Post-Verdict, What’s Next For East Haven?

Oct 23, 2013

East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo, Jr.
Credit Diane Orson / WNPR

The city of East Haven does not have a positive national reputation. Earlier this week, a guilty verdict was reached in the case of two local police officers on charges of violating civil rights. Now that the trial is over, how does the town recover and move forward?

Even Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr., who became well-known for his “taco” comments, has changed his tone. In a statement after the verdict, he called it a “painful, although important step in the healing process.”

During the weekly news roundtable on WNPR’s Where We Live, East Haven resident Susan Campbell was skeptical of Maturo’s comments. “This says to me that Mayor Maturo is running for re-election, and the election is not very far from now,” she said. Democrat Jack Stacey is challenging Maturo in an election that’s less than two weeks away. 

Regardless of who wins the election, East Haven has a long way to go. “When you have a reputation of being a racist town, earned or otherwise, it’s like losing your virginity,” said Campbell. “It’s very hard to get back a good reputation. When you have a bad reputation, businesses don’t come to your town. When you have a bad reputation, people don’t move to your town. There’s a financial disincentive from being a yahoo and I really wish people would remember that.” 

The case involved a local police department, but it was prosecuted by the federal government. Paul Bass, editor of The New Haven Independent, thinks the conviction was due in part to President Barack Obama. “The only reason those guys were found guilty is because we elected a president who was committed to civil rights,” said Bass.

Bass pointed to the contrast between this case and the shooting death of Malik Jones, who was shot and killed by police in 1997. Listen to Bass discuss the two cases and why he thinks the White House played such a big role in it.

Rev. James Manship largely spurred the federal prosecution when he was arrested in 2009. Manship videotaped police ordering the Latino owners of a general store to remove license plates on the wall. After the verdict was announced, Manship met reporters outside the courthouse and said justice was served, but it was not time to celebrate. “The lives of the two officers’ families is now changed forever,” said Manship, according to The New Haven Register’s Evan Lips.

The officers, David Cari and Dennis Spaulding, face up to 20 years in prison. Spaulding’s wife gave birth to the couple’s second child over the weekend. Lips sat behind the Spaulding family in court when the verdict was read. He described the defendants as “visibly stunned.”

The officers will be sentenced in January, but Cari decided to start serving immediately.