Sunday, September 23, 2007

Death by Cop on 93


The Boston rags have not gotten with the program yet. The Patriot Ledger, however, is on the latest developments in the peculiar case of Michelle Vibert.

She is the 29-year-old mother who died 13 months ago at 2 a.m. when an off-duty Boston cop drove his SUV into her stalled car on Route 93 near the Dorchester gas tank. Not only did state cops not give him a sobriety test, they did only the most cursory site investigation, far less than is typical. There have been no charges against Thomas Griffin.

There was some public outcry after the wreck, including a couple of mentions in this blog here and here. Afterward, the state cops either did their job or got out the whitewash, depending on how you consider the circumstances. The report of the Suffolk County DA's office laughably claims "An intensive five-month investigation into a fatal crash on Route 93 South last August has led authorities to determine that criminal charges are not warranted in the case..."

At the time of the wreck, there was no field sobriety test nor a blood test and the state cops got a two sentence statement from city officer Thomas Griffin. Apparently that intensive investigation involved finally doing detailed interviews with Griffin and his two passengers and looking at the state police reconstruction report of the site examination, which was done in 40 minutes, starting almost eight hours after the fatal crash. You likely are aware that typical accident reconstructions take many hours and close off highways...when a cop is not the driver.

The Patriot Ledger addresses a consultant's report by Stephen R. Benanti, whom they ID as "a retired State Police accident reconstruction specialist." A major conclusion is "It appears the report was written in a manner as to protect Mr. Griffin and blame Michelle Vibert." Her father, Joseph S. Mogan, paid for the report and has asked commonwealth AG Martha Coakley to investigate.

The state police aren't commenting and the Suffolk DA's office claims it did its job and was unbiased. Nothing suspicious about cops investigating cops and clearing them. Move along. Move along.

A special feature in a November Patriot Ledger has the known details of the wreck, including a diagram. Among the salient points are:
  • Her Camry stalled and she pulled it next to the guard rail.
  • There was no full breakdown lane, but her car was four and one-half feet off the right lane (plenty of space for a driver there to pass safely.
  • Her blinkers were on, as she telephoned for help.
  • The road was dry and the skies clear.
  • Griffin and two women left the Purple Shamrock on Union Street, but he claims not to have had any alcohol, none, nada.
  • Right before he drove his Ford Explorer into the subcompact, he switched from the middle lane to the right lane.
  • He smashed into the rear of the Camry and spun it 180 degrees, as well as tipping the SUV on its side.
Without even being conspiracy minded, you would suppose that the cops would say, "Oh you left a bar at 2 in the morning, but were not drinking. We need to do a blood test so you can prove you were sober when it comes up." Instead, they concluded that their visual scan of his indicated no tests were necessary. Nothing to see here.

One of the two women with Griffin mentioned the bar. The other did not. No one said anything about whether Griffin was drinking or doing any other drug elsewhere before. We're never likely to know.

It would be hard to invent a clearer set of circumstances to scream, "Cover-up!" This has all the appearances of one of the two worst types of police corruption. One is taking money to do something illegal, and the other is failing to do your sworn and paid duty in order to help a friend or someone like you.

This needs to continue. The AG needs to look at both the Suffolk DA work and certainly what the state cops did and did not do. At this date, there's a good chance Griffin will continue to get a free pass on vehicular homicide. However, there's the little matter of the investigating agencies in what clearly seems to be cops letting a cop get away with a serious crime, a fatal one.

Those involved have not done nearly enough to convince people this is not a cover-up. In fact, they seem to have gone out of their way to raise questions and doubts.

This goes to the vitality of the AG's office as well. Martha needs to do her job here. This appears to go to high levels of both the state police and a county DA.

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4 comments:

John Hosty said...

Good luck on getting an answer from Martha on this one Marrier. I'm still waiting to hear from her about the petition fraud criminal investigation.

She is harder to find than Waldo when she doesn't want to be found. I'll forward her you article though. Great reporting like always. ;)

Ryan Adams said...

Stuff like this annoys me to no end. Corruption really can be a devestation upon society; if people can't trust their government, government just doesn't work. There are countless examples of it around the world. Obviously, because there's corruption in the Boston police force, that doesn't mean we're about to fall apart at the seams... but a little constant vigilance doesn't hurt.

Mass Marrier said...

Lots of disturbing stuff around with both the AG and cops -- I agree. I keep watching those P'town cops-clearing-cops in beatings too.

Now too the MFI and others are lobbying the legislature to keep from getting any restrictions on their petition gathering and other aspects of initiatives.

What is this place, the Wild Wild East?

SpecialBeatService said...

I have no opinion whether Stephen Benanti's conclusions are correct or not in this particular case but I would question any opinion he has which is critical of his former employer, the Massachusetts State Police. His testimony as a paid expert at trial that the official findings of the State Police Accident Reconstruction Unit were wrong while he was Commander of the Unit resulted in a new trial after the trial judge found his involvement in the trial both "extraordinary and troubling." He was almost immediately transferred out of the Unit and retired shortly thereafter. Since that time, he seems to always find that the State Police Accident Reconstruction investigation was wrong when he testifies as a paid expert in the 100 cases he is retained on per year.

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