Defense: Police ‘Misconstrued,’ Overemphasized Anonymous DPW Tip in Drug Deal

Kevin Moriarty (left), Erik Frasca and Steve Allen appeared in Haverhill District Court on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (WHAV News photograph)

Nine months after an anonymous letter triggered a Haverhill Police investigation into alleged drug dealing on the part of highway department employees, a Haverhill District Court Judge ruled that the letter wasn’t enough for officers to initiate the traffic stop that led to the August 2018 arrests of Steven Allen, Kevin Moriarty and Erik Frasca.

On Wednesday, Judge Patricia Dowling heard testimony from Haverhill Police narcotics unit Detective Daniel McDonald. The officer conducted surveillance with Detective Bryan Bailey on the morning of Aug. 30. That was two weeks after an anonymous letter came into Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s office alleging improper behavior on the part of city employees.

That same anonymous letter was at the center of Wednesday’s hearing, with Allen’s attorney Stephen Colella arguing that the letter wasn’t enough of a reason to legally begin following the men, never mind arresting his client.

“There’s nothing consistent with a drug transaction as represented by the police,” Colella said. “They’ve misconstrued what they’ve observed because they were so intent upon believing anonymous information.”

McDonald testified that the letter “trickled down” to him from his police captain superior and he still has no idea who authored the letter.

Assistant District Attorney Stephen LaMonica argued there was more to the incident than the two-minute video shown at Wednesday’s hearing, including McDonald’s observations and six years of training as a narcotics detective. Dowling, however, agreed with Colella’s notion that the clip could be highlighting something innocent.

“They passed by each other momentarily and there’s no suggestion anything was exchanged—much less money, drugs or anything else,” Colella said. “They could’ve talked and said ‘Are you coming to my cookout next week?’”

Dowling on Wednesday sided with Allen’s attorney Colella and Frasca’s attorney William Early when she allowed the motion to suppress. In doing so, Dowling said she didn’t fault McDonald, but couldn’t find what she called “sufficient basis” for the pat-frisk and search that led to their Aug. 30 arrests.

“What we have is an anonymous letter, the video and the fact that somebody got in their truck and leaned over the console: Not enough pieces here. I do not find that the officers intentionally did anything wrong, but I do not find that there was sufficient basis for them to encounter these individuals, engage in the pat-frisk and the search of the vehicle. I’m finding there was insufficient basis for the pat-frisk and the search of the vehicle.”

State’s attorney LaMonica plans to appeal the decision, he said Wednesday. The case continues in Haverhill District Court next month.

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