Judge Cuts Girlfriend-Slugging Cop A Break

Thomas Breen photoNew Haven Police Officer Alex Morgillo didn’t dispute that he called his girlfriend a “little whore,” punched her in the face, threw her to the ground, and spat chewing tobacco on her.

He did argue he deserves a chance to avoid jail — and a judge Monday granted him that chance over a state prosecutor’s vociferous objections.

That happened Monday morning in a third-floor courtroom at the state courthouse at 121 Elm St., where Superior Court Judge Denise Markle accepted Morgillo’s application to participate in the pre-trial Family Violence Education Program (FVEP) and have his case dismissed if he completes it.

Morgillo and his attorney Tim Gunning had submitted the FVEP application at a court hearing in December.

Per Markle’s order on Monday, Morgillo will attend nine court-monitored domestic violence education and rehabilitation sessions over the next year. He also has to abide by a year-long protective order that bars him from carrying any guns or live ammunition.

If he successfully completes the program, abides by his protective order, and avoids getting arrested for any other reasons over the next year year, then the court will consider dropping the charges of third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace with which he’s been charged. That’s usually what the court decides to do.

Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney David Strollo argued passionately against Morgillo’s admission to the pre-trial diversionary program. Strollo wanted to prosecute the case.

Morgillo’s poor judgment, violent conduct, and status as a police officer should require him to go to trial and face a potential conviction, Strollo told the judge.

“He’s a police officer,” State Prosecutor David Strollo argued during Monday’s hearing against Morgillo’s admission to the pretrial diversionary program. “In our society, I believe, police officers who are entrusted with a gun, with a taser, with the ability to arrest someone with handcuffs, should be held to a higher standard.”

That may be so, Markle said. But Morgillo is entitled to the same education and rehabilitation services that every other eligible defendant with no prior convictions and facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges can receive, Markle argued.

“The statute does not preclude any government [employee] or police officer from participating in this program simply by nature of the occupation,” she said.

So, for now, and potentially for the year to come, Morgillo remains a police officer on administrative duty.

Police Chief Anthony Campbell said the department is still conducting an internal investigation into Morgillo’s alleged misconduct. The department will not conclude the internal investigation until the court renders its final verdict, he said. Per Markle’s order, the final verdict (and likely dismissal of charges) won’t come until January 2020.

“I have to wait and see ultimately what this officer’s adjudication will be,” Campbell said, “then, based on the Internal Affairs investigation, I’ll present to the Board [of Police Commissions] to see what they would do.”

Morgillo is the latest city police officer to be arrested and go to court for charges of domestic violence. Four other city cops were arrested on domestic violence-related charges in separate cases during a three-month period in 2018.

The Facts Of The Case

Monday morning was the first time in three court appearances that the facts of Morgillo’s case were read in open court. Even the judge said that she had not yet read the arrest report written by city police.

Raising his voice so that no word in his argument was lost in the high-ceilinged court room, Strollo read through the details of the arrest report as he made his case for why Morgillo should face trial rather go to rehab.

According to Strollo’s presentation and the New Haven Police Department arrest report that he read in court, city police responded to a domestic violence complaint at Morgillo’s home in New Haven on Oct. 15, 2018.

Strollo said Morgillo had been out watching football, and came home to find his current girlfriend at home with her ex-boyfriend. “He came home to find them together at the house,” he said. “Not in any particular state. Just in the house.”

The ex-boyfriend left; Morgillo followed him. The two men yelled at each other outside of Morgillo’s house. Morgillo ultimately pulled the ex-boyfriend out of the latter’s car.

“They basically had a mostly verbal confrontation,” Strollo said.

Then Morgillo’s girlfriend came outside.

“This defendant called her ‘a little whore,’” Strollo said, “punched her in the face, threw her to the ground, and spit chewing tobacco on her.”

Morgillo’s girlfriend went back into the house, called the police, and hid Morgillo’s police belt, which contained his gun, Strollo continued.

Judge Markle slowed Strollo down.

Was Morgillo on duty? the judge asked.

No, Strollo said.

Did he give any indication that he wanted to find his police equipment with the intent of inflicting more harm on his girlfriend? the judge asked.

No, Strollo said.

Why did she hide his police belt? she asked.

Strollo said the girlfriend is an emergency room nurse, and is familiar with these types of domestic violence altercations escalating into even more violence.

“She wouldn’t have done that if she did not have some grave concerns about some type of violence,” Strollo said.

When the police arrived, Strollo said, the girlfriend told them that she did not want to get Morgillo into trouble. But according to police body camera footage recorded at the time of the arrest, she did provide a verbal statement describing the facts as Strollo presented them.

“Here’s a person that society entrusts to have a gun,” Strollo said, “to have a taser, to have handcuffs, to have a nightstick, and this is the way he acts.”

Strollo argued that the pretrial diversionary Family Violence Education Program is designed for people of sound judgment who are capable of education and reform. Morgillo knew that his girlfriend spent time with her ex-boyfriend from time to time, he said.

“It’s not a spur of the moment thing,” Strollo said. “It goes to his character and his ability to be a police officer.”

Past Misconduct Inadmissable?

Strollo then moved to present an additional bit of evidence to bolster his argument .

“On Jan. 24, 2018,” he said, “a convicted felon was found in possession of a firearm registered to this defendant ...”

That’s as far as Strollo got. Gunning, Morgillo’s lawyer, interjected that the incident Strollo was referring to was unrelated to the current charge and FVEP application under consideration.

Judge Markle agreed. She asked Strollo if the prior incident precipitated a conviction. No, he said. Did it involve a firearm? Yes, he said.

Did it involve the same complainant — that is, the girlfriend whom Strollo allegedly punched in October? No, Strollo said.

Markle said that prior act of misconduct, therefore, was irrelevant to the matter at hand.

“If the state were allowed to bring in every prior bad act by somebody,” she said, “and argue that that prior bad act precludes a defendant from getting any diversionary programs, then quite frankly, Mr. Strollo, the court would be denying this program” in many, many cases.

Strollo pressed his case. He said that the prior incident, though it didn’t factor into the material details of the case at hand and would likely not be eligible to be presented if the case went to trial, nevertheless shed light on the persistent poor judgment that Morgillo has exercised while employed as police officer. Morgillo has been on the force since graduating from the police academy in 2008.

“He clearly is a candidate for this program,” Gunning argued instead. When the court reached out to Morgillo’s girlfriend, he said, the girlfriend said she approved of Morgillo attending the program.

Gunning said the court should leave the determination of Morgillo’s fitness to be a police officer to the police department itself.

Markle said she would have to think on it. She temporarily passed on deciding on the issue, and went into an hour-long recess, during which she consulted with the the two lawyers and the court’s victim justice advocate.

FVEP Approved

The judge returned to her bench just after noon on Monday. She asked Strollo to explain one more time why the state thinks Morgillo should not have access to the pre-trial diversionary program and should go to trial istead.

“He knows better,” Strollo said. “He’s not like the average person.” He went through training to become a police officer that should have provided him with an adequate understanding of how not to act with his girlfriend, Strollo argued.

The training likely pertained to how to respond to calls of domestic violence, Markle said, and not necessarily to how he should act when off duty.

“The emphasis in family violence has always been towards education and rehabilitation over punishment,” she said.

Then she approved Morgillo’s application to participate in the pre-trial diversionary program. She said he must attend nine sessions over the next year, and, if he successfully completes them, the court will consider dismissing all charges against him.

She also left in place the protective order that bars Morgillo from carrying a gun or live ammunition for the next year.

“It most probably will have an impact on the defendant’s employment as a police officer,” she said.

After the hearing, Campbell declined to comment on the specifics of Morgillo’s case, as it is still under internal investigation by the police department and as it is still technically under the province of the state court until Morgillo’s next hearing in January 2020.

“We’ve had people on administrative duty who cannot carry a weapon,” Campbell said, usually for medical rather than criminal reasons. “I can’t honestly remember having someone we know could not hold a weapon for a year.”

The internal investigation over whether or not Morgillo should remain employed by the police department will continue, he said. “We will be in close contact with the court,” he said.

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posted by: challenge on January 7, 2019  5:09pm

Above the law as usual. Not news.

posted by: Greg-Morehead on January 7, 2019  5:32pm

I will play the race card with this one….
If that officer was black….......
I’ll leave that right there…

posted by: Noteworthy on January 7, 2019  5:55pm

The cop should get the same consideration by the courts as any other defendant. However, I’m more concerned with his continued employment by the City of New Haven. The department should not be waiting until final adjudication from the court - post his enrollment and successful completion of domestic violence counseling and education. If he in fact did these things, and that seems to be beyond doubt, then he should be fired and not put on an administrative post, continue to collect his salary and benefits - in effect have taxpayers keep him whole while he drains taxpayers on the other hand. This is wrong and fights with basic common sense of good HR. Fire him.

posted by: Xavier on January 7, 2019  6:19pm

100% in agreement with Morehead on Mongillo.
If he was not white, there would have been another outcome.

What will the police board of commissioners do?
What will the civilian oversight board do?
What will the police union do?
What will Campbell do?
What will the mayor do?

The court and law failed. There are other avenues.

No gun for girl beaters.
No taser for spitting, steaming mad Morgilllo.
No night stick for out of control, “hide from cameras behind my lawyer” mean man Morgillo.
No badge for bully, because a bully should never have a badge.

posted by: William Kurtz on January 7, 2019  6:26pm

Maybe that whole pre-trial domestic violence diversion nonsense needs to go. Is there any data on how successful it is? At what rate do participants reoffend?

posted by: thecove on January 7, 2019  10:16pm

This guy’s gotta go.

posted by: wendy1 on January 7, 2019  11:45pm

I will not hire this guy.

posted by: tmctague on January 8, 2019  7:35am

posted by: William Kurtz on January 7, 2019 5:26pm
Maybe that whole pre-trial domestic violence diversion nonsense needs to go. Is there any data on how successful it is? At what rate do participants reoffend?

Amen.  I can think of more deserving people in the courts - not this guy. 

The internal investigation over whether or not Morgillo should remain employed by the police department will continue, he said. “We will be in close contact with the court,” he said.

^This is also baffling.

posted by: unprotected on January 8, 2019  10:14am

It’s ironic that people would like to hold this officer to a higher standard yea treat the same officer as a second-class citizen when they are in public and in uniform.

I have followed several cases closely in the recent past. Politicians and people who are connected with in the city would like to be treated differently because of who they are and the office they hold while an officer who does not ask for special treatment is given such and is being attacked. 

I am sure the same officer has watched people that he had arrested with guns, drugs, etc walk out of court on a nolle, only to watch the same court throw the book at him.

Hopefully he gets the help he needs and the system will finally figure out a way to fix itself with all this community outcry to send him away to jail.

posted by: Trustme on January 8, 2019  11:44am

@character, “above the law” go to court and watch how many bad guys; either with domestic, guns, significant amount of drugs, serious assaults charges, etc get a slap in the wrist by a judge. Your jaw would with the floor.

posted by: Somewhere In New Haven on January 8, 2019  11:46am

The judge’s decision doesn’t surprise me - ........  appears from White House down, everyone is above the law except “Just Us” .....

posted by: garyleader on January 8, 2019  11:53am

I’m confident this is all about race! I watched the criminal justice throw the book at black & Hispanics involved in domestics.  Perfect example, let’s not forget Ofc. Russell Blackwell.  He lost his job, the department fired him for a fight he had with his girlfriend, children’s father. 
The New Haven community needs to wake up, corruption throughout the entire police dept, court and mayors office! I really hope the New Haven Independent will post my comment, I continue to only provide facts! Chief Campbell, AC Otonial Reyes and AC Cain need to go, immediately!

posted by: tmctague on January 8, 2019  12:22pm

posted by: unprotected on January 8, 2019 9:14am
It’s ironic that people would like to hold this officer to a higher standard yet treat the same officer as a second-class citizen when they are in public and in uniform.

I’m sure poor people and people of color could tell you a thing or two about being treated as a second class citizen, but this wife-beating cop doesn’t get my pity.  The disrespect and mistrust aimed a police officers was not borne of nothing: people act according to their previous experiences with police.  There are plenty of fine cops, but this was not one of them:

“Officer Alex Morgillo didn’t dispute that he called his girlfriend a “little whore,” punched her in the face, threw her to the ground, and spat chewing tobacco on her.”

As the saying goes, no one gets caught the first time.

posted by: Trustme on January 8, 2019 10:44am
...go to court and watch how many bad guys; either with domestic, guns, significant amount of drugs, serious assaults charges, etc get a slap in the wrist by a judge. Your jaw would with the floor.

My jaw hit the floor after reading this story.  The “bad guys” you refer to aren’t trained and paid to protect the public, so this is a little different.  The NHPD should enthusiastically purge bad apples from its ranks.

posted by: bikyst on January 8, 2019  1:04pm

Convicted domestic abusers should never be able to have a gun.  They should lose their 2nd amendment rights. 

How is a police officer going to do their job without a gun?

posted by: levelupforreal on January 8, 2019  2:05pm

This is flabbergasting that race is blatantly well and alive in these New Haven judicial outcomes yet again. It’s sad that one police domestic violence case is weighed differently knowing that if this officer was black the outcome would have been more expensive and judged with a harsher punishment.  Please stop the injustice please!

posted by: NewHaven06512 on January 9, 2019  2:40am

Wait, so he gave a felon access to one of his guns? Andnhe wasnt arrested? And fired?

posted by: Patricia Kane on January 9, 2019  12:16pm

The Judge was right. This officer is eligible for pre-trial diversionary programs like any other citizen.
  Whether he should continue in his job is likely dictated by the union contract which provides more protections to the police than to the public.
  Again, we need annual mental health evaluations built into the system so officers with behavioral problems are required to have treatment. Treatment as an option doesn’t work. Macho guys view getting help as weak and not manly. It’s only when they act out in a way that becomes public knowledge that the issue is addressed.
  As for the program he will undergo, I would also like to know how effective it is.
  Does someone with rage issues really get to the root causes after a few lectures? I doubt it.
  My guess is the Chief would like to fire this guy and others, but the union contracts are out of whack and tie his hands.
  Whoever negotiates the next contract needs instructions to mandate a mental health evaluation and to restore protections for the public by either firing or sidelining someone who is an obvious danger to the public.
  Police union contracts are somewhat uniform in Ct and need to be updated.

posted by: LivingInNewHaven on January 9, 2019  2:44pm

So…..Lt Tennant, who hit his wife with the Lysol can should be getting off too.  If Lt Raghue Tennant doesnt get off like this guy then we will know it is a racial thing.

posted by: unprotected on January 9, 2019  3:36pm

@LivinginNewHaven, Lt. Tennant has felony charges, several of them.  Lets not try to compare apples and oranges.

posted by: B4REAL on January 9, 2019  6:15pm

@unprotected, Lt. Tennant has “Trumped Up” felony charges because of the inherent racism that runs so deeply within the Police Department and Judicial system.  Ask any Black/Brown person, and they will educate you as well!  Therefore, we can compare apples and orange!!!

posted by: NewHaven06512 on January 9, 2019  7:05pm

@B4REAL don’t be ridiculous, nothing was Trumped up or racially motivated or whatever spin you want to put on it in Tennant’s case, you obviously know nothing of what was alleged or transpired, While Morgillo should certainly lose his job, there are very serious differences between the two cases and their eligibility for diversionary programs.

posted by: B4REAL on January 9, 2019  11:27pm

White cop punch and spit on black girlfriend in New Haven, Black cop hurls a Lysol can at his wife.  White cop gets $5,000 bond, Black cop gets $750,000 bond.  Do the math.

posted by: ctddw on January 11, 2019  2:19pm

If he acts this way toward someone that he says he loves and cares for then how does he treat a person suspected of a crime? Use common sense. The job of police officer is not a good fit for a hot head abuser.