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Connecticut Cop Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison After Arresting Priest for Recording

A New Haven cop who claimed he was in fear for his life when he arrested a priest for video recording him as he bullied an Ecuadorian immigrant in a convenience store was sentenced to 30 months in prison Tuesday, indicating that justice prevails every once in a while.

Even if the cop was allowed to retire with a full pension.

The 2009 incident, which went viral, opened a federal investigation against David Cari and several other officers, revealing that they were engaging in an ongoing harassment campaign against the immigrants living in that community.

But it was only because Father James Manship filed a federal complaint after his charges were dropped two weeks after his arrest.

And it was only because it was all caught on video.

According to a 2009 New York Times article:

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Latino merchants in this New Haven suburb have been complaining for months that they get a disproportionately large share of attention from the local police. Officers, they say, have harassed them and their customers by lingering outside shops, stopping cars and demanding to see driver’s licenses.

But their complaints were largely confined to grumbling among themselves and at a local church until Feb. 19, when a white American priest was arrested.

The priest, the Rev. James Manship, who was videotaping a police visit to an Ecuadorean-owned grocery store on Main Street when he was led off in handcuffs, has become an unlikely symbol of racial profiling, charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with the police.

On Thursday, more than a dozen East Haven residents joined the priest at a news conference in New Haven to release the brief tape he made of the encounter.

Father Manship, who had been advising the merchants, was in My Country Store taping two police officers as they confiscated the owner’s collection of license plates. In the arrest report, Officer David Cari said he grew concerned when the priest approached the officers and failed to identify an object cupped in his hands. Officer Cari wrote in the report that he felt “unsafe.”

But in the 14-second video, which can be seen on the Web site newhavenindependent.org, the officer can be heard asking the priest: “Sir what are you doing? Is there a reason that you have a camera on me?” Father Manship replies, “I’m taking a video of what’s going on here.”

The federal investigation led to the arrest and conviction of four officers.

The sentencing for Cari’s fellow convicted ex-cop, Dennis Spaulding, was postponed until Thursday due to snow.

The other two former cops — John Miller and Jason Zullo — reached an agreement with federal prosecutors in which they pled guilty to crimes unrelated to racial profiling, according to The New Haven Register. Zullo received a jail sentence of two years, while Miller faces sentencing in February.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.