FALL RIVER — David Lafrance, the alleged victim in the case against former Fall River police officer Michael Pessoa, was verbally belligerent and threatened to assault officers responding to a dispute at his apartment in February 2019, but physically cooperating before Pessoa struck him, another officer told a jury Tuesday.
Sean Aguiar was the second former police officer to receive immunity from Superior Court Judge Renee P. Dupuis in exchange for his testimony against Pessoa.
But while Lafrance was “physically compliant the entire time,” according to Aguiar, the four responding officers including Pessoa and himself all indicated the opposite in official reports — that the then-59-year-old man was not in compliance with the officers’ commands and that force was warranted.
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At times sparring with Assistant Bristol County District Attorney William McCauley, Aguiar conceded he never felt threatened by Lafrance, who was handcuffed and about to be released when Pessoa allegedly assaulted him.
“Were verbal commands given to [Lafrance]?” asked McCauley.
“From the time he made the threat to the time he was taken to the ground? No,” said Aguiar. “Which I am testifying did not happen.”
Pessoa was a 19-year veteran police officer when he was indicted in June 2019 for assaulting four men in separate incidents. The case involving Lafrance is the first of three potential trials against Pessoa.
One of the four cases was dropped, and Dupuis earlier ordered the cases to be tried separately.
In this case, Pessoa is facing one count each of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon; civil rights violation; intimidating a witness; and a false report by a public official.
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Were police officers pressured to testify against Pessoa?
Aguiar followed former police officer Thomas Roberts, who also received immunity for his testimony on Monday, the first day of the trial. And like with Roberts, the exchange between McCauley and Aguiar became cantankerous around the issue of the officers lying on use-of-force reports, including a fourth officer, Andre Demelo, who never testified at grand jury.
Pessoa’s defense team, Frank Camera and Kathryn Blythe Carlson, again argued on Tuesday during Aguiar’s testimony that McCauley and another Bristol County assistant district attorney pressured Aguiar and Roberts into testifying against Pessoa before the grand jury.
Carlson asked Aguiar if he remembered a meeting with his attorney, Edward P. Harrington, and the prosecutors after he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege before the grand jury proceedings and when he was granted immunity.
“Describe for me the tone of that meeting,” said Carlson.
“Aggressive,” responded Aguiar, indicating McCauley threatened to charge him with a crime if he didn’t change the testimony he was giving.
“So, the end of your meeting with ADA McCauley is he tells you to leave the courthouse, he tells you if you come back tomorrow and say the same thing you’re saying today, I’m going to charge you,” said Carlson.
“Correct,” said Aguiar.
During redirect, McCauley doubled down on his questioning of Aguiar, and asked him if he remembered warnings about being truthful that he was under investigation because of the false statements he’d made previously.
McCauley said he expressed concern at the time that Aguiar told the truth and avoided any further scrutiny.
Pessoa’s trial continues Wednesday.
Asked if Pessoa intends to take the stand in his own defense, Camera said that decision has not been made yet.
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Fall River police assault trial in Day 2 with former cop testifying