Police officer accused of misleading court in ’09 case
Facts withheld, lawyer contends
A Boston police officer under investigation for allegedly giving contradictory testimony in a 2008 federal case is now being accused of misleading a Suffolk Superior Court during a jury trial, which ended in the conviction and a four- to six-year prison sentence for a Dorchester man.
Officer Rance Cooley was the only witness who said he saw Earl Grant throw a gun underneath a vehicle after Cooley and two other officers approached him and a group of men at a Dorchester function hall in January 2006.
The other officers testified they had not seen Grant with the weapon, making Cooley’s testimony crucial to the prosecution’s case.
Grant, who is now 45, was found guilty by a jury of unlawful possession of a firearm in January 2009. He was sentenced as a career criminal because he had two prior drug convictions.
Yesterday, Grant’s lawyer, Veronica White, said Suffolk County prosecutors and Cooley misled her and the court when they said Cooley had no additional internal affairs investigations against him beyond what had already been disclosed. He had at least one, White said: He had been reprimanded in 2006 for failing to report he had used force during a 2005 arrest.
In addition, three months before he testified in the Grant trial, a federal judge had accused him of giving contradictory testimony in the case of a Mattapan man arrested on gun charges in July 2007.
The arguments were made in court yesterday because White has filed a motion seeking a new trial for Grant.
White said Cooley and Assistant District Attorney Montez Haywood were responsible for telling her about the reprimand and the contradictory testimony. By failing to bring both matters to her attention, they prevented her client from receiving a fair trial, she said.
“To me that’s egregious, your honor,’’ White said yesterday, who spoke forcefully at times, hitting the defense table to emphasize certain points to Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Connolly.
“Make them accountable, your honor,’’ White said. “My client has been in jail on the false testimony of an officer.’’
Cooley, 34, was not in court yesterday and could not be reached for comment. A message left at his home was not immediately returned.
“Officer Cooley is a hard-working officer,’’ said Elaine Driscoll, Boston police spokeswoman, who referred questions about the Grant case to the district attorney’s office.
Jack Zanini, chief of the appeals division who spoke on behalf of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office, said White’s argument was “a wholly meritless claim.’’
Prosecutors did not have all the internal affairs reports against Cooley and they were not obligated to obtain them, Zanini said. White has acknowledged she could have requested that Boston police hand over all complaints against Cooley through a Freedom of Information Act request, he said.
“It was all discoverable by her,’’ Zanini said.
Connolly said he would consider both sides’ arguments and decide whether another hearing is necessary.
Jake Wark, Conley’s spokesman, said Haywood acted appropriately. “This office has earned a reputation for playing fair and square with every defendant in every case,’’ Wark said. “We’re confident Judge Connolly’s decision will reflect that.’’
Grant’s conviction on the gun charge in 2009 came five days before a federal judge issued a ruling in which he accused a federal prosecutor of failing to disclose evidence that could have helped clear another defendant. Cooley had testified against the defendant in that federal case.
Driscoll said the department is reviewing Cooley’s actions in the federal case.
“That is still an active internal affairs investigation,’’ she said.
Maria Cramer can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: Because of an editing error, a headline in yesterday's Metro section about a Boston police officer accused of giving misleading testimony in Suffolk Superior Court gave an incorrect year for the case. The allegation stems from a jury trial in 2009.