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Safety officials to picket over decision

Correction officers, others want to raise awareness after jury favors inmate


We’re trying to get the message out that we feel this … poses a very serious danger to us.

Steve Kenneway,

WORCESTER— Local public safety officials will join their jail counterparts tomorrow in what’s being called an informational picket outside Central District Court, to protest a recent court decision that favored a county jail inmate who punched a correction officer.

The inmate told a jury he acted in self defense, saying he was threatened by the correction officer’s language and body posture. The inmate struck first, saying during the trial that he feared he would be hit, and knocked the officer unconscious with one punch, breaking his jaw and eye socket. The officer required extensive surgery.

Jail officials said the case set a horrible precedent, and fear it will influence other inmates to hit officers and claim self defense.

“We want to send out a warning to society that this is the wrong direction to go to,” said Steve Kenneway, president of the 4,600-member Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union. The union represents county and state correction officers. Mr. Kenneway said officers from both systems plan to picket.

The correction officers will hold banners, and Sheriff Guy W. Glodis has allowed them to wear their uniforms during the picket, planned to last throughout the business day. The sheriff has said that he supports the officers, and called the court decision a blow to law enforcement.

“It’s definitely a slap in the face to public safety,” said Police Officer Richard P. Cipro Jr., president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 378.

“That same thing could happen to a police officer on the street now. That just sets a bad, bad precedent.”

Organizers are calling their picket informational, rather than a protest, because the decision was made by a 12-member jury and not by one person or decision-maker that could be challenged.

Still, because it was a jury decision, they said that the public needs to have a better understanding of their job, and the challenges they face with inmates each day, before siding with an inmate who claims self defense.

“This is not about the courthouse, it is not about a judge or courthouse staff,” said Lt. Robert Tatro, the correction officer hit by the inmate in 2002. “I don’t think it’s about me. I think it’s to bring light to public safety and the people who work as public servants.”

Lt. Tatro was flabbergasted last week after the jury found Johnathan Sanchez, 25, not guilty on two counts of assault and battery on a correction officer in the Dec. 14, 2002, fight at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston.

Mr. Sanchez, who still faces other charges of beating an inmate inside the jail, was being transported to a segregation unit after he became unruly after a separate fight at the jail, in which other officers were injured while subduing an inmate. That inmate, Wayne Laferriere, 28, pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and battery on the correction officers and was sentenced to three concurrent terms of one to two years in state prison.

Lt. Tatro had escorted Mr. Sanchez to a receiving area in the segregation unit when he bent over to pick up a piece of clothing. Mr. Sanchez then punched him, knocking him unconscious. Lt. Tatro underwent several surgeries that he said caused him financial hardship and stalled his career.

Lawyer Timothy W. Murphy, of Leominster, who represented Mr. Sanchez, said the case does not set a precedent and that each, as this one was, would be based on its own merits. He said this jury understood Mr. Sanchez’s claim that he was threatened by the officer’s tone of voice, language, hand maneuvering and body posture.

Mr. Murphy also said that Mr. Sanchez testified, and that Mr. Laferriere confirmed in the trial, that a correction officer disrupting the previous fight warned Mr. Sanchez to stop acting unruly or he would receive the same treatment as Mr. Laferriere. Mr. Sanchez said he considered the warning a threat.

Mr. Murphy said Lt. Tatro’s injuries were a horrible, tragic outcome, but stressed “the jury made its own determination on what it thought precipitated” the punch. Another correction officer who tried to subdue Mr. Sanchez after the punch was also injured.

District Attorney John J. Conte, whose office prosecuted the case, said through a spokeswoman that he does not comment on jury verdicts.

Mr. Kenneway, the union president, said tomorrow will be “kind of an awareness day.”

“We’re trying to get the message out that we feel this … poses a very serious danger to us,” he said.

Frank Raffa, president of the local firefighters union, said the union leadership will support the correction officers tomorrow, and that members are being asked to participate.

Anthony Petrone, vice president of the union representing police officers, said his union is organizing ways to support the jail guards.

“We also thought it sends a wrong message, when any law enforcement officer is doing his or her job and gets assaulted, in this case sucker punched,” Officer Petrone said. “In this case, it was a jury that made the decision, so we need to raise public awareness.”

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That is by far one of the best (and worst as far as this scum bag walking away from this) article's I've read in the news paper. To see that local public safety departments joining hands in support is heart warming when a gross injustice happened at the Worc County House of Correction were an inmate gets away with brutely assaulting a CO and in the claim of "self defense" gets away with it. My hats off and THANK YOU to the men and women of the WPD & WFD!

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Inmate guilty in jail assault

Case is not related to guard incident

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When Mr. Santos regained consciousness, Mr. Sanchez, who was wearing boots, kicked him repeatedly in the back and head, Mr. Moriarty said.

WORCESTER- A city man whose acquittal on charges of assaulting a correction officer sparked an informational picket May 5 outside the Worcester County Courthouse was sentenced to state prison yesterday after pleading guilty to an unrelated jailhouse assault.

Jonathan Sanchez, 26, was sentenced to 2 to 4 years at Walpole State Prison after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in a June 21, 2002, attack on another inmate at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston. The sentence imposed by Judge Timothy S. Hillman is to begin after Mr. Sanchez completes a prison sentence of 3 to 4 years he received in February 2003 for an armed robbery.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph T. Moriarty Jr., who recommended a sentence of 5 to 7 years, said Mr. Sanchez attacked Julio Santos, his cellmate in the county jail's segregation unit, on the morning of June 21, 2002, after asking several times to be moved to another cell.

If the case had gone to trial as scheduled yesterday, the prosecutor said, the evidence would have shown that Mr. Sanchez knocked Mr. Santos unconscious by striking him on the head with a food tray, causing a "significant laceration." When Mr. Santos regained consciousness, Mr. Sanchez, who was wearing boots, kicked him repeatedly in the back and head, according to Mr. Moriarty. The prosecutor said Mr. Santos' head was up against the steel door of the cell when he was being kicked.

He said Mr. Santos was taken to the jail infirmary and then transported to St. Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, where he received 18 stitches to close the cut on his forehead and was also treated for an ear injury. Mr. Santos complained of a hearing loss after the attack and has since worn hearing aids, according to Mr. Moriarty.

The prosecutor said Mr. Santos and sheriff's department officials agreed with his sentencing recommendation.

Mr. Santos told the court in an impact statement that the assault by Mr. Sanchez left him with hearing, speech and memory problems, as well as recurring headaches.

"Sometimes when I'm around people, I'm thinking they're going to attack me," Mr. Santos told Judge Hillman, adding that he still did not know why Mr. Sanchez assaulted him.

Defense lawyer Timothy W. Murphy asked Judge Hillman to sentence Mr. Sanchez to 1 to 2 years. Explaining the attack on Mr. Santos, Mr. Murphy said his client becomes suspicious of other people's motives when incarcerated and sometimes acts "aggressively and inappropriately."

While Mr. Santos attributed his hearing problems to the assault, Mr. Murphy said he would have presented evidence at trial showing that Mr. Santos had a hearing impairment dating back to his childhood.

Members of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union held an informational picket May 5 outside the Worcester courthouse after a Worcester Superior Court jury acquitted Mr. Sanchez on charges stemming from an alleged Dec. 14, 2002, assault on a correction officer at the West Boylston jail. Mr. Sanchez said he acted in self-defense after he was threatened by the officer's language and demeanor.

The officer, Lt. Robert Tatro, said he was escorting Mr. Sanchez to the segregation unit when he bent over to pick up a piece of clothing and was sucker-punched, knocking him unconscious and fracturing his jaw and eye socket.

Union officials were outraged by the jury verdict and picketed as a means of making the public more aware of the challenges faced by people in the public safety field.
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