The Rutland County State’s Attorney informed the Rutland City Police Department in August that her office would no longer prosecute cases sent by Detective Emilio Rosario after a hearing over the summer in an attempted murder case that led to charges being dismissed on Friday.
Javon E. Wright, 35, of Poultney, was arraigned in Rutland criminal court in August 2019 on one felony count each of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault with a weapon.
According to police, Wright stabbed another man twice in July 2019 at a Pine Street home in Rutland.
The man said he didn’t know the person who stabbed him, but a woman interviewed by police, who said she had seen the stabbing, said she knew the man who was stabbed, and he had “ripped off” $900 in crack cocaine from Wright. The woman said she knew Wright and said people called him “B.”
During the summer, however, there were two hearings in Rutland criminal court based on a filing by Wright’s attorney, Robert Sussman, asking that evidence seized by police during the investigation be suppressed.
In an order dated Oct. 5, Judge John Pacht granted the request to suppress evidence.
The affidavit in the Wright case said police had been waiting for Wright at a substance abuse facility and when he arrived in his Dodge Charger with Johanna Dorsey and the 4-year-old child of Wright and Dorsey, police drew their weapons and arrested him.
In his order, Pacht called the testimony about what happened after Wright’s arrest a “little difficult to follow” but said Rosario had told other police officers at the scene that Dorsey had given consent to search the car. Pacht found Rosario had not established that Dorsey, who was not an owner of the Charger, had the authority to give consent.
Pacht also questioned whether Dorsey, who police said was scared after being approached by officers with guns drawn and pointed at the car in which she and her daughter were sitting, was able to grant consent under the circumstances.
Police had three cellphones in evidence they said were taken from Wright. Rosario said he didn’t remember seizing cellphones, but said he found that he had logged the phones into evidence. Photos taken at the scene showed that one of the phones, which was the only one relevant to the state’s case, was seized from the Charger and not Wright’s person.
During the suppression hearings. Rosario testified about two other cases in which his evidence had been questioned.
In a 2018 case, he altered a witness’ statement based on a follow-up interview he had done but did not note that he was altering the statement with new information that had come from a separate interview.
A search warrant for a truck in a 2019 case was obtained by a request from Rosario that omitted the fact that the truck had left police custody, meaning that police could not establish a chain of custody for evidence found.
“As is the case here (the Wright case), these incidents reflect circumstances in which Detective Rosario swore to information that was either misleading, incomplete and/or inaccurate and this leads the court to question the detective’s commitment to the care needed when swearing or affirming to tell the truth,” Pacht wrote.
In her letter to Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen, Rose Kennedy, the Rutland County State’s Attorney called the “erroneous statement” about seizing the phone from Wright, instead of from the car, which was evidence Sussman was asking to suppress at the time, a “staggering dereliction of duty when evaluating the collection of evidence from an attempted murder case.”
Kennedy said she had considered other measures, including a proposal from Rosario’s lawyer that he audio-record his investigations and work with a supervisor on his before submitting evidence to Kennedy’s office.
“These proposals and any remedy short of the non-prosecution of Detective Rosario’s cases fails to honor my obligation to protect our community with integrity and honesty. It also fails to recognize the importance that credibility plays in the criminal justice system and how even unintentional misstatements can erode public confidence in the police,” Kennedy wrote.
Kilcullen said Rosario was working for the department in a non-sworn capacity.
“With that letter, we have to evaluate whether or not Detective Rosario can continue to work in a sworn capacity for the Rutland City Police Department,” he said.
Rosario joined the department in August 2013 and became a detective in 2019.
Kilcullen said he hoped there would be some way to learn from the experience.
“We learn from our mistakes and these were just that: Mistakes. There was no, in any of these cases, there was no reckless disregard for the truth but certainly there’s some areas we could improve on. That’s what we discussed internally,” he said.
On Friday, Kennedy said she believed she had no choice other than to dismiss the charges against Wright after the judge suppressed the evidence.
Kennedy said both of the other cases have mostly resolved although one of the cases ended with a hung jury on one of the two charges. Kennedy said she and the prosecutor, Daron Raleigh, a deputy state’s attorney, are looking at whether to retry the case but Kennedy said she thinks that prosecution would rely more on the alleged victim’s decision on testifying rather than Rosario.
Kennedy said the letter to the Rutland City Police Department was a big step, but she said her obligation is to the victim’s of crimes. She said she didn’t want a victim to feel they had been denied justice because of questions over an officer’s credibility.
The prosecutors in Kennedy’s office are looking at pending cases in which Rosario was the investigating officer to see if there could be issues raised based on the Wright case and Pacht’s order questioning the detective’s credibility.
Kilcullen said he would notify Rosario that the Rutland Herald would be seeking comment, but there was no communication from Rosario by press time.