FBI Drops Rubino Probe
by Paul Bass | Jul 5, 2012 2:10 pm
An embattled police sergeant no longer has the feds examining his conduct, but still has an active local internal affairs probe to contend with.
The sergeant is Chris Rubino. He became the subject of separate FBI and New Haven police IA investigations after he arrested an unruly male nightclub patron in the Temple Street plaza around 1:55 a.m. June 4, then arrested a woman who had been videotaping the arrest and pocketed her camera phone after having it removed from her bra.
The FBI probe did not concern the camera-grabbing. It was a probe into whether any civil-rights violations occurred, begun after the FBI saw in the Independent another witness’s photograph (above) of Rubino’s foot on the handcuffed male arrestee’s neck.
Thursday afternoon the police department released word that the FBI had closed that preliminary probe.
The FBI “determined the matter is more appropriately addressed by the New Haven Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division and local authorities,” according to a police statement released late Thursday afternoon.
The police notified the police union of the news.
Rubino, too, had heard the news. “I’m not doing any interviews with you,” he said when asked for comment. “You can print what you want. I’m done with this whole thing.”
His bosses, on the other hand, are not done with the whole thing. The local IA investigation—the seventh of Rubino’s career (read about that here)—remains at full force, according to someone with knowledge of it.
The probe has two foci, according to this person: “The department is investigating the type of techniques Sgt. Rubino used that [were] captured in the photograph [and video]; and the taking of the camera and putting into custody of the female witness.”
The department has a policy guarding against cops snatching citizens’ cameras or arresting them for photographing police work in public spaces. (read about that here.) The order came into being after an assistant chief ordered a man arrested for using his camera on College Street while observing an arrest; the assistant chief also took the camera and erased the photos or videos on it. That assistant chief, Ariel Melendez, subsequently resigned and was found in an IA investigation to have violated department policy. (Read about that here.)
Sgt. Rubino told the Independent in a recent interview that he felt justified in taking the camera and arrested the woman because he needed the footage to back up the misdemeanor arrest he made of the male nightclub patron. (The video in question is at left.)
“I would never have let her leave with that phone,” Rubino said of the woman he arrested, Jennifer Gondola. “Do you think anybody ever turns anything in in favor of the police? She would have never brought that in. I took that because it was in my favor.”
Gondola’s attorney, Diane Polan, noted that Rubino had plenty of police witnesses to his misdemeanor arrest. So there was no “exigency”—a requirement under the Fourth Amendment for seizing people’s property without a warrant—that could remotely legally justify the arrest or having the camera snatched out of Gondola’s bra, Polan said. Rubino’s rationale, if embraced by the state, would put all news reporters in jeopardy, Polan argued. “This would allow the police to grab the video cameras and the still cameras of the press… [If] any member of the media is filming anything that might involve a crime,” cops could “shortcut the legal process and the legal protections everyone has in the name of protecting evidence.”
IA has conducted six previous investigations of Rubino (pictured at left), who is 45 and a 20-year veteran of the force. It concluded that he acted improperly in five of those instances, including arresting someone without probable cause, improperly entering an apartment without a warrant, and “respond[ing] to taunts from a gathered crowd by removing his badge and attempting to remove his equipment belt in order to physically challenge a civilian.” Wrote one supervisor: ““Officer Rubino has shown a total disdain for supervision and is constantly doing something questionable or in violation of Department policies. I truly feel that this officer should be severely disciplined and sent a message that his lack of responsibility and professionalism will not be condoned or tolerated.”
Previous stories on this case:
• IA Probes Camera-Grabbing Cop For 7th Time
• State Wins Delay To “Research” Camera-Grabbing
• Video-Recorded Arrestee Disputes Police Account
• FBI Gets OK To Inspect Cop-Filmer’s Phone
• Rubino: “I’ll Be Vindicated”
• FBI Joins Beating Probe
• Sgt. Arrests Video-Taker; IA Probe Begins