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Grand jury probes charges involving Stoughton police
Testimony covers alleged misdeeds
By Jenn Abelson and Maria Cramer, Globe Staff | October 9, 2004

A grand jury has convened to investigate allegations of misconduct by numerous officers in the Stoughton Police Department, which has been wracked by upheaval in recent months.

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Two people said they testified before a grand jury Thursday about several incidents of alleged wrongdoing, including false arrest and harassment.

George Jabour, who was appointed by the Norfolk County district attorney's office as special prosecutor for this case, said he could not comment on the existence of a grand jury and is legally barred from doing so.

However, he did say yesterday that he has "been retained to investigate the unlawful activities of numerous police officers in the Stoughton Police Department."

The grand jury proceedings are the latest problem for a department that has been in turmoil since June when Stoughton's Board of Selectmen demoted Manuel Cachopa, the former police chief, to lieutenant.

Jabour's investigation began in August, after David Chamberlin, the acting police chief, referred a complaint about misconduct involving one officer to the Norfolk district attorney's office. Since then, more allegations have surfaced and the investigation has expanded to include other officers.

Jabour declined to say how many officers are under investigation or to release their names, except for Sergeant David Cohen, the subject of the first complaint.

Chamberlin also declined to comment on the grand jury, but said: "We have some officers cooperating with the investigation."

The controversy has spread to other parts of town government.

Residents angered by Cachopa's demotion have launched a recall effort against two selectmen who voted not to renew Cachopa's contract as chief. The recall vote is Nov. 2.

Timothy Hills filed the initial misconduct complaint, accusing Cohen of harassing and threatening him in a 2002 incident. Hills said Cohen handcuffed him until he agreed to pay a debt to a third party. Cohen, who also is a lawyer, was placed on administrative leave last month pending the investigation, and has declined to comment about this allegation.

But his attorney, Richard Egbert, denied the claim.

"I'm sure when all of the dust settles and name-calling ends, David Cohen will remain, as he always has been, a professional who has always acted in accordance with the law," Egbert said.

In interviews, two people said they have testified before a grand jury investigating allegations of misconduct by Stoughton police, and one other said he has been called to appear.

Jerard Viverito of Randolph said he appeared before the grand jury in Dedham on Thursday.

Viverito said he testified about a 1999 incident in which several Stoughton police officers, including Cohen, falsely arrested Viverito at the Stoughton Motor Mart, where he worked as a sales manager, and dragged him out of the dealership.

"I was really done wrong," Viverito said.

A larceny charge against Viverito was dismissed in 2000, according to records at Stoughton District Court.

Leo Jack Giandomenico, 57, the president of Stoughton Motor Mart, said he testified Thursday before the grand jury about the 1999 incident, in which he also was arrested. Giandomenico said he will appear before the grand jury Wednesday to testify about a dispute in January 2002, when he was arrested after a customer accused him of stealing money from his bank account.

Giandomenico said Stoughton police played a role in that incident, but declined to discuss details.

He was charged with forgery of a document, larceny over $250, improper use of a credit card, and uttering a counterfeit bill. All charges were dismissed two months later.

Giandomenico said he has resolved his differences with Cohen and is only testifying because the subpoena. "I have a different relationship with him at this point," Giandomenico said.

Robert Hallamore, 61, said he has been called to appear before the grand jury Oct. 20. He said he plans to talk about a March 2000 incident in which he says two police officers, dragged him from his house because of an alleged bomb threat in the neighborhood.

Hallamore, who now lives North Carolina, said he was forced from his house in handcuffs so tight on his wrists that they broke skin. He said the threatening package turned out be a bag of groceries left on neighbor's driveway by an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease.
 
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