First Lennie Gallo, an aspiring New Haven top cop, was exiled to the animal shelter when his boss said he couldn’t be trusted with humans. He reemerged as next-door East Haven’s chief—and now the center of a federal probe into alleged evidence-tampering that goes beyond harassing Latinos.
Gallo’s own lawyer acknowledges that he is likely “Co-Conspirator 1” named in a fresh grand jury indictment charging wide-ranging civil-rights violations against Latinos and cover-ups carried out by East Haven cops under Gallo’s command. Authorities arrested four East Haven cops Tuesday based on that indictment. (That case grew out of incidents involving immigrants and advocates from New Haven’s Fair Haven neighborhood, first reported in the Independent.)
The grand jury’s work is not done; Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein noted Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing.
And Gallo may be emerging as the big fish in the middle of a closing net.
According to two people familiar with testimony before the grand jury, the questioning of alleged conspirators went far beyond the racial profiling and harassment and false arrests of Latinos. It centered on whether Gallo oversaw and perhaps participated in the repeated rewriting and altering of reports involving other arrests—arrests of white people, not Latinos. Especially an arrest of former East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon. The report in that case may have been altered dozens of times.
“What they’re after now is cover-up and intimidation. It’s a classic case of the crime is bad, but the cover-up is worse,” said one person familiar with the grand jury’s line of questioning. “That’s clearly where they’re headed.”
“It had nothing to do with Latinos,” said another person familiar with the questioning, who appeared before Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel and the two dozen or so grand jurors in the room in the Bridgeport federal courthouse where testimony has been taken.
Gallo for now has held on, defiant in the face of all charges. So has his key supporter, current East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo.
Gallo’s attorney, Jonathan Einhorn, declined comment on the grand jury’s line of questioning. He called the obvious references to Gallo in this week’s indictment “unfair.”
“It implies that he’s guilty of a crime,” Einhorn said. “In fact, he’s not charged with a crime.”
With the feds circling, the episode marks the latest turn in a drama that began in New Haven. The city’s fraught relationship with Gallo continues to dog him.
In the 1980s, Gallo was a rising star in New Haven’s police department. He was an aggressive cop, known for rough policing on the street. And he was ambitious, seen as a possible future chief; he commanded a loyal following among some white rank-and-file cops who took a physical approach to the job. Gallo rose through the ranks in the 1980s when the city’s police chief and mayor embraced aggressive policing, defended rather than disciplined cops accused of brutality. It was the era of the “Beat-Down Posse,” a roving van full of officers who stopped on random street corners in the black community and roughed people up. Gallo held the title of “commander,” right below “chief.”
Gallo’s fortunes changed when the city’s first black mayor, John Daniels, took office in 1990. Daniels appointed a Gallo foe, Nicholas Pastore, as chief with a mission to bring in community policing, disband the Beat-Down Posse, and repair relations with the minority community. Pastore pushed all top-ranking cops loyal to the old guard into retirement—except Gallo, who defied the pressure and emerged as the unofficial standard-bearer of the old-style officers. Pastore responded by reassigning Gallo to the city’s animal shelter. He said he couldn’t trust Gallo to deal with people.
After Daniels left office, the next mayor, John DeStefano, rescued Gallo in 1994 by offering him a job as a investigator in the corporation counsel’s office. After Maturo became mayor in 1998, East Haven embraced Gallo, bringing him on as chief.
It was the era of the Malik Jones case—the aftermath of the chase by a white East Haven cop of an unarmed black New Havener into Fair Haven. The cop shot the man dead at close range in his car. New Haven protests erupted at what people called a long pattern of racial harassment and brutality by East Haven cops.
In his new East Haven job, Gallo sent a clear message to his old city and his old critics: He elevated the cop who killed Malik Jones to to department spokesman. When New Haven’s NAACP organized a protest caravan to East Haven one night, New Haven cops accompanied members’ cars to the town border. Gallo met them there with his own East Haven officers. He ordered the New Haven cops to stay out of his town; he and his cops would handle the “accompaniment” from then on.
A new generation of New Haven critics took on Gallo and his force beginning in 2009.
The priest of St. Rose of Lima Church in Fair Haven, where many immigrants worship, went to investigate complaints that Gallo’s cops were routinely targeting, stopping, ticketing, threatening, arresting, sometimes beating Latinos who live, work, or visit the commercial strip of Latino-owned businesses on Main Street just over the New Haven-East Haven border. On one visit, cops arrested the priest, Father James Manship, as he video-recorded them in action (as first reported in this Independent story). The cops claimed in a report that they thought Manship was pointing a gun at them. But the video revealed that they knew he had a camera all along.
Click the play arrow to watch the video, featuring Officers David Cari and Dennis Spaulding, who were arrested Tuesday.
The “interfering” charges against Manship were dropped. But the case was just starting. Two groups of New Haveners—members of St. Rose of Lima, and Yale law students—compiled a list of profiling and harassment complaints against the East Haven cops. They filed a federal suit. And they called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
It did. In separate criminal and civil investigations, it spent two years looking into Gallo’s crew. It examined computer records, messages sent among officers, police reports. Throughout, officials charged, Gallo himself and some of his underlings not only refused to cooperate—they blocked the feds’ work. And they allegedly intimidated rank-and-file cops who considered daring to provide information to the feds. Last month the U.S. Attorney’s office released a report detailing alleged widespread abuses; Gallo was a key character in the report. (Read about that here.)
The report accused Gallo “and other EHPD officers” of “creat[ing] a hostile and intimidating environment for persons who wished to cooperate with our investigation.” The report cited “messages on a police union bulletin board that referred to ‘rats’ at EHPD.” It said “Chief Gallo had warned that DOJ had agreed to provide him with the names of individuals who cooperated with the investigation,” even though DOJ had told Gallo names would remain confidential. And, “remarkably,” according to the report, EHPD officers at “a late evening meeting ... warned DOJ staff and a police practices consultant that they could not guarantee their safety during ride-alongs with officers.” Officials said if East Haven doesn’t clean up its act, a civil lawsuit could follow.
Meanwhile, a criminal case proceeded based on grand jury testimony being presented in Bridgeport. That led to this Tuesday’s arrests of four cops.
Gallo isn’t named in the indictment. (Click here to read the indictment.) “Co-conspirator-1” is. This person “protected” the four officers who allegedly routinely targeted, harassed, and arrested Latinos and lied about it, according to the indictment. This person blocked the Board of Police Commissioners from gaining information about or investigating the officers and the complaints. “Co-Conspirator 1” ordered that police commissioners be blocked from the premises, the indictment noted.
Gallo was the one who issued that order. “It’s obvious to anybody who’s followed this situation. He’s clearly the person they refer to as ‘Co-Conspirator 1,’” noted Einhorn, Gallo’s attorney.
What Goes Around ...
Not only do the indictment’s references suggest the grand jury is looking at Gallo, so did the questions the grand jury and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patel asked witnesses who came before them last summer, according to the two people with knowledge of the deliberations.
They said much of the questioning concerned a notable arrest Gallo’s cops made on Sept. 4, 2009: East Haven’s mayor, April Capone Almon.
Gallo and Almon had been at odds. It was a replay of the scenario that led to Gallo’s reversal of future in New Haven in the early 1990s. A mayor who supported his controversial, aggressive approach, Joe Maturo, was voted out of office. A new mayor, Almon, came in promising change.
Gallo’s cops arrested Almon and her secretary for allegedly interfering with the towing of cars at a town beach. (Read the Register’s original story here.) The state eventually dropped the charges. Gallo’s police then retaliated by getting the Register to run a front-page story during a reelection campaign quoting unnamed “sources” raising questions about her sexual preference. That, too, backfired; politicians rallied around Almon and she won reelection
Meanwhile, the feds were in town. Among the many files they examined was apparently Capone’s arrest report. According to the people familiar with the grand jury proceedings, investigators discovered that after her arrest, cops had returned to the report and altered it as many as two dozen times. Witnesses were asked repeatedly about the details of the incident, about the report, and about the alterations.
“It was clear they had repeated instances of rewriting,” said one of the people familiar with the proceedings. “They [investigators] went back and figured who went in and changed what in what police report. They’re clearly going down that road.”
In addition to the Almon’s case, the probe examined the arrest of an elderly veteran whose car was hit by the wife of a Maturo aide, and whether Gallo was involved in altering facts of that incident, too. Also being examined is the police report in the arrest of Father Manship.
Feds Helped Gallo, Too?
Back in East Haven, as the feds proceeded with their inquiry, Almon put Gallo on administrative leave pending the outcome. Gallo’s backers plotted revenge again. They won a temporary victory last November by helping to get Maturo back into office. He unseated Almon by a mere 34 votes. And Maturo returned the favor by returning Gallo to the position of police chief. Maturo also stopped the mayoral cooperation with the probe, officials indicated at last month’s U.S. attorney press conference.
But that victory may be short-lived, given the focus of the continuing grand jury probe. Mayor Maturo continues to stand behind Gallo and the department. (He faces his own problems now because of his reaction to Tuesday’s arrests; click here to read a Register editorial about that, which has sparked calls for Maturo’s ouster from office.)
Ironically, the feds might not have had to spend so much extra effort—and money—tussling with the town of East Haven over this case.
If the arrests had come before the November mayoral election rather than soon after, Maturo might not have squeaked back into office by 34 votes. Gallo would not have returned to the chief’s office. The town would still be cooperating with the feds, not fighting them. The feds might not be preparing a possible civil-rights lawsuit to go along with the criminal indictments.
Asked about that at last month’s press conference in the New Haven U.S. Attorney’s office, Roy Austin, the DOJ’s deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, denied the feds ever hold off on arrests or reports until after elections. (Click on the play arrow to watch Austin’s remarks.)
Despite what Austin said, a DOJ policy manual specifically suggests that agents wait until after elections to proceed with sensitive investigations. (Click here to read about that.) The feds are instructed to avoid “causing the investigation itself to become a campaign issue.”
Excellent journalism, Paul. I’m not sure, however, why you keep harping on Roy Austin’s comments about the timing of the release. Even if he did not know it, he acted consistently with written DOJ policy and I don’t find it troublesome that he’s not familiar with every line in every policy manual.
I can understand why you think the policy might be a bad one: voters should be as informed as possible before an election. I can also understand why the DOJ has the policy in place: they do not want to be seen as manipulating local elections, especially on the basis of preliminary accusations that have not been proven in court. But I think what Roy Austin said or didn’t say is just an irrelevant distraction.
posted by: westville man on January 25, 2012 3:33pm
I agree that the timing of the release is appropriate given these are only charges so far. That said, having grown up in EH, I think that the piece always missing in these EH reports of police misconduct and politically “incorrect” statements and actions is this: many EH citizens AGREE with those actions and statements. Many dont want “diversity”- they are happy with the way EH is and wish to preserve what they see as their way of life. Let me be clear- not all citizens feel this way. But many, many do and that’s why the “culture” of the police department and politics remains mostly unchanged for all these years. It follows what folks believe is best for them and their community.
posted by: davec on January 25, 2012 4:18pm
White flight comes home to roost.
posted by: FrankS on January 25, 2012 4:31pm
DeStefano didn’t rescue Gallo this assignment to Corp. Counsel was part of His Law Suit award against the city.
posted by: Eric Smith on January 25, 2012 4:40pm
Gallo is quickly becoming the Bull Connor of the north with the Q Bridge becoming the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Connecticut. I hope Westville Man is wrong about the people of East Haven and I hope they prove him wrong by first demanding that Maturo both remove Gallo as chief and then resign himself because of his actions and comments.
The question that comes to my mind is, “What did Mayor Joe Maturo know and when did he know it?”
posted by: mike on January 25, 2012 6:55pm
great in depth article
posted by: Ellis Copeland on January 25, 2012 7:26pm
Wonder what Maturo’s half-baked excuse will be? He’s the only CT pol that can make El Jefe Johnny looked semi-respectable.
posted by: Anonymous on January 25, 2012 11:55pm
For the past two days I have been reading all of the articles about the arrests of the EHPD officers and the associated fallout. I was not going to post anything, but I simply cannot take it anymore. Some of the things I have read are truly disgusting and make me sick. So I will comment only once, now, on the NHI because this site is the only one worthy of what I have to say. First, I am a White, Italian-American police officer who was raised in the Town of East Haven, which I love dearly. And although I have moved from EH, the rest of my family and most of my friends remain there. Regarding the officers recently arrested, I hope that we all remember that they are innocent until proven guilty. Due process of law will determine what is factual and fictitious. I wish them well, and sincerely hope that the allegations are not true. Regarding EH, it has not been right for many, many years. I grew up in a modest household with both parents working full time, but sharing one vehicle. My dad would usually get a ride home from work from a friend and co-worker who was Black, who continually got stopped by the EHPD after he dropped my dad off at home. My dad thanked him, but told him he did not want him to endure the harassment of being stopped by the EHPD on a regular basis, so he would take the bus home and walk the rest of the way. His friend wouldn’t hear of it, he continued to drive my dad home after work and continued to be stopped by the PD. My dad used that as an example to teach me at a young age that friends always stay loyal to each other, no matter what, and to always maintain your integrity regardless of whatever bullshit your faced with. It also served as a lesson to never back down from a situation where you know you are right. I respect those men immensely, and always have. Years later, at a young age, I joined a city police force and my academy class was very diverse. I made many good friends, all of which were afraid to come to my home in EH because they feared being harassed by the EHPD. One of my friends, who was Black, said “to you that sign says Entering East Haven, to me it says Nigger Go Home.” I was stunned, and I felt terrible. I finally convinced him to come to EH. I told him the town merely had a bad reputation and was not truly like that, nor was the EHPD. He decided to be objective and come to my house, but he never made it. He was stopped by the EHPD and told to turn around and go back to “his town.” Let me reiterate, he was a police officer and a damn good one at that. But further, let me tell you what it is like when you finally venture out into the world from behind the walls of EH. Life is different, you find that there are many good people of all races, some really bad ones as well. You learn to look beyond skin color and ethnic background and see people for who they truly are: some bad, some good. But for a White, Italian Male working as a police officer in a predonimantly monority area of town, the tables of racism were quickly turned on me. I was now the person that should go back to “his town” and was hated because I was from EH and Italian due to the stigma that had been attached to me. In my first few years I had endured so many assaults while working that I would take my name tag off of my uniform so the gang members wouldn’t know I was Italian because when they saw my name they would look for an opportunity to “jump” me, spit on me, or shoot my police car full of holes. Routinely, I would go on calls with other officers and would have to stay outside of peoples homes because they said they didn’t want the “Italian Mother-Fucker” in their house. I could go on forever with these stories, but I won’t. It will suffice to say that EH needs to change with the times. And the people of EH need to know that changing with the times does not mean we have to give up what we all hold very dear to our hearts: family, friends, and a safe community. Those things can be achieved by an ethnically diverse community that consists of all good people. Give it a chance.
posted by: Not shocked in Staven on January 26, 2012 6:06am
Don’t forget this is a town where it is the norm that soOK citizens are proud that they have officers who are racists against hard working citizens, where a innocent man was killed by another Officer and it al was ok. Shameful for a small town full of obvious predjudprejudiceminded citizens who chat in Stop and Shop about how wonderful it is to live in East Haven…
Matter of REAL FACTS One of the officers in the video ( the lil oneLilhe past year again used his “powers” as a police officer to falsely have a female friend arrested simply because his best fiend was her ex..and they wanted to simply cause her emotional pain, distress and the aggravation of numerous court hearings,time from her job and children to have to defend herself and her innocence. She kept saying he is lying, I did not do what they said…He is a cop and he lied!!! she had no alternative but to suck it up because it was his word against hers!
Imagine what she went thru having to fight against this officer (the short lil one) ..the same as the Feds Indicments and his racial profiling and numerous other charges… Amazing to me he and his 3 other counterparts have gotten away this long with such unjust.
Well, I guess the saying is true. What goes around comes around….He certainly got his… I wonder too, how many other citizens have experienced unjust from this Police Dept and have been afraid to come forth…Kudos and praise to the Feds for investigating this town of “Staven”... Prayers to the hard working citizens who do not agree with this Police Dept and Mayor….you happen to just live there unfortunately….I say get out of that Town…far away from such sickening behaviors of the higher ups!!!!!
posted by: Shocked not on January 26, 2012 6:13am
Westville man you are so correct in every word….Sad but true..the majority of the citizens do indeed agree and side with the unjust of that town…I lived there in the 80’s briefly and hated it…I am a middle class Italian hard working female who is not prejudice but that town is…and it starts from the Police dept onto the Mayor..who sadly humiliated himself with his recent comment…
Thankfully the FEDS stepped in. NHI keep up the great reporting…
What proportion of East Haven’s civil servants making more than $80,000/year (salaries + benefits) are white? What is the median income? Good questions for NHI to investigate.
Incidentally, this is also one of the easiest issues to solve, by enacting simple policy measures. Many other countries have done it and it is working there.
The Northeast (including NYC, New Haven and Boston) is one of the most unequal places in the United States, so by extension the developed world.
posted by: Bill on January 26, 2012 11:38am
I must have missed the trial. When were these EH officers found guilty?
posted by: Billy on January 26, 2012 12:09pm
Does anyone know if there is a demonstration planned to demand the removal of Maturo and/or Gallo? Very important what the DOJ is doing, but is there a simultaneous citizen response being coordinated?
posted by: NewHavenResident on January 26, 2012 12:13pm
Anonymous I want to thank you for that, it was awesome…. I am latino, and my kids are bi-racial. They still small, and I’m teaching them you can become friend with anyone. Make sure you respect them and they respect you. Is 2012, no more of that racial treatment. Once again, Anonymous great story.
posted by: robn on January 26, 2012 12:19pm
Thank you ANONYMOUS police officer.
posted by: Newhavener on January 26, 2012 12:35pm
Anonymous, Thank you. I hope the EHPD, residents, and especially the Mayor hear you.
posted by: Truth Avenger on January 26, 2012 12:57pm
Anonymous: Thank you for one of the best letters I have read in response to an article or issue in NHI. I’m glad you took the time to relate these important stories. Thank you for your service and for your sensitivity to issues of race, prejudice profiling. Would that both the community at large and the Police Department take the time to read your sage words and think about the implications of judging another based on ethnicity, color, or last name.
posted by: Stephen on January 26, 2012 1:00pm
I wish “Anonymous” (January 25th, 11:55 PM) was not anonymous. He should be appointed to oversee a makeover of the East Haven PD. And maybe Mr. Gallo can go back to the animal shelter - if we can trust him that far.
posted by: Judy Martone Peluso on January 26, 2012 4:42pm
. . . and he was entrusted to care for animals, why???? It is certainly shameful that someone like Gallo can be made chief of police anywhere!
posted by: Mike on January 26, 2012 4:51pm
Stephen- Officer Stephani Johnson has the animal shelter under control, you dont need to insult the tremendous job she does for the city of New Haven.
posted by: Stephen on January 26, 2012 8:00pm
Mike - Believe me, I’m not looking to insult the folks at animal control. Just responding to the former New Haven police chief’s remark when he assigned Gallo there. (Check it out in the article.)
posted by: STUD 88 on January 27, 2012 4:36am
Interesting history of policing in the eighties for the NHPD. Just a correction, references to the “BDP” were created, enlarged, and exagerated, by members, leaders, and supporters of organized drug gangs which were engaged in the worst violence New Haven has seen since the Revolutionary War. (that is not an exageration, but the truth, with an average of 40 homicides, and 1000 shootings a year)Even the riots of 1967 and Mayday paled in comparison to what occurred in the late 80s and early 90s.
To ignore this, or deny it, is to enable the gangs that gave birth to this violence and continue to perpetuate it, unimpeded to this day. New Haven has been under the influence of this illegal and oppressive violence for 25 years now. Tens of thousands of survivors, who have lost loved ones, existing in shock, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder are citizens of New Haven. Many are raising another generation of children who are taught that being shot is just a matter of fact for their lives.
This is an abomination. The fact that city hall, elected officials from the most dangerous neighborhoods, and the leaders of these gangs themselves have dehumanized all of these families should be compared to war crimes.So many have lost someone to this violence, and are forced to watch as this city will cast their children into a hell no child in this country deserves. This is not Somolia.
What does this much violence create? An equal and opoppositeeaction. The use of legal force by police has always been viewed with disgust. The problem with legal force is that it is sanctioned violence against another person. Then it is judged by those that observe it through their personal opinions and bias. Yes there are white male cops, and minority arrestees, that result in the use of legal force, but sadly it mimics racial violence.
The only way this can be corrected,and this is bizarre to type, have white police only arrest white people, males only arrest males, etc. One would think this would satisfy those that obobserve the use of arrest and legal force from ever claiming a bias.
But no, use of police force will always be questioned.Arrestees will always get their day in court. And one will find that those that are protesting the loudest have a criminal or political interest in trying to alter the behavior of law enforcement agencies.
Some are trying to back off police that are investigating organized gangs, that they themselves receive financial support. Many times they themselves are the parents of these gang members, who have been arresstted and convicted for illegal narcotics sales, firearm’s law violations, assault with firearms, and murder with firearms related to the operation of their illegal drug dealing gangs.
The next most visible person to be suspect in these protests is the social activist/political candidate. It is a good way to fulfill a commitment to gangs that fill their coffers with the funds to run a neighborhood organization, that uses social causes as a front to recruit children into these gangs.
Or receive funds for their political campaigns, with the ultimate goal and hopes of the drug gangs that they will have a successful candidacy for mayor, which will result in ultimate control of the police, and control of which gangs will be investigated and who won’t be investigated.
These observations do not come lightly, being on the streets for over forty years, involved in a variety of roles allows for me to see this from a variety of sides. But the bias of those that read this will judge it to their own favor or disfavor.
The purpose of this message? Just a fact correction in the beginning of article. The original CAPACT, where the use of legal force was prominent, and lead to the naming by those “Posses” that were selling drugs and had to be wary of the location of the van.
It had cut into the statistics relating to nightime violence, by over 50%, saving untold number of lives and families. It was Gallo that dismantled it in late 1988, from the complaints of many that are still complaining to this day about the use of legal force that they believe as excessive, racially oriented, and not necessary.
These same voices, here and nationwide, are the onus for such things as mace and tasers. Yes, gassing or electrocuting people is viewed as more humane, and comes in response to the complaints of police violence from these “activistis”. And now they protest against those.
I think that what they should do is protest in their neighborhoods against those violent, and murderous leaders of the drug gangs, that are killing their childrent, and destroying the hope and dreams of the children that have to bear witness to the slaughter of their friends, and the adults that do nothing to stop it, within their own neighborhoods.
posted by: To Paul B. & Anonymous on January 27, 2012 7:42am
Thanks for article, thanks for the comment.
posted by: raymondromano on January 27, 2012 3:40pm
First lets start with the facts which are this: Chief Gallo and mayor Maturo should check their ancestry, they will be surprised to know that both the Gallo’s and Maturo’s were immigrants themselves probably less than 100 years ago. Italian Americans came here in the early 1920’s seeking a better life for themselves and their children. They did not come here to take food out of anyones’ mouth but rather find a way to feed their families by working hard for a living. Both of these clowns should be dragged out of EH for their bigotry, racism and ignorance. There are plenty of good people in East Haven. These two are not and should both be taken out of office. Learn a little history and you will see that we are all immigrants. Remember Texas and New Mexico belonged to the Mexicans before the US and its imperialistic government kicked them out. The Native Americans were decimated by our government. We are all intruders in a country that did not belong to us.
posted by: Snoopy on January 29, 2012 9:15am
Several years ago a 911 call following a MV accident was made in East Haven. Part of which was on news and was in paper. The taped conversation went like this, “we are not sending help, its just some n______ from New Haven.” It turned out the victims of AA were Caucasians. Nothing happen as a result of this egregious racist behavior and East Haven will never change.