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Published: August 26, 2008 03:39 am ShareThisPrintThis
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Police, eatery cleared in death
By Dan Atkinson
STAFF WRITER

NEWBURYPORT - Civil charges of defamation against a Newburyport police sergeant and negligence against a former restaurant owner were dismissed after a jury trial last week, more than seven years after the original incident and five years after the suit was filed.
The charges had been brought in Lawrence Superior Court against Sgt. Thomas Cappelluzzo and Walter Lesynski, the former owner of the now-closed Dreadnought Ship's Gallery. Pplaintiffs Valerie Cunningham and Charles Jewett were ordered to cover their legal costs.
Newburyport Marshal Thomas Howard said he had not read the judgment and could not comment.
Cunningham and Jewett filed the civil suit in 2003 to seek unspecified damages on behalf of their friend, Lauren Adolph, a former restaurant office manager at Joseph's Winter Street Cafe. Adolph died in January 2001 after an altercation the outside the Dreadnought, formerly located behind the Merri-Mar Ship Store on Merrimac Street. The suit claimed police and restaurant employees could have prevented her death.
Both sides had conflicting stories about what happened that night, but all agree that there was an altercation between the three friends and three men from New Hampshire at the bar and in the parking lot. Adolph's friends said the New Hampshire men made crude and possibly homophobic remarks about Jewett. An attorney for one of the men told The Daily News in 2003 that Jewett instigated the fight in the parking lot. Jewett said the other men struck first. Jewett and Cunningham claimed that one of the men wound up slamming Adolph's head on the pavement multiple times. All three were left with cuts and bruises.
The New Hampshire men, who were never identified by police, drove away after the fight while the three friends went to the police station to report the assault after refusing medical treatment. At the police station, Adolph reportedly became dizzy and vomited in the lobby, which led many to believe she was suffering from a bad head injury.
Police in the lobby reportedly told her to use the pay phone by the post office to call for help, but ultimately called Adolph's husband, Paul, to pick her up. Adolph went home to bed and was found dead the next morning.
Friends and family were immediately critical of police, saying officers should have done more to treat Adolph at the station. Attorney Scott Gleason, representing the alleged victims in the fight, attempted to cast doubt on the investigation, claiming holes and discrepancies in the police department's version of events.
According to the original autopsy, Adolph had no physical trauma or medical problems, and showed no signs of drug or alcohol contributing to her death. The medical examiner eventually determined that Adolph had a pre-existing heart arrhythmia that caused her death, noting the condition could also give her symptoms of dizziness and nausea. The district attorney did not charge the three New Hampshire men with any crimes, which then led to accusations of a cover-up.
"There were a lot of accusations being made," said Leonard Kesten, an attorney for Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten who represented the city of Newburyport in the civil suit. The firm also represented Cappelluzzo, who was acting marshal for the city at the time.
In June 2003, Cunningham and Jewett filed a civil suit against Cappelluzzo, the owners of the Dreadnought, the city and the three unnamed New Hampshire men. The lawsuit charged the men and the Dreadnought with contributing to Adolph's death, Cappelluzzo for defaming the pair in an interview with The Daily News, and the city for refusing to release the names of the men.
A summary judgment in 2007 ruled in favor of the city in its part of the lawsuit. Kesten said charges of the city participating in a cover-up were thrown out.
"Why would you sue the city? It was the district attorney's investigation," Kesten said.
Also in 2007, the court ruled in favor of Cunningham and Jewett against the three men, and awarded them a total of $89,000 in damages. But the cases against Cappelluzzo and the Dreadnought went on until last week's jury trial, Kesten said. He said it took the jury 21âÑ2 hours to reach its verdict.
 
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