Favorite

Blue Mob 

Pity those caught by the Warren police, who rule with iron fists and rubber gloves.

This town was in much better shape when the mob ran it. Now it's a war zone and crackhead-controlled ghetto . . . Young cops run around like the Gestapo setting up checkpoints and harassing non-criminals . . .

Who's making the real money? Not the black dealers, it's the attorneys that keep them on the street . . .

To all you idiots who keep complaining about our Police Officers . . . if you don't like our city why in the hell do you still live here?

-- From Warrenpages.com, a community forum.

Warren is a town full of tough guys, and they don't like lawyer Richard Olivito.

Blondish, self-deprecating, soft-bodied Olivito is an outsider in rumpled clothes. Around here, there is something suspicious about a civil-rights noisemaker who avoids bars. His idea of socializing takes place within the homes of the mostly poor, mostly black people he represents, where he can discuss the progress of any given case late into the night.

Raised in West Virginia and Steubenville, the youngest son of a judge, he was instrumental in getting the feds to take over that city's police force in 1996.

It all started four years earlier with what seemed to be an ordinary possession-with-intent-to-distribute case. Olivito was assigned to defend a small-time dealer named Andre Hython, whom police said had dropped a fistful of crack after being confronted in a vacant lot.

In court, the young lawyer questioned each of the seven officers present, soon making it clear that the only one who had seen Hython drop the 33 rocks was the prosecutor's own drug task-force agent, Raymond Terry. Hython and his buddy maintained that Terry had planted the crack.

Then Olivito threw a lightning bolt: With Terry on the stand, the lawyer asked him point-blank: Had he helped his son and cousin smuggle drugs in from Detroit? The Terry family's activities were well known among officials and dealers alike, but no one had ever raised the issue publicly. Terry and the prosecutor were dead silent. The courtroom seemed to hold its breath. But to the jury, their lack of protest said it all.

The prosecutor "should have objected," says Olivito, "but he was too surprised, I guess. He came off as . . . not credible."

In what may have been a Steubenville first, Hython was acquitted. The word of a known user had trumped the testimony of seven cops.

Fred Abdalla, sheriff of Jefferson County, remembers the Terry family well. Raymond Terry's son was one of the "biggest dealers in this area," he says. "And the thing about Ray Sr. was, officers would search a vehicle and find nothing, then along comes Terry and there [were the drugs] . . . If his lips were moving, he was lying."

After the trial, members of the jury told Olivito they decided Hython was innocent within just 20 minutes, but they nervously stayed sequestered for hours. They were afraid of the repercussions of their decision. No one wanted to be on the wrong side of a rogue cop.

But that's not what brought the feds to Steubenville. Before the trial, Andre's brother Andrew was arrested, police say, after he led them on a high-speed chase, during which they saw a bag of crack fly out of the window. Once again, Raymond Terry was on the scene.

Yet at a preliminary hearing, rookie officer James Marquis broke down on the stand, confessing that the cops "went after" Hython upon orders from Jefferson County Prosecutor Stephen Stern. The disgusted judge threw out the case.

Olivito then sued Stern, Terry, and the city in federal court for false arrest. He intended to prove that in Steubenville, cops and criminals were one and the same.

It took two years for an appellate court to decide just how liable the city and county could be held under the Civil Rights Act, but even before the case got under way, Olivito began to feel like he was being hunted.

His dad, Common Pleas Judge Dominic Olivito, says anonymous callers issued vague, ominous threats. Sometimes they were delivered by third parties who would say things like, "This doesn't come from me, but you'd better tell your boy to cool down." The elder Olivito urged his son to settle into general practice, like his older brother. But Richard had always been the family idealist.

"It cost him everything in the end," says the now-retired judge.

Both city and county settled out of court in 1996, and Andrew Hython was awarded a total of $47,500. Olivito landed a greater victory: He convinced the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the possibility that Steubenville officials were engaged in a larger pattern of civil-rights violations.

The feds filed suit that same year, accusing the city of abuse, corruption, and lack of accountability. Rather than fight a losing battle in court, Steubenville signed away control of its police force.

Eight years later, Olivito hopes to make the same thing happen in Warren. He accuses city police of engaging in similar corruption, only this time it's being practiced with far more violence. In addition to numerous beatings, it seems that police routinely sexually humiliate people stopped for even modest traffic violations. Until recently, no one -- especially the male victims -- has been eager to talk about it. But through Olivito's tenacity, people have begun to step forward.


"This town is SICK of the italians, irish, and those greeks running everything. Goodbye to all the ethnic festivals and that garbage, it's 2003 folks . . . in with the lattes out with the gyros!"


"Just because Greeks and Italians have ruled the entire world in our histories is not a good reason for your jealousy. Now please move back to West Virginia have your possum dinner kick your dog and go to bed."


"To the one who thinks Warren was better off when the mob ran it. Consider this! What if the mob still runs our town?"

Goodfella

It's after 10 p.m. on a Friday, and the Mocha House is full. Located just blocks from the police station, snuggled next to a Greek Orthodox church, the large restaurant hosts an intergenerational crowd tonight. Two elderly ladies dressed in Old World black sit with two old men, surrounded by college kids and office workers.

Olivito, seated in a booth near the front, wears his paranoia like cologne. An equally nervous colleague blames it on Steubenville.

The Cleveland lawyer, who asked not to be named -- he's afraid their old enemies could resurface -- was practicing in Columbus when he and Olivito became friends. He came close to regretting that decision, spiritually rewarding as it was.

His sense of foreboding began when they started to hear clicking on the line during phone conversations. They bought phone tap detectors, but the phones were so frequently bugged, the detectors kept running out of batteries.

"The parties involved [in the Hython cases] were not clean," the lawyer says, with deliberate understatement.

Steubenville would eventually cost Olivito his livelihood. Having put all his money and energy into the Hython brothers at the expense of his other clients, he watched his fledgling practice crumble.

Worse was the terror of being stalked by law enforcement, he says. Neighbors reported seeing a Steubenville cop snapping pictures of his house. One day, he and his wife Joyce were descending their duplex's stairway when she remarked on a strange, pretty light flickering on the ceiling. When Olivito turned, he saw a red dot on her forehead.

Before he could scream, there was a commotion outside the window. He looked out to see his shotgun-toting neighbors tearing across the lawn. They later told the Olivitos they were chasing a fair-skinned black man seen kneeling on the lawn in a sharpshooter's pose. The gunman's barrel had been trained on Olivito's house. The pretty light must have been a laser scope.

The description matched Raymond Terry, who liked to brag about his elite military training. But the gunman was never caught.

"Everyone knew the Terry family was . . . bringing in the drugs," says Olivito. "But no one dared say it. I was too naive to know I wasn't supposed to."

He may have been foolish, but he was right. In 1998, Raymond Terry Jr. was charged with possession of 100 grams of cocaine, 50 grams of crack, 100 grams of meth, and five pounds of pot. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

From the night of the sharpshooter incident on, the Olivitos lived in a state of fear -- oddly mixed with a strong sense of moral worth. Joyce, in many ways more practical, had been a union organizer in West Virginia when they met. Richard says she radicalized him, and the pair felt they were on a righteous path.

Stephen Steinglass, dean of Cleveland-Marshall School of Law and a national authority on the Civil Rights Act, remembers phone calls he received from the excitable Steubenville lawyer. The dean would answer Olivito's technical questions and give him practical advice. "In a small town, one has to be courageous to take on the police," he says.

But even after the Justice Department took over the Steubenville Police Department, the stalking and death threats multiplied. A federal attorney told Olivito to move 3,000 miles away. It would be better for his health.

The Olivitos fled south, not even bothering to collect the extra fees he could have gotten for successfully suing under the Civil Rights Act. Joyce eventually grew tired of running, and they separated.

As the Mocha House crowd thins, a leather-skinned man with thick white hair, a high-bridged Roman nose, and a muscular build takes a seat at an adjacent table and lights a cigar. Dressed like an extra from The Sopranos, he angles his body toward Olivito, legs cocked apart, eyes on the lawyer. Half an hour passes, and I begin to think the man is interested in Olivito's wild meanderings. I draw a question mark on my notepad. Olivito nods.

"We can get out of here," he says.

Goodfella pulls the edge of his oxblood leather jacket to one side, revealing a small tape recorder attached to his belt. It's pointed toward Olivito. He holds his coat open so I can see.

"Welcome to Warren!" Olivito laughs once he's hit the sidewalk. "I'm glad you saw it for yourself. Now you know what I deal with."


"Police brutality my white ass! Go ahead to the NAACP!"


"The guy was chewing on a mouthful of drugs and fighting with a cop. He deserves what he gets."


"Not that anyone's asking, but my opinion is this: Whatever the police have to do to keep a crack dealer out of my neighborhood is okay by me."

The Kimble Event

When the heat finally died down, Olivito returned to Ohio, setting up shop in Boardman and rebuilding his practice, to his father's relief. He met someone new, and together they had a child. With a redirected focus, he tried to establish a quieter life. Until he got the call -- again.

He was sitting at the May 4 memorial plaza at Kent State, talking to his infant son about how students were shot dead by the National Guard. Then he saw the newspaper headline: "Police Beat Drug Dealer Bloody, Kids Watch."

Caught on a neighbor's video, what would soon be called the "Kimble Event" looked like something out of the WWE: Three cops, each weighing more than 200 pounds, pitted against one skinny small-time dealer. Lyndal Kimble was choked, lifted high in the air, then slammed against the pavement. He was punched in the face. He was gored 10 times in the ribs with a metal object.

The video showed Kimble in the fetal position on the sidewalk. A Warren patrolman identified as Greg Hoso turned away to take a breather, panting heavily, while the other two officers, Frank Tempesta and Michael Stabile, pinned Kimble to the ground. His energy seemingly restored, Hoso returned to drop-kick Kimble's head like a football.

Olivito finished reading, buckled his son into his car seat, and drove an hour east to the old factory town. When he arrived at Melanise and Lyndal Kimble's rickety wooden frame house, there were more than 50 people gathered. No one trusted the poorly dressed, apologetic white stranger. No one understood what he was mumbling -- something about something that happened in Steubenville a long time ago.

But Olivito persisted. He camped out in Warren until the Kimbles agreed to retain him for the criminal trial, scheduled for next month.

Sandwiched between two tough cities -- Cleveland and Youngstown -- Warren has never been a good place to be caught breaking the law, people told Olivito. Particularly if you're poor or if you've been in trouble before. And if you've ever been caught with drugs? Pray.

Today's Warren is a product of the immigrants who came to work in the factories. They arrived in the States accustomed to paying tribute to dons and corrupt priests. It's a town most locals believe is still run by the mob.

"It's cowboy out here!" says Maridee Costanzo, a public defender not known for mincing words. "It's asshole-ridiculous. I'm less afraid of the crackheads than the bad cops we've got. At least dealers won't plant dope in my car."

Numbers seem to support conventional wisdom. The multitude of misconduct-related lawsuits filed against the Warren PD has caused its insurance deductible to rise tenfold since 2000. And the number of complaints are soaring, in part thanks to Olivito. Not everyone is pleased about that.

"When a lawyer goes to Giant Eagle, handing out fliers [telling people] to contact him if they've ever been victims of brutality, what do you think is going to happen?" asks police Lieutenant Tom Skocyzlas.

He isn't the only one who believes Olivito is trying to milk the city dry. Police Chief John Mandopoulos has said much the same thing.

But the winds of change were blowing before Olivito got to town. It started last year when Cleveland lawyer Ken Myers discovered that Warren police were routinely performing illegal strip and cavity searches.

According to the federal complaint, LaShawn Ziegler and Brandon Rodgers were pulled over by officer Tim Ladner in April 2002. Seemingly without provocation, Ladner shoved his flashlight into Rodgers's mouth. Finding nothing, he pulled him from the car and patted him down.

The heavyset, red-mustached Ladner then told Ziegler, a nightclub owner, that he was speeding and ordered him out of the car as well. According to the complaint, Ladner started to pat him down too, then grabbed Ziegler's testicles and jammed his fist into his crotch.

The officer then let the pair go without so much as a speeding ticket.

Six months later, Ziegler and Rodgers had another run-in with Ladner. This time Ziegler was driving under suspension. The two had just climbed out of his car in front of a nightclub when Ladner and Sergeant Rob Massucci approached. Massucci, who had been a military police officer for six years before joining the Warren force, said they weren't sure who was driving. So they arrested them both.

According to court documents, Ladner and Massucci put the pair in a holding cell. They were told to undress. What started as a misdemeanor traffic stop ended with both men standing together naked, in full view of a female dispatcher.

The men sued, and as part of the $52,000 settlement, the WPD accepted a judgment against its officers.

But more astounding was what Myers unearthed. In the course of discovery, Myers found that -- Ohio law be damned -- random strip and cavity searches were commonplace in Warren.


"Better rein 'em in Chief, many people in this town are disgusted by what they hear and see concerning the WPD."


"Mind your own business and don't brake the law, and maybe you won't get a ticket."


"Let's just face it, we have some bad characters as police officers in this town."

The Gambone Report

Dominic Gambone has neat, cursive handwriting. His four-page letter, addressed To Whom It May Concern, is attached to a police complaint form.

In painstaking detail, Gambone describes his drive to a grocery shop not far from his father's apartment, and how he saw a familiar-looking older man walking in the same direction. The weather was cold, so he stopped to offer him a ride. The man said he needed jumper cables for his wife's car, and the two began to strategize over the dead battery.

A police cruiser appeared and pulled up behind the two. Moments later, officer Robert Trimble demanded Gambone's license and registration. Gambone's stomach dropped. He had been driving with a suspended license. But he knew that if he cooperated, he wouldn't go to jail because his record was squeaky-clean.

Yet he was also new to town, and didn't know Trimble's reputation. A few years before joining the WPD, the officer spent time in the county jail for felonious assault. He'd knocked a man's eye out.

Trimble and officer Tim Parana arrested Gambone. En route to the station, he prayed he wouldn't be kept long -- he had a new job to get to.

Once in the holding cell, Parana and Trimble told him to take off his clothes, and when Parana produced a pair of rubber gloves and a flashlight, Gambone went cold. "You all can't do this!" he said in disbelief.

Gambone was ordered to remove his underwear. The two officers stood on either side of him and shined their lights on his penis. They told him to lift it up so they could see underneath. Officer Trimble asked him to bend over and spread himself wide as they shined their lights.

Trimble then told Gambone to dress and led him from the cell. He took his photograph against the wall while Parana wrote out a citation.

The last section of Gambone's statement is poignant: "When they took the photo [there was another] officer there and he looked me in the eyes I know the officer seen my pain in my eyes."

Gambone's demoralized tone is the point, says Maridee Costanzo, whose clients have been through similar ordeals. Strip-searching "is used to make you feel bad. People don't come forward . . . it's like rape."

Gambone would wait a year before filing a complaint, but it took only days for Lieutenant Joe Marhulik to determine the entire force needed a crash course in Ohio law.

Parana and Trimble confirmed that the arrest and strip search had taken place as Gambone described -- except, oddly enough, Parana insisted they had not used gloves or lights. The officers didn't seem to quite understand the problem.

"Warren is like Alice in Wonderland: Up is down, and down is up," says Myers.

The officers said they were suspicious of Gambone because his car was stopped in the middle of the street, in an area known for drug trafficking. Though he had no drug record, they felt they needed to do a "thorough search of his scrotum area," because people hide drugs there.

It's an odd theory -- that dopers routinely hide drugs up their backside while simply driving around town. But the officers also seemed unaware of Ohio law on cavity searches: only with a search warrant, only under sanitary conditions, and only by a licensed medical professional.

Marhulik discovered that most officers believed they could conduct cavity searches on anyone for any reason, even for traffic violations. Sergeant Rob Massucci, who was in charge of patrolling the projects, was particularly keen on the practice.

Parana and Trimble told investigators that the sergeant ordered all patrolmen working the Trumbull Municipal Housing Authority detail to strip-search every suspect, chastising those who demurred. But Massucci's abuses could not have continued without the complicity of police lawyers, the prosecutor's office, and at least one municipal judge -- Thomas Gysegem.

When Marhulik questioned Gysegem about the legality of strip searching, Gysegem seemed confused and argued that police were in the right. It wasn't the first time Gysegem was confused about the law.


"As a warren police officer . . . im ashamed to be in the department rite now. the corruption is enormous rite now. the veteran officers are ruining a once sacred and honored career. god help us all here in this department."


"You clown, you type like a junkie. You are the same stupid person who gets his dinner at drive-thru beverage centers. There's a law for impersonating a police officer and you belong locked up!"

Official Business

The senior crane operator wrenched his back in the steel mill where he'd put in 30 years, so now he fixes appliances and TVs for his neighbors. Clarence Clay had just picked up an old set around the corner from his house when, police say, he ran a stop sign.

Clay pulled into his driveway. Officers Joe Kistler and Eric Hetmanski pulled in behind him and ordered the 52-year-old man from his car.

The scene was captured by a video camera in the cruiser, which automatically activates when the overhead lights go on.

At first glance, it's hard to tell Kistler and Hetmanski apart on the grainy video. They are both big, with dark hair and pudgy baby faces. When Clay opens his door, they grab him, wrenching his arms at seemingly impossible angles.

They handcuff him and search his car, finding nothing but the broken television. The officers slam Clay's head and shoulders against the hood. The camera catches his dazed expression.

Clay remembers being accused of hiding crack in his mouth. Later, the officers report seeing a white substance on his lip. It turned out to be pieces of the tooth they crushed in his mouth.

Clay then slides out of camera range. There are sickening pounding noises. Clay later testified that his face was being slammed against the driveway. While pinned on the ground, they kicked him in the ribs, he told a jury.

The video recorder picks up two heavy thumps, a lot of static, and then Clay's repeated question. "Sir, what am I under arrest for? What did I do, sir? Sir?"

Clay's attempt to reason with the younger men is lost. "Shut the fuck up! Get in the fucking car!" screamed one.

Clay is tossed into the back of the cruiser as a DJ's baritone announces the call numbers of the hard-rock station. The father of two sits rigidly as officers search the ground with flashlights.

Clay pleads, seemingly with himself, over the pounding of a bass guitar. "What am I under arrest for? What am I under arrest for?" he repeats.

Kistler and Hetmanski give up their search. When they get into the cruiser, they answer Clay's question.

"Obstruction of official business," says one.

"Obstruction of official business?!" Clay echoes incredulously. The video ends. That night Clay was booked on four misdemeanors: Obstruction, running a stop sign, failure to comply with a police order, and resisting arrest.

According to Clay, when he arrived at the holding cell, Hetmanski ordered him to strip naked and "spread himself." The officer denies asking Clay to remove anything other than his shoes and socks.

No contraband was found, and Clay was released that night. He walked home in the dark. His wife, an elementary school teacher, was waiting.

Joanne Clay looked at her husband's swollen face, bruised rib, and missing tooth and eyeglasses and drove him back to the police station to confront the officers. "What did he do to deserve this?" she asked the officer on duty.

"When a policeman says 'move,' you move," she was told.


"Support the police. A vote against law enforcement is a vote for crackheads."


"I hope you get your g.e.d soon so you can get a job and get off this site."


"To all the idiots, I work at WPD, and I'm very proud of that fact!!!"

Clay's bad patch

Clarence and Joanne Clay sit side by side on the sofa. They're tall, slender, serious-looking people.

Their living room has a worn look, and the front window overlooks the driveway where Mr. Clay was beaten. Decoration consists mostly of a family photo gallery, which prominently features their oldest son. One photo shows him in a tuxedo, another in his football uniform, another with the basketball team.

"It's his year," says Mrs. Clay.

They have good reason to be proud. The 18-year-old has been offered a full academic scholarship to Ohio State, where he'll study engineering.

Their youngest son is holding up slightly less well. Ever since he saw the police video of his father's arrest, he has become obsessive about law and order. He's now a hypervigilant backseat driver, taking careful note of stop signs, seat belts, speed limits. When he sees a police cruiser, he ducks his head reflexively.

Three days after the pounding, Clay had a heart attack. He wears a pacemaker now, but it's difficult for him to talk at any length without running out of breath. With some urging, he talks about the past. It was 1989 when he wrenched his back throwing a heavy switch at WCI Steel and had to go on worker's comp.

Sitting in the house all day while his wife worked made him feel useless. When an acquaintance introduced him to crack, he thought he had nothing to lose. Hiding his new habit from his family was a challenge, but he managed. "It was never around them," he says fiercely.

Then he got caught trying to buy. Being arrested was humiliating, and his wife had trouble understanding how something like crack could ever touch their high-achieving family. Clay was given one month of rehab, and he made good use of it.

He went back to the steel mill, this time assigned to "pencil work." It was better than staying home all day. In his free time, he kept busy doing things like fixing appliances and driving his elderly neighbor to the hospital for her weekly dialysis.

But Hetmanski and Kistler didn't know or care about any of that, says Olivito, just as they didn't know about the city council commendation the Clays received for helping to shut down a neighborhood liquor store that operated as a de facto drug house.

Olivito's theory: All they saw was a black man with a record, driving in the wrong neighborhood after dark. Within the WPD's "culture of violence," those elements equal a "license to brutalize," he says with characteristic drama.

After more urging, Clay lifts his shirt to show the strange jutting welt on his torso. His doctor says it's a piece of rib knocked out of alignment -- a permanent reminder of that night.

Clay filed a police-misconduct complaint, but his immediate concern was the charges leveled against him. Yet on the day of his hearing, Olivito was late in arriving to court. Public defender Melissa Dinsio, who just happened to be there, decided to work out a deal: Clay could plead no contest to resisting arrest, and the prosecutor would recommend no jail time.

Activists say that's how Warren's judicial system works: Public defenders persuade clients who were roughed up to plead to charges that make it difficult for them to sue police.

Clay's wife wanted him to take the plea and be done with it, but on the day of the hearing, the noisy new lawyer in town made a scene.

When Olivito arrived, Dinsio told him it was a done deal. The plea had been made. Olivito was mad. "Did these officers beat you or not?" he asked in open court. "Well, what are you pleading for, then?"

In front of Judge Thomas Gysegem, Dinsio grew enraged. Nonetheless, Olivito convinced Clay to stick to his guns, and there was nothing anyone could do but schedule a trial.

Between the Kimble Event and now the Clay spectacle, Olivito had everyone's attention.

The trial lasted two days. Chief John Mandopoulos -- widely known as "Mando" -- and an assortment of patrolmen packed the courtroom in support of their brethren. "They were sending a signal to the jury and to us," Olivito says.

Clay agrees. He says he was heckled by officers while on the stand, in particular by Greg Hoso, the same officer accused in the Kimble case. After a particularly obnoxious guffaw from Hoso, Olivito complained to Judge Gysegem. To the spectators' glee, Gysegem announced that Hoso was welcome to tell jokes.

Dominic Olivito made the drive from Steubenville to sit in on the proceedings. The retired, white-haired judge sat quietly in the back and said nothing as Mando's officers filtered in and out, heckling his youngest son and the fragile-looking black man.

But Mando laughs at the suggestion that he encouraged his men to attend -- "I would have to pay them all overtime!" -- and says he didn't hear any heckling.

Olivito argues that police took so much interest because the trial represented a milestone. Even if they are strip-searched or beat up, working-class people in Warren rarely request jury trials. They would rather plead to something they didn't do than risk jail. Public defenders, judges, prosecutors -- they all know the game, says Olivito. That's why, when he first got to town, clients told him that they felt safer talking to him once they learned he wasn't from Warren, he says.

"It's difficult to comprehend a situation where people are so incredibly scared," he says, "but that's part of the landscape in Warren."

Jurors reported afterward that the atmosphere in the courtroom was unbearably tense, but when they heard the sounds on the video of the former steelworker being punched and kicked while handcuffed, they ruled Clay not guilty of resisting arrest.

"Where does it say a cop can't punch in the face?" Mando would later complain to Scene. "Police are able to match whatever amount of force is being used against them . . . It's our job to stop the bad guys." When asked if Clarence Clay qualifies as a bad guy, Mando says he can't comment with a civil suit pending.

The jury did not clear Clay of all charges -- it found him guilty of obstruction and running a stop sign. While on the stand, Clay -- candid to a fault -- admitted to stalling when ordered to put his feet in the police cruiser. When asked why, he said he thought the officers planned to drive him somewhere to kill him.

Clay's scrupulous honesty may have been behind the jury's split verdict, but even the prosecutor recommended probation and no jail time. To everyone's surprise, however, Judge Gysegem rejected the recommendation. Calling Clay a "threat to the community," he sentenced him to 30 days.

Olivito believed it was retribution -- payback for refusing to plead, payback for hiring a noisy outsider lawyer who thought he could shake the status quo. The cautious Warren Tribune-Chronicle agreed. In September, it accused Gysegem of practicing "vengeful justice."

Publicity from the incident didn't seem to change the methods of officers Hetmanski and Kistler. Just two months later, on May 29, 2003, Alphonse Hogan was riding his bicycle when Kistler and Hetmanski started tailing him inches behind. He says they knocked his rear tire repeatedly with their bumper, and soon he lost balance. According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, he dropped his bike and ran to his girlfriend's house. He had no criminal record, and he hadn't broken any laws. But running is what most people in his neighborhood do when bothered by police, says Olivito.

The officers squealed through neighbors' lawns in hot pursuit of the man they later said was wanted on a months-old charge of driving under a suspended license. They caught up with him in the basement, hiding under a blanket. His girlfriend, helpless, listened to him scream as Kistler and Hetmanski, who had been joined by officers Parana and Ladner, beat Hogan's head with batons through the blanket. Janair Fambro, who lives in the neighborhood, says she and other neighbors could hear Hogan's screams. They watched as officers dragged him outside and tossed him in a cruiser. Later, officers would explain that they had to beat him because he could have had a weapon under the blanket. Hogan was booked for resisting arrest and for failure to appear in court for the suspended-license charge.

And just last month, Hetmanski and Kistler said they had witnessed 50-year-old William Summerlin run a red light. Summerlin contends the pair groped and probed his genitals to humiliate him.

What none of them realized was that a 10-year-old boy was quietly filming the incident from a nearby window. Now Summerlin has also filed suit.

Though the police department's credibility continues to take hits, Olivito has had troubles of his own.

When the Kimble Event made national news, he became something of a clearing-house for brutality complaints. A black college student called to say she'd been choked and punched by a cop, but the incident had occurred nearly two years before, and the statute of limitations was due to expire. With the help of another attorney, Olivito worked 48 hours straight, filing a suit just minutes before the deadline.

There was only one thing wrong -- he hadn't paid the dues and completed all the paperwork that would allow him to practice in Northern District federal court. Olivito assumed that because he was already a member of the Southern District, the court would cut him some slack on the technicality.

But the police union filed a motion to dismiss, and the judge granted it. If that weren't enough, while working on the Clay and Kimble cases, Olivito spaced on another client's DUI hearing scheduled before Judge Robert Millich in Youngstown Municipal Court. When he phoned the court to see if another lawyer could stand in, a puzzled assistant prosecutor told him that Millich had already issued a warrant for contempt.

The local media had a field day over Olivito's "lack of qualifications." Worse, a few clients began to feel that the guy who'd promised to bring them justice was just a crank.

"Is the guy even a lawyer?" asks Chief Mando, chuckling.

Frustrated at what he sees as an attempt to distract him, Olivito understands the tactics. "By discrediting me, Warren thinks it can keep burying my clients."

But thanks to the Warren police, there are plenty of claims to exhume, and fresh victims just keep piling up.

Next week, in Part II: The most violent gang in Warren appears to be the cops.

Tags:

More by Aina Hunter

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Staff Pick Events

  • Author Series: Sara Marcus @ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives

    • Tue., Aug. 30
  • Indians vs. Minnesota Twins @ Progressive Field

    • Wed., Aug. 31
  • Browns vs. Chicago Bears @ First Energy Stadium

    • Thu., Sept. 1

Facebook Activity

© 2016 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation