Questions sent to Lowell City Council about deals offered in Brame death

The Bay State Examiner has sent these questions to the Lowell city councilors and to the City Manager via the city’s website. Alyssa Brame lost consciousness and died in Lowell police custody without any medical intervention despite a large number of Lowell police employees knowing about her condition. The Lowell police put forward eight employees to the City of Lowell City Manager for potential punishment or termination. The City of Lowell has offered deals to at least five of the eight officers, and The Bay State Examiner wants to know why.

Read The Bay State Examiner's previous article on the Brame case here.

Here's the submission I made on July 1, 2014:

Councilors and Manager Murphy,

The Bay State Examiner is covering the consequences of the death of Alyssa Brame in Lowell police custody and we’d like to discuss the deals offered to the officers who were facing potential punishment. If any member of the council or the city manager would like to provide an interview or statement please reach out to me by email.

If you prefer to provide a written response the questions we are seeking answers to are:

The Lowell Sun reported the deals for the five superior officers involved, but not for the three others who faced potential punishment. What were the decisions on punishments for Kevin Lombard, Shawn Tetreault, and William Florence? Did they also receive deals?

Who was involved in setting the terms of the deals offered and who had oversight on the process? Did the council okay the deals?

Both the District Attorney’s report and the Board of Inquiry found that the Lowell Police failed to train the detention officers involved and that the failure factored into Brame’s death – who was responsible for providing and documenting the training of detention officers and how have they been held accountable for their failure which in part led to Brame’s death?

Lieutenant Siopes and Sergeant Nobrega were found by the Board of Inquiry to have misled the Massachusetts State Police and District Attorney’s investigation into Brame’s death – since they have been proven to provide unreliable testimony in important criminal matters their reports and testimony in cases past and future should be questioned. Why would the City of Lowell offer deals that allow these two officers whose testimony and reports cannot be trusted to continue to work? Has anyone in the city government or police department asked the district attorney to look at charging Siopes and Nobrega for misleading the investigation?

Lieutenant Siopes is quoted in the Board of Inquiry report as telling them; “No” he would not have called an ambulance for Brame knowing what he knows now. Siopes comment makes it clear that he would knowingly refuse medical care to a dying person in his custody. Given this admission and the deal offered that would spare his job it is clear knowingly refusing medical care to a dying person in custody isn’t a fire-able offense for a Lowell employee. Is there anything a Lowell police officer would be fired for? If so what?

The Lowell Sun questioned if any hearings on these matters would be open to the public – will they be? If they are not publicly held, why not? Has a date been set for the hearings? If so when and where will they be held?

In the proposed budget for this year the officers who faced potential punishment for Brame’s death will be paid over half a million dollars – Does this represent the City of Lowell’s idea of accountability?

The proposed budget also contains a list of Key Performance Indicators by which the police department will be judged. There are no KPIs based on police accountability (nothing tied to complaints against officers, or reducing incidences of use of force by police, or deaths in custody). The KPIs include numbers for bookings and various levels of offenses expected and even determine an expected number of “juvenile incidents”. These KPIs seem to provide incentive for arrests and bookings while allowing police misconduct to remain a non-factor in determining success. Why does the City of Lowell define success in this manner?

The KPIs also function as a quota for the department. Over four thousand bookings are expected. The City of Lowell has allowed the employment of the Lowell police employees who mishandled Brame’s booking to continue and are planning to pay them over a half million dollars this year – what message does this send to the Lowell police and to the members of the community?

Lastly The Lowell Sun article on the deals states, “... It has been one of his [City manager Murphy] top objectives to resolve the Brame case short of hearings which, both sides have said privately, will raise issues the city will find uncomfortable.” Why would the potential for embarrassment be a higher priority for the City of Lowell than the accountability of the police department and future safety of the public?

I thank you for your time and consideration. I’ll be publishing an article on the matter shortly and would like to present your perspective on this matter.

Thanks, Maya of The Bay State Examiner

Read the Lowell police report based on Boards of Inquiry findings here.

I have not received any response as of today.

District attorney fails to adequately investigate Lowell police in-custody death

brame
There is a long list of public servants who showed a callous indifference to Alyssa Brame and now it's time to prominently add Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan's name. 31-year-old Alyssa Brame was arrested by Lowell police late on January 12, 2013 after allegedly offering police sex for money. She became unconscious while in police custody and was placed in a cell and left unattended for 66 minutes, leading to her death early on January 13.

Brame's death was documented on the Lowell Police Station's surveillance cameras and supposedly investigated by the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) detectives assigned to DA Ryan's office. Last year, Ryan cleared all the police employees involved in the death of any criminal wrongdoing.

DA Ryan's official report was shown to be even more critically flawed than previously known by an internal review released by the Lowell Police Department in January.

The seriousness of Brame's death should have prompted a careful, thorough investigation by Ryan's office, yet somehow Ryan's official report doesn't even get the names of the Lowell police employees correct. In Ryan's report, only a third of the full names of the Lowell police employees were correct. The report does not mention the first name and badly misspells the last name of the lieutenant who was in charge the night Brame was arrested, booked, and left to die. Of the officers that the Lowell police report had findings against (Siopes, Kilmartin, Fay, Nobrega, Giuffrida, Tetreault, Florence, and Lombard) Ryan's report manages to give a correctly spelled full name for only three, while misspelling three names as well.

LPD Job Title Ryan’s report Lowell Police report Error in Ryan report
Officer Charles Pappaconstantinou Charles Pappaconstantiniou Missing second "i" in last name
Officer Robert Dyer Robert Dyer None
Officer Gil Rojas Guillermo Rojas Nickname
Officer Jason Gato Jason Gatto Missing second "t" in last name
Officer William Florence William Florence None
Detention attendant Kevin Lombard Kevin Lombard None
Sergeant Frank Nobrega Nobrega Nickname (other records show first name is "Francis), no first name in LPD report
Lieutenant-in-charge Cioppes Siopes No first name in either report (other records show first name is "Thomas"), misspelled last name
Sergeant Fay James Fay No first name
Lieutenant Michael Kilmartin Kilmartin None, but no first name in LPD report
Lieutenant Michael Giufredda Giuffrida Misspelled last name, no first name in LPD report
Detention attendant Shawn Tetrault Shawn Tetreault Missing second "e" in last name
Officer Lou Gonzalez Julio Gonzalez Nickname
Captain Meehan Meehan No first name in either report (other records indicate name is "Thomas")

Given that Ryan and the MSP didn't eve take the time to get the names right, what else did they fail to investigate?

The Lowell police report on Alyssa’s death contains much more in depth information than the Ryan report. It exposes the depth of knowledge that Lowell police employees had while making the decisions that cost Brame her life was far greater than DA Ryan's report indicated. The Lowell report several times comments on and correct errors in the Ryan and MSP report.

Ryan's report claims that various Lowell police employees thought Brame might be sleeping or was snoring and that they were not aware of how severe her medical condition was. However, a damning detail revealed in the new report is that just minutes after Brame arrived at the Lowell Police Headquarters, a Lowell police employee announced that Brame was at the station and was passed out over the radio. Brame was unconscious and everyone knew.

The “legal analysis” section in DA Ryan's report only explored an involuntary manslaughter charge against the entire Lowell Police Department -- and offers no explanation as why Ryan didn’t consider any other charges for either the department or the officers themselves. Ryan opted not to bring charges because she claims that the investigation found “no one person acted in a wanton or reckless manner in connection with Ms. Brame. Therefore, by analogy, under Commonwealth V Life Care Centers of America, Inc., 456 Mass. 826, 833-834 (2010) there can be no culpability for involuntary manslaughter in the absence of "at least one individual whose behavior could permissibly be found to have been wanton and reckless."

The court opinion on the case that Ryan cited is about whether a corporation is criminally liable based on collective knowledge and conduct of multiple employees, as explained on Mass.gov. In her use of this argument Ryan says that there were several instances of negligent conduct by various individuals, but that it is not clear that “but for” each of those negligent acts the death from alcohol toxicity would have occurred. Ryan's report fails to consider that all of the actions taken were done so were done by employees directly under Lieutenant Thomas Siopes's supervision and with his knowledge. The case law she cites is invalid if even one person made a wanton and reckless decision.

“The SJC held that pursuant to established law, a corporation acts with a given mental state in a criminal context only if at least one employee who acts (or fails to act) possesses the requisite mental state at the time of the act (or failure to act),” according to Mass.gov.

There are a number of individuals who Ryan fails to charge and offers no explanation as to why.

According to her own report, detention attendant Kevin Lombard asked Sergeant James Fay if they were going to call an ambulance for Brame not long after she had lost consciousness. Fay was standing in the stairwell with Brame and had full knowledge that she had passed out and was extremely intoxicated when he decided to tell Kevin Lombard that they would not seek medical attention. Ryan's report also details Fay helping haul Brame down to the booking area and being the highest ranking LPD employee present when Brame was placed in the cell and left to die. Ryan gives no explanation as to why she doesn't consider these decisions to be reckless or wanton.

The Lowell police report reveals that Lieutenant-in-charge Thomas Siopes, whose job was to oversee the booking, played a much larger role in Brame's death than Ryan’s report indicates. In Ryan's report, Lt. "Cioppes" (who we assume is Siopes) only appears briefly in the stairwell while Brame is losing consciousness and questions if the allegations against her could be true.

According to the Lowell police report, Siopes did not seek any treatment for the woman in his custody that he witnessed lose consciousness despite his responsibility to do so. His inexcusable decision was to have Brame brought down to booking instead.

The other major missing bit of information from Ryan's report is that Lt. Siopes then stopped by Brame's cell where she lay unconscious and dying.

Siopes was aware, present, and in charge at each major junction of Brames detention and his decisions cost Brame her life. Siopes also left the police station early without being relieved.

Lowell police say there's video of Lt. Siopes being present with Brame while she passed out and of Siopes coming to Brame’s cell -- video that Ryan claims was reviewed as part of the investigation. Why were these facts omitted from Ryan's report?

Were Lt. Siopes's decisions reckless and or wanton? Well, when asked by the Lowell Police Board of Inquiry if he would have called for an ambulance in light of Brame's death and with all the information that he has now, he said he said "no." Siopes actually said that he would let Brame die again if given a second chance. Ryan's assertion that there was no criminal mindset is debunked.

Now, with the new evidence revealed, will there be justice? No. Ryan has already issued letters of incidental immunity protecting the Lowell police officers involved from any prosecution tied to the incident.

Lowell police were able to assemble their information either because they did an actual investigation or because Ryan had already granted the officers immunity, so they felt comfortable discussing the death. Either case is troubling. Either DA Ryan's investigation was half-hearted and or incompetent or DA Ryan issued immunity to Lowell police employees prematurely or with full knowledge that their actions were far worse than her report claimed.

One issue that both reports agree on was that the detention attendants lacked adequate training. Ryan's report suggests that Lowell police train their employees better and makes no mention of the fact that this lack of training was systemic throughout the department. The Lowell police report shows that records were not kept properly and training was not done.

The only officers who had findings against them are the officers who actively participated in Brame's death, but lack of required training has been cited in both reports to be one of the major reasons for Brame's death. Why aren’t the superior officers and everyone within the Lowell Police Department who were supposed to provide and document this training facing penalties?

There was other criminality the Lowell police report brought to light.

Ryan's report highlights that the Lowell police felt a pushback from local hospitals and this was part of the decision not to send Brame to the hospital. Lowell police investigators got to the bottom of this claim -- it was Sergeant Francis Nobrega. Nobrega purposely misled the MSP investigation by lying and providing a misleading excerpt of an email. There was no pushback from the hospitals. Nobrega has not been charged for his disruption of DA Ryan's investigation.

Lowell police also note that Lt. Siopes misled the MSP investigation as well. Lt. Siopes told MSP that "She [Brame] was always like this" whens he had been arrested in the past. Lowell police investigators determined that this was untrue using video evidence from previous arrests. Ryan has not brought charges against Siopes for disrupting the investigation either.

Right now departing Lowell City manager Bernard F. Lynch is deciding if Siopes, Kilmartin, Fay, Nobrega, Giuffrida, Tetreault, Florence, and Lombard should face suspension or if they should be fired.

  • Lynch's contact information: Office Hours M-F, 8 AM - 5 PM Location 375 Merrimack Street 2nd Floor, Room 43 Lowell, MA 01852 978-674-4000 (P) 978-970-4007 (F)

  • District Attorney Ryan's office can be reached at: Office of the Middlesex District Attorney 15 Commonwealth Avenue Woburn, MA 01801 Main Phone: (781) 897-8300 Main Fax: (781) 897-8301 MA Toll Free: (877) 897-8333

  • District Attorney Ryan's boss, Attorney General Martha Coakley, is running for governor: One Ashburton Place Boston, MA 02108-1518 Phone: (617) 727-2200

  • Lowell Police Department: Office Hours M-F, 8 AM - 5 PM Location 50 Arcand Drive Lowell, MA 01852 978-937-3200 (P) 978-970-0455 (F)

You can watch the portion of the Brame booking video that has been made available to the public on YouTube: