Trial delayed for former police chief



Brian Sullivan, the former head of the New Haven Police Department detective bureau who is charged with obstructing a 1996 murder investigation, will have to wait three more months for the start of his trial, officials at the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s office announced late last week.

Sullivan’s trial, originally scheduled to begin on March 3, was postponed until June 4 at the request of his lawyers, said Mark Dupuis, a spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s office. The trial will begin with jury selection, during which six jurors — plus a number of alternates to be determined by the judge — will be selected.

Sullivan’s attorney, Hugh Keefe, said he expects the trial to take about a month.

Sullivan is accused of hindering the investigation of the November 1996 murder of Philip Cusick. Cusick died from a gunshot wound to the chest after being shot in the Fair Haven section of New Haven, according to a final grand jury report. The location of the body, however, granted jurisdiction to North Haven police.

During the homicide investigation, detectives took a statement from a witness who described Cusick’s alleged assailant.

When Sullivan was presented with the statement, he allegedly ordered the investigation to be terminated, claiming the chief of police told him to do so.

The chief denied that he ever gave the order, and Sullivan never turned the statement over to North Haven police. Sullivan faces one count of hindering prosecution in the first degree and one count of evidence tampering, according to the arrest warrant filed in superior court in 2000.

Both charges are Class D felonies, and each carries a penalty of one year to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Neither Keefe nor the State’s Attorney’s Office would comment on the possibility of granting Sullivan accelerated rehabilitation, which would expunge Sullivan’s criminal record of the felonies after serving a probationary period.

During the murder investigation, Sullivan was the head of the Investigative Services Unit of the NHPD. The ISU conducts the investigations of major crimes such as homicides within New Haven. As head of the ISU, Sullivan also supervised the evidence room, the warrant stated.

Cusick was in New Haven accompanying another person who was seeking to purchase narcotics the evening of his murder, the arrest warrant stated. According to the grand jury report, his body was found the next evening “lying on the side of the road across the street from his mother’s house in North Haven,” giving North Haven police jurisdiction in the investigation.

After determining that Cusick might have been shot in New Haven, NHPD detectives were called by North Haven Police Department detectives to assist with the investigation, the report stated. According to the warrant, in 1998 New Haven detectives discovered two witnesses to Cusick’s murder and subsequently took a tape-recorded statement from one witness who described a person fleeing the crime scene after the shooting.

According to the report, after the statement was taken, detectives met with Sullivan and Sgt. Edward Kendall, second in command of ISU, to discuss obtaining a search warrant for the shooter’s house in hopes of locating the murder weapon. However, Sullivan told the detectives to halt the investigation “per order of the Chief,” the report stated. Furthermore, the NHPD never provided the tape to North Haven police.

Kendall had a transcript of the witness statement in his desk for up to a year, the grand jury report stated.

During testimony before a grand jury, Kendall first stated that Sullivan ordered him to provide the witness statement to North Haven police but that he forgot to do so.

Kendall later revised his statement and said Sullivan never told him to inform North Haven police.

Current NHPD Chief Melvin Wearing, who was Sullivan’s supervisor at the time, former assistant chief Douglas MacDonald and former chief Nicholas Pastore all testified before the grand jury that they never ordered Sullivan to end the investigation.

Jose Rivera was convicted last month on assault and other charges related to Cusick’s murder but was acquitted on the murder charge itself.

The grand jury report found no evidence that any of Sullivan’s subordinates “shared criminal intent or unlawful purpose” in Sullivan’s actions regarding the homicide investigation.

However, the grand jury report provided no motive for Sullivan’s actions, and speculation still looms over a reason for why Sullivan would obstruct the investigation.

“The state has no motive,” Keefe said. “They can see they have no motive.”

Comments

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