Former Connecticut police officer sentenced for beating suspect

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2015 2:12 PM

By Richard Weizel

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Reuters) - A former 12-year veteran Connecticut police officer caught on video tasering and kicking a Hispanic suspect in a city park was sentenced on Thursday to three months in prison for violating the suspect's civil rights.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Meyer imposed the sentence on former Bridgeport police officer Elson Morales, who pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges after being among three officers accused of stomping and beating Orlando Lopez-Soto on May 20, 2011 after a high speed car chase through the state's largest city.

The incident was recorded on video by a passerby.

Despite pleas by Morales, his crying wife, and more than a dozen officers who came to court in a show of support for Morales, 43, defense attorney Michael Fitzpatrick's request to spare his client from serving time in prison was denied.

Meyer said such "brutal attacks" by police undermine the community's trust and "make it necessary and appropriate to impose a serious sentence that includes some time in prison."

Morales could have received up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, as federal prosecutors sought.

"I want to apologize to OLS (Lopez-Soto), the citizens of Bridgeport and my fellow officers," Morales told Meyer prior to sentencing. "What I did was illegal and wrong, and I take full responsibility."

Fitzpatrick had asked the judge to impose a sentence of only probation.

Former officer Joseph Lawlor, who also pleaded guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced later on Thursday for his involvement in the incident.

The third officer involved, Clive Higgins, was found not guilty of criminal charges last month.

Lopez-Soto is serving five years in prison after pleading guilty to drug and gun charges.

Morales and Lawlor each pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)