Late on the night of March 18, 2017, an officer from the Easton Police department noticed several teenagers sitting in a car by the Pine Tree Garage, which was closed fro the evening. He alerted the Redding Police department. Officer Patrick Hamel soon arrived on the scene, followed by Sgt Chris McManus. The Easton police officer stayed on the scene to assist.
The driver, aged 17, allegedly was about to transport four minors in his car in violation of CT graduated driving restrictions. Officer Hamel issued infractions for C.G.S. 14-36g(a)(l) Passenger Restrictions and C.G.S. 14-36g(a)(6) Operating After Curfew, as they relate to licensed operators under the age of 18 years.
The next day, the father of the teenager contacted Chief Douglas Fuchs to explain that his son was not driving. He and his friends had decided to leave the party once alcohol appeared. The father and Fuchs had a polite exchange where he asked why the infraction said that his son had driven into the parking lot and the Easton Police car had followed them when the kids all insisted that they walked to the car from the party and the car had not moved.
hello, Redding has obtained the Easton police report. There is no mention of the car having been driven into the parking lot.
The father, who did not wish to be identified, told hello, Redding that Chief Fuchs promised to look over the videos and reports written by the arresting officers and get back to him, with the understanding that it might come back as a violation of the graduated license statutes and then the ticket would stick. They would then have to appear in court. But, if not, Chief Fuchs would do what he could to help.
Chief Fuchs reviewed the interaction, files and videos and had many email exchanges with Sgt. McManus requesting clarification of the details. He determined that although he understood that Officer Hamel wrote the infractions under the assumption that the student had driven in to the lot and was about to drive out, he did not witness him doing so.
Fuchs wrote in an email, “As the statute requires operation on a public way for one of charges and the actual transport for the other and it seems from everything stated that the kids walked to the car and did not actually drive into the lot – only to later be detained there by EPD – it appears that any probable cause to charge did not exist.”
Chief Fuchs sent the information to State Attorney Steve Sedensky who concurred with the analysis by saying, “Under the facts as you presented them, i.e. that they did not drive to the location, but we’re (sic) sitting in a parked running car, I agree. Not worth going into an attempt analysis.”
The father said that he had never met Chief Fuchs in person, but he was impressed that he would take the time to do the research. Fuchs called the father a few days later and told him that he didn’t think his son broke the law.
As per the chief’s instructions, when the ticket arrived in the mail, the father called Fuchs with the ticket number.
“The guy (Fuchs) played straight with me, “ said the father, “he didn’t try to favor me. He did his job.”
In an email to Captain O’Donnell, Sgt McManus said, “…Officer Hamel believed the teen drove into the parking lot based upon the first conversation with the Easton Officer and I believed him. Thus why we issued the ticket… We learned after the ticket was sent to CIB that the circumstances was not what we were led to believe, which can occur in this line of work. We took the necessary steps to document the facts. …”
He also said, “The ticket is already at CIB (Centralized Infractions Bureau). If there is a way to pull the ticket, then I have not been given access to that feature. I am certainly willing to have Officer Hamel make this right, but how….”
McManus also said he felt that he felt it was appropriate for Officer Hamel to write the infraction saying “It was reasonable to believe that they did in fact drive on Rte 58 after 11:00 pm to get to the parking lot of the Pine Tree Garage.”
The teens did not in fact drive into the lot, they walked.
McManus also stated that “his (teen sitting in the drivers seat) intentions were to violate the statute had we not intercepted him. He was additionally rude and uncooperative to my officers”
Fuchs then sent the information to Captain Mark O’Donnell. In his capacity as Court Liaison Officer he would be the person to coordinate with the prosecutor to have the ticket dismissed.
In his email to the captain, Fuchs wrote, “This one is on “your desk” now. It is making me physically sick that we might have officers who would be willing to make someone go thru the entire court process, DMV suspension process, and tie up both of those agency’s time because of “attitude” and “sitting on the border of the statute violation”. I did not know that was a violation for which we can charge. We either have PC (probable cause) or we do not. … Please let me know what we are going to do to resolve this. Whether it was sloppy at the time (which it seems to be) or they found out after -my moral compass would want to make it right -attitude or not.”
As Union President, Officer Hamel then filed a complaint on his own behalf. He claimed that Chief Fuchs was only questioning his judgment in retaliation for the Union complaint filed by Hamel on behalf of Officer Anthony Signore a few days before. In his complaint, Hamel said, “Chief Fuchs appeared to manipulate certain details of the incident, attempting to project a different scenario of the incident. This manipulation by Chief Fuchs favored the conclusion he wished to reach, and thereby in his mind created the false interpretation that Sgt McManus and I were in the wrong…” Hamel also refers to the opinion of “The Redding Police Union” in his complaint although it is unclear if he is speaking for himself as President of the Union or if the union members were aware and agreed to the complaint.
Hamel went on to say, “Chief Fuchs then emailed Captain O’Donnell directly, ….The first words from Chief Fuchs were “This one is on “your desk” now.”, indicating that because Captain O’Donnell is the Executive Officer who handles all Internal Investigations, Chief Fuchs wanted an internal affairs investigation started against us.”
There is no record of Fuchs requesting an Internal Affairs investigation, or any evidence of an IA investigation at all.
Attorney Patrick McHale has already submitted his report on to the town of Redding on the investigation of the Signore complaint in conjunction with the complaint by EMT Martinez. Of the 14 points in the original complaint, 12 were unsustained or unfounded. Fuchs did get a letter of reprimand in his file for 2 of the points which were sustained, which McHale attributed to a lack of communication.
According to First Selectman Julia Pemberton, Attorney McHale has been engaged to investigate several matters that involve Chief Fuchs.
So far, the billing statement from Attorney McHale’s firm is in excess of $55,000, covering the period from 7/27-12/28/2017 and is still ongoing.
Pemberton said that his fees fall within the Town’s legal budget for such expenditures. Pemberton added that “Attorney McHale’s hourly rate is in line with our fees for Town Counsel, which are also paid from the same legal line in our operating budget.”
The stenographers cost comes out of the legal fees. Pemberton also stated, “…he (McHale) is working on these simultaneously to reduce legal expense. For instance, if he has witnesses that are common to more than one investigation, he interviews them once on all matters, rather than coming back on a separate occasion to interview for the next investigation.”
Fuchs remains on leave while the investigations are ongoing.