Latest travel experience - Arrested in Connecticut, USA

    There are also a series of photographs of the stop:

    Arrest. Manchester, Connecticut, USA. 14 July 2004

    Since my initial description of what happened I have been mostly silent. The case has been in the courts and for that reason it just wasn't possible for me to talk about it. This situation changed a week ago so now it is time for a little update.

    A little more history

    Firstly, a little more on what actually happened that night and why I was so upset. The following is taken from a motion I filed. I think it explains it pretty well:

    Quote:

    Conduct of Trooper Robert R. Given

    The claims by Trooper Given of defendant's uncooperativeness cannot be examined in isolation. To understand those claims it is necessary to examine the conduct of Trooper Given on that night to determine the creditability of the trooper as well as his possible motives in making those claims.

    An examination of the video shows that Trooper Given used vulgar slang on numerous occasions. For example, he frequently used the word "[censored]":

    Quote:
    "[A] picture that's about twenty [censored] years younger than he is now."



    (Tape, 21:49:07.) And:

    Quote:
    "Outstanding. My [censored] Friday and the last thing I want to do is ... Oh!"



    (Tape, 21:50:29.)

    On two occasions he used this vulgarity to directly describe defendant:

    Quote:
    "[N]othing but [censored] attitude."



    (Tape, 21:48:49.). And more pointedly:

    Quote:
    "[censored] [censored]."



    (Tape, 21:49:31.)

    Furthermore, Trooper Given even felt the need to comment on defendant's sexuality and physical appearance:

    Quote:
    "Who the hell would have sex with him? Did you see the size of him?"



    (Tape, 21:50:18.). And more pointedly:

    Quote:
    "He's bent because it's an Audi."



    (Tape 21:51:51.) Apparently, Trooper Given considers all drivers of Audis to be homosexuals. ["Bent" is a street slang term. The meaning for the term as used in this context is homosexual. In street terms, it refers to a male engaging in anal sex in the submissive position (i.e. bent over).]

    Trooper Given did not limit himself to vulgarities and inappropriate verbal comments regarding defendant. The trooper also threatened to attack defendant with a dog:

    Quote:
    "I've got a dog, coming right behind me, right all over you, if you think you are going to try something, you got it?"



    (Tape 21:46:32.) At this point the trooper appeared to be emotionally out of control and defendant was actually concerned about the trooper's mentally stability.

    There was no apparent reason for this. Despite Trooper Given's claims to the contrary, a review of the video shows that the defendant was complying fully with the trooper's directions and even can be heard to ask "am I ok?" (which elicited further angry threats) and "I'm trying to cooperate with you." (which got the sarcastic response "yeah you're trying alright"). (Tape, 21:46:26 and 21:46:39.) [Trooper Given claims in his police report that defendant "stiffened up his body and pushed back from the trunk of the vehicle. His aggressive manner continued even after being verbally instructed to refrain from his actions." The video evidence shows exactly the opposite - a defendant who was attempting to cooperate as fully as possible despite the Trooper's aggressive manner. Police report, page 5.] The trooper was clearly unafraid of defendant and at one point can be heard to tell his colleagues that they could take their time in arriving at the scene. (Tape, 21:45:16.)

    Trooper Given claims that he arrested defendant "for Reckless Driving". (Police report, page 3.) In fact, Trooper Given told defendant during interrogation at the police station that he arrested him for refusing to answer his questions and had he answered his questions then he would have "let him go" with a summons for speeding. This is born out by the video tape where the trooper threatens to arrest defendant unless he "reconsiders" his refusal to answer further questions. (Tape, 21:43:46.) He confirms this twice in explaining to his colleagues why he arrested defendant. (Tape, 21:49:19 and 21:53:50.)

    Defendant has a clear right to refuse to answer questions and to have a lawyer present at any interrogation. Threatening to arrest defendant for maintaining his silence was a clear violation of defendant's basic constitutional rights including the right not to be forced to incriminate oneself.

    Trooper Given apparently also does not have much respect for the laws of the State of Connecticut. During the drive to Troop H, with defendant in custody, the trooper knowingly speeds, at night, while reading, and with the car's interior lights on. (Tape 21:57:37 and 21:59:54.) His conduct is a text book example of Reckless Driving.

    Finally, it is clear from the video that after arresting defendant, Trooper Given attempts to justify the arrest to his colleagues by embellishing and misstating the facts. For example, the trooper asked defendant 13 questions before defendant finally refused to answer any further questions. Yet when Trooper Given recounted the events to one of his colleagues immediately after the arrest he explains that he asked just two basic questions and that defendant specifically refused to answer the question of whether the car was registered to his father. (Tape, 21:49:16.) In fact, it is clear from the tape that defendant did answer that question as well as many others. Trooper Given also credits defendant with responding to the threat of arrest with the confrontational phrase "oh, really?" (Tape, 21:49:26.) A review of the tape again shows no such response.

    The inescapable conclusion is that Trooper Given is a vulgar, homophobic, prejudicial individual who freely makes derogatory comments related to a person's sexuality and obesity. The trooper is not shy to use his position to make unnecessary threats of violence to hapless individuals in his custody. The trooper is highly emotional and at times appears to be mentally unstable. The trooper also freely violates the constitutional rights of an accused as well as the laws of the state of Connecticut which he is charged with enforcing. And finally, the trooper is a liar who's statements cannot be relied upon. In short, the trooper is a disgrace to the uniform he is wearing and an embarrassment to the people of the State of Connecticut.




    The Connecticut Courts

    So you would think that after reading this and seeing the tapes the courts would dismiss the charges and the trooper would have a lot of explaining to do, right? Wrong.

    When this was presented to Connecticut Superior Court Judge Patricia Swords she refused to even view the tape. Instead she immediately increased my bail by $250 thus causing me to be immediately taken from the court by sheriffs, searched, shackled and thrown in a holding cell with the other prisoners. Had I not had sufficient cash in my pocket then I would have been transported from the court to a city holding centre until someone arranged bail. I would not have been allowed a telephone call until I had been transported to the central prison. As it was, I had the $250 in my pocket and was able to post the additional bail and get released after an hour or so of standing in lockup.

    My supposed crime was being five minutes late for the hearing even though I was not actually scheduled to be in that courtroom or before that judge. The real reason was to put pressure on me and simply because she could. Judge Swords was previously a state prosecutor and has a reputation for this sort of thing among the local legal community.

    At the same hearing Judge Swords denied me just about every discovery right I had and, as I was being led away, scheduled the case for jury trial. The denial of discovery was clear error in legal terms and would, I believe, have eventually resulted in the case being overturned on appeal, but the effect of this was to make it almost impossible for me to win at trial. Laser based speeding cases are very technical cases and discovery is essential. Judge Swords has a reputation for handing out maximum sentences if you go to trial so the only way to test this was to try the case, lose, be sentence to jail and then appeal (hoping that the appeals court judges were a little more reasonable than she and that she would at least allow me to remain free pending the outcome of the appeal).

    At this point I made a mistake. As the sheriffs were leading me away and Judge Swords was setting the trial date, I simply got the date wrong. The result of this is that I did not appear on the date of the trial. The first I realised my error was when the prosecutor's office called asking why I wasn't in court.

    The result of this was that Judge Swords forfeited my bail, issued an arrest warrant, set a new bail of $10,000 and filed new charges for failure to appear (a misdemeanour carrying three months jail). Once this was done there was nothing I could do but wait for the paperwork to be processed. Meanwhile, I had no choice but to walk around carrying $10,000 in my pocket in case I was picked up and needed to post bail.

    I contacted the police, made them aware that I was willing to surrender once the new charges were processed and waited. When they finally called me I surrendered at the same police barracks I had originally been jailed at. I was arrested and locked up again for the third time and again photographed, fingerprinted and so on. I posted $500 bail on the new charge and was released (I don't know why I was never forced to also post the new $10,000 bail on the original Reckless charge - oversight I suspect).

    The prosecutor was trying every trick in the book to make my life miserable. This included usually making me wait in court until the very end of the day before calling my case. So when I appeared at the arraignment on this fresh charge it was not surprising that my case had not been called by lunchtime. As I drove from the court to find some food I was followed by a local police officer who stopped me after I had travelled a few miles from the courthouse. This time I was charged with operating under suspension. I could no longer drive the car but fortunately I was able to call friends to drive it for me. Otherwise the car would have been towed again and I would have had no way to get back to court in time for the afternoon session and, no doubt, I would have faced yet another charge of failure to appear.

    But with the help of my friends, I did make it back in time. So now I was facing a total of 10 months jail time on three separate charges. What's more, the hearing was before a new judge who immediately recused himself due to a conflict. He reported that in the past couple days he had found out that we had both been at the party of a mutual friend some years back. This left only Judge Swords to hear this case as well. How the judge found out about this supposed conflict is still a mystery.

    The operating under suspension charge grew out of another minor speeding case in Connecticut where I had plead not guilty. That court had sent the notice of the hearing to the wrong address and ignored my correspondence asking about the status of the case. The result was my failure to appear and the court asking the Department of Motor Vehicle to suspend my Connecticut driving privileges - notice of which was also sent to the wrong address. The prosecutor in the first case found out about this and instead of telling me, as was her duty under the discovery rules, she waited until I drove again and had the police ambush me and charge me with operating under suspension.

    That afternoon, the prosecution got a court order also barring me from driving. I knew the suspension was not valid but this raised the stakes to such a point that if I had driven I would have been looking at certain jail time and most likely the loss of my ability to practice law.

    It took me five weeks to sort things out to the point where I could drive again in Connecticut. There is no public transportation where I was in Connecticut so in the interim I had to rely on family and friends to drive me everywhere. I can assure you that it is no fun being stranded like that. This was especially galling considering that the suspension is due to a mistake made by the government and not through any fault of my own. Even when I was able to sort things out, the Department of Motor Vehicles managed to add its own little extra suspension by waiting a week after they processed the restoration to actually post the notice of restoration.

    But anyway, the government wasn't the only ones having some successes. No matter how much pressure they piled on, I did not flinch. This was having its effect. What's more, the case was already nine months old and had got absolutely no where. The court is a very busy court and my case was starting to put everyone to serious work. Plus I think it was becoming obvious that my plan was to rack up grounds for appeal and as this thing progressed, the government was starting to look worse and worse.

    So last Monday the prosecution asked to discuss the case and we ultimately agreed that they would dismiss the two charges and accept Accelerated Rehabilitation on the Reckless Driving charge. What this means is that I am neither convicted or acquitted of the charge but rather am put on 30 days probation and provided I do nothing wrong during the probationary period the case is dismissed. The agreement was accepted by another part-time judge - presumably so that Judge Swords would not need to be involved. So now I am on probation through the 5th of May and provided I keep my nose clean then the case will be over. AR is not without consequence though as it can only be used once in a lifetime so now I have used up my one "get out of jail free" card.

    Why did I accept? A bunch of reasons really. Dealing with this has taken a heavy toll. It is no fun continuously being arrested and released. It is very demeaning. Also, a lot of time and effort was involved in fighting. It was also tying me to Connecticut when I really, really didn't want to be there anymore. I could see it going on and on through the summer. The case was getting to the stage where I really would need the assistance of legal counsel and that was going to cost real money. And given the way the case was being conducted by Judge Swords, and most likely would be conducted at trial, I would have likely lost at trial and been facing 10 months jail time. The only way I would have prevailed was on appeal and even that would have just meant a fresh trial. The case could have gone on and on for years. So I settled.

    However, I still need to try to get my original forfeited bail back (and that will be up to Judge Swords). And I still have the minor speeding ticket to resolve. But for now, I am waiting for my 30 day period of probation to pass. Then who knows what. :-)

    My advice to anyone wishing to drive in Connecticut is to be prepared for the worst. The state's three-term ex-governor was just imprisoned for one year for corruption. The governor might be gone but much of the system remains. I would suggest you carry at least $1,000 at all times in case you need to make bail. This is especially true if you do not have a USA license as the police tend to pick on foreigners.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    im really sorry to hear about that man, you are not the only that has had something like that happen to them, I am still feeling the reprocutions of what happened to me about a year ago.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Jeez what a story. I'll be sure to stay away from Connecticut. As you say, keep your nose clean and best of luck getting things working in your favor.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Connecticut is a beautiful state, most of the police are very nice and helpful, even to minorities (i'm chinese). they usually just give verbal warnings

    However, this only applies fairfield county

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    damn, sorry to hear about all your misfortune--

    i had a horrible run in with a state trooper in massachusetts one morning as i was driving from NYC back to med school in New Hampshire...

    brutality.

    hopefully you can keep your dignity and sense of humor in all this~~

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    FixedWing said:

    My advice to anyone wishing to drive in Connecticut is to be prepared for the worst. The state's three-term ex-governor was just imprisoned for one year for corruption. The governor might be gone but much of the system remains. I would suggest you carry at least $1,000 at all times in case you need to make bail. This is especially true if you do not have a USA license as the police tend to pick on foreigners.

    Stephen



    Or, you could just obey all the posted speed limits.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    mav21386 said:
    I am still feeling the reprocutions of what happened to me about a year ago.



    That must've been some "reprocutions."

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    dont be a hypocrite

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Well FixedWing look at it from the bright side, at least you are not from a middle eastren descent, otherwise you would've ended up somewhere in Guantanamo

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    mav21386 said:
    dont be a hypocrite



    I speed everytime I'm behind the wheel. You missed the point.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    God what a terrible sorry , i m really sorry. If i was in your place i d take the 10,000 of the bail and give it to the "right" person,for some "mods" on that cop.

    That is the way to settle things

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Just a 2 Euro advice : become a politic refugee in Old Europe !

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    It wouldn't be the first time. Actually, there is something quite nice about following in Charlie's footsteps.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    I do think those events have had a big impact. And it isn't just the minority groups which are feeling it.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    It certainly doesn't apply to Troop H in Hartford who are quite notorious.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Of course I never would do anything like that but I certainly do grow to understand why there are so many cop haters out there. If you ask me, the police are their own worst enemies. The problem, I think, is that they feel invincable. And for the most part they are above the law.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Good to hear from you again Stephen! You should drop in more often. I always enjoy your posts.

    This Connecticut speeding case just seems to drag on. I can certainly understand you wanting to get it behind you by settling. I would have done the same thing.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Maybe I have missed the point about a Porsche. Unless, it is that if you own a Porsche instead of an Audi, the officer would have fully known that you have enough money to afford a lawyer. Just be thankful for Johnnie Cochran. It was his national effort that put those cameras in Police cars. If that camera wasn't there, then I would bet that you may not be here to tell this story. Or, of course you could just slow down a little.

    Cheers,

    jb

    If you got the Need For Speed, go to the track or, buy a Playstation.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    GM Austin said:
    Good to hear from you again Stephen! You should drop in more often. I always enjoy your posts.



    Yes, I know. I've missed Rennteam and all of the Rennteam people. I think this case had a lot to do with why I wasn't keeping up with things here. For one thing, my Porsche is in Europe and I have been stuck here. For another, maybe when you are being forced to walk and being driven around by your mom in her Buick you just don't feel like talking about performance cars.

    Anyway, happy to have the nasty side of this case behind me and to be back amongst friends.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    I don't get it. You feel you were mistreated ?

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    jboyko said:
    Maybe I have missed the point about a Porsche. Unless, it is that if you own a Porsche instead of an Audi, the officer would have fully known that you have enough money to afford a lawyer. Just be thankful for Johnnie Cochran. It was his national effort that put those cameras in Police cars. If that camera wasn't there, then I would bet that you may not be here to tell this story. Or, of course you could just slow down a little.

    Cheers,

    jb

    If you got the Need For Speed, go to the track or, buy a Playstation.



    If, in the mind of a police officer, the Audi driver is a known homosexual then I wonder what the Porsche driver is?

    As for your comments on speeding .. I certainly cannot argue with you but then, that isn't what this is about, is it? This is about the wholesale denial of civil and human rights and the abuse of the public at the hands of the police and judicial authorities. Surely you would not suggest that this is appropriate conduct whether someone was speeding or not?

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    Stradale said:
    I don't get it. You feel you were mistreated ?



    Yes.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    FixedWing,
    Are'nt you afraid (as I am) to meet on this sport-cars forum some law-and-order addicts ?

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Friends and I use the word "bent" all the time but we always use it to describe someone that is 'upset' or 'pissed off'.
    I've never heard your meaning of that word before.

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    I have to drive to Connecticut all the time and have never had any problems.

    I have also been pulled over in my Porsche at a high speed and attitude goes a long way. I also know that the US is ruled by law. If I drive my car over the threshold where I can be arrested, I have no one else to blame but myself. Every time I drive my car at 125mph in California, I know if I get caught I can be arrested. That is the risk I take for that.

    As an attorney, you should know that being late or missing a court date is a big no no. I find it incredible that you did both of those things.

    USA plates? I thought those were given to US citizens or residents that were living abroad who were working for the government (i.e. military or their families)

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    where are you going vtrader?

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    Stradale said:
    Friends and I use the word "bent" all the time but we always use it to describe someone that is 'upset' or 'pissed off'.
    I've never heard your meaning of that word before.



    I know the meaning you mean "getting bent out of shape". In England there is also an old meaning of crooked or criminal.

    Bent as in homosexual seems to be the current slang use for the word and the only one that fit the context.

    But in the end, who knows what the officer meant? Only he did. All you can do is look at what he said and how he said it and try to figure out what his meaning was. Given the way he acted and the totality of it all, I would have a very hard time ascribing a good meaning to his words.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    Quote:
    cartouche said:
    FixedWing,
    Are'nt you afraid (as I am) to meet on this sport-cars forum some law-and-order addicts ?



    What could they do to me that hasn't already been done?

    Anyway, everyone has a right to their views.

    Stephen

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    I completely find it disturbing, to hear that one of my fellow citizens had been denied their civil liberties, by the increasing presence of a Police State. But come-on, we all know the unwritten rule that 30 over could land you in jail. Also, I don't know why you keep spouting Audi/homosexual connotations. I never said anything about that, and it's not like you were driving a Boxter (just kidding).

    jb

    Re: That infamous Connecticut speeding case

    well i m sorry for law-and-order-friends and addicts

    but some law organs suck so much that i say go fuc them!

     
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