An East Haven police officer who allegedly targeted Latinos in the community pleaded guilty to depriving civil liberties Friday afternoon after he reportedly punched a man in the chest while he was handcuffed.
Federal agents said Sgt. John Miller, along with officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo, are charged "with conspiring to violate, and violating, the civil rights of members of the East Haven community," according to release from United States attorney for the District of Connecticut, David B. Fein.
"Today's indictment should serve as a powerful message that we in the Department of Justice will not tolerate the abuse of power or victimization of civilians by anyone in law enforcement," said Fein. "The serious crimes alleged in the indictment undermine the public's trust in the fine men and women of law enforcement who serve the people bravely and with integrity every day."
Miller, who is on administrative leave from East Haven Police Department, pleaded guilty to depriving an individual of his right to be free from the use of excessive force by a law enforcement officer, the release said.
Arrest papers said the officers were involved in the arrest of the Rev. James Manship, a pastor in New Haven, as he tape recorded police removing license plates from My Country Store, a grocery store in East Haven.
Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez said the justice department is committed to investigating allegations of police misconduct.
"The Civil Rights Division is committed to helping East Haven Police Department fulfill that mission effectively while respecting the rights of the people it serves," Perez said. "As deeply rooted as these problems are, I remain optimistic that we can fix them."
The four East Haven policemen have been charged with "conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community in violation of their Constitutional rights," the release said.
"Today's event is unfortunate for our police department and the East Haven community," the East Haven mayor's office said in statement. "However, we have been and will continue to move our department forward working for a better future that we can all be proud of."
The mayor's office would not comment any further.
Miller faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He will be formally sentenced in February.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call FBI at 212-384-2240.
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