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Jury awards man arrested in case of mistaken identity more than $12,000

A Mattapan man should not have been tossed in a holding cell for several hours after he was arrested on Boylston Street near Tremont by a Boston police officer who mistook him for somebody else who had warrants out for his arrest, a federal jury decided this week.

The jury awarded George Savage $12,750 for false imprisonment after a trial over his lawsuit against BPD Officer Karl Dugal for his 2014 arrest on Boylston Street, outside St. Francis House.

The jury actually agreed with Dugal that he had the right to arrest Savage - even if he was mistaken about who he was - and said he did not use excessive force during the arrest or pile on excessive charges, but that S

avage should have been released as soon as police learned he was the wrong guy. Savage had sought a total of $100,000 in his suit, filed in US District Court in Boston.

Savage who is black, bald and middle aged, said he was standing on Boylston Street in Chinatown minding his own business around 9:30 a.m. on June 16, 2014, when Dugal spotted him and mistook him for Robert Green, who is black, bald and middle aged, but who was wanted on drug and motor-vehicle charges out of Dorchester court.

Savage claimed that when Dugal began questioning him, he told him his name, said he had no outstanding warrants and then began walking away, followed by Dugal. Savage said that, with the aid of two other officers, Dugal threw him to the ground in the alley next to St. Francis House where he was handcuffed and taken to District A-1 for booking on charges of disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a public employee and making threats. He was then put in a lockup for several hours.

In November, 2016, a Boston Municipal Court judge dismissed one of the charges; a jury then acquitted Savage of the other three.

In his answer to the lawsuit, Dugal, represented by city attorneys, admits he thought Savage was Green, and went to arrest him based on that, but said that was an honest mistake, which he is allowed to make under the Constitution and court rulings, and said the charges he brought against Savage were based on his actions after being approached. He said Savage refused to say who he was, which was part of the probable cause to arrest him:

Officer Dugal asked for the Plaintiff's name. Plaintiff did not provide an answer but instead shouted curses at Officer Dugal. Officer Dugal explained that Plaintiff looked like someone, Robert Green, for whom a warrant had issued. Officer Dugal asked Plaintiff for identification, which Plaintiff refused to provide. Plaintiff began to walk away. Officer Dugal still believed Plaintiff to be Robert Green and followed him, continuing to ask for Plaintiff's identification. Plaintiff shouted at people in the area words to the following effect: "This guy keeps f---ing with me; watch what happens," and "you better stop f---ing with me or else." This was a public area which was heavily trafficked in the early morning hours.

At the intersection of Boylston Street and Head Place [the alley next to St. Francis House], Plaintiff turned around, assumed a bladed stance, and stepped towards Officer Dugal with his fists clenched. Officer Dugal put his hands on Plaintiff's forearms to prevent Plaintiff from raising his arms to assault him. Plaintiff attempted to push off Officer Dugal. Plaintiff continued shouting, yelling, and trying to get the attention of people nearby.

At that point, Officer Dugal decided to place Plaintiff, whom he still believed was possibly Robert Green, under arrest. He asked Plaintiff to put his arms behind his back. Plaintiff refused to put his arms behind his back, and instead flailed his arms and struggled with Officer Dugal, who then yelled to his partner for help. In the meantime, Plaintiff continued pushing off Officer Dugal and pushed Officer Dugal in the chest. At this point, Officer Dugal intended to arrest Plaintiff for disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a public employee, and resisting arrest.

Dugal said that during the ride to District A-1, Savage kicked the cruiser's window; then, during booking, threatened to rape officers with their own guns. He added he learned Savage's real identity during booking, but decided to seek criminal complaints against him for his actions during and after his arrest.

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Comments

"You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride."

Schools ought to teach that to kids.

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Voting closed 6

If Savage had been helpful and polite in the first place, none of this would have happened. One thing that isn't clear is whether the cop was in uniform or showed Savage his ID. I wouldn't answer random questions to someone who walked up to me in Chinatown either, but if the cop was in uniform, Savage was just being a jerk.

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Voting closed 17

I have no idea who's telling the truth, Savage or the cop but then you don't either. Seeing as a jury acquitted Savage, it seems likely that the cop wasn't being truthful but your take away is the black guy should just bow his head and be polite?

Let me guess, you also think there were good folks on both sides in Charlottesville.

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Voting closed 36

I would have said the same thing if Savage was a white kid. Don't escalate interactions with the police.

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Voting closed 12

Talking to the police is always a bad idea, no matter who you are. They'll happily twist your words and find any possible pretense to detain you. If you're black, there's a decent chance they'll rough you up (like they did here) or kill you, and not face any consequences. So walking away, after you've determined whether or not you're under arrest, is the best possible move he could have made. I'm intrigued that you think that walking away is "escalating," and I'm inclined to agree with Parkwayne's assessment.

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Voting closed 15

You probably watch a lot of movies and social media noise, but go sit in a courtroom and see someday what happens to actual people who get arrested and why.

If he gave his name there was a 100% chance he would have not been arrested. But he also would not have gotten the 10K.

There are many situations where it might be better to walk away from the police, this isn't one of them.

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Voting closed 16

If you are innocent, talking to the police is always a GOOD idea.

As a kid, if your mom was talking to you and you walked out, surely she wouldn't have just let you walk away with no repercussions. The cop was talking to him and trying to get some answers (and had already decided that the guy was the person he was looking for.) Walking away is insulting, suggests guilt and resolves nothing. Calmly TALKING, telling the truth and pulling out his ID would have diffused the situation and saved everyone a hell of a lot of angst.

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Voting closed 9

Especially here where the police had the wrong guy!!!

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Voting closed 2

Do a little research on why people of color avoid cooperating with police.

And how it is unlikely that you will ever have to "cooperate" in such a way.

You have a lot to learn if you say things like "I'm leaving race out of it", because that simply demonstrates how very willfully ignorant you are about the lived realities of millions of your fellow citizens.

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Voting closed 14

To me it reads like the police officer was doing his job. I thought by law you must identify yourself to a police officer, if asked to do so. If the suspect had cooperated, and followed instructions, it never would have escalated to an arrest.

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Voting closed 15

And perhaps his past interactions with police led him to believe nothing good could come of that. See Commonwealth vs. Warren.

In any case, the jury agreed with the officer on all the charges - including the cop's argument that he had probable cause, based on what he knew at the time, to arrest Savage - except the one related to Savage being tossed in a holding cell for several hours. I've rewritten the paragraph about this to, hopefully, make it less legalistic and more plain-English.

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Voting closed 17

This guy had nothing on him so that case should have nothing to do with his mindset. Unless he was hoping to get some money off it since he knew the police didn't have the right guy.

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Voting closed 9

In Hiibel the Supreme Court decided that you sometimes have to give an officer your name. But that decision involved someone who was pulled over on the side of the road and standing outside their truck. It's harder to apply to a pedestrian walking down a sidewalk.

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Voting closed 10

I think that would be a legal factor here.

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Voting closed 5

Is being black in public.

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Voting closed 11

I believe some states have stop and identify statutes, but Massachusetts is not one of them. What's the basis for your belief otherwise?

Without such a statute, it's troubling to hear that asserting your rights creates probable cause for an arrest.

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Voting closed 12

He articulated that he was the same race, bald, same area, etc. That is enough for a field inquiry. Then once you refuse to give your name (what people with warrants commonly do and the courts recognize that) it just adds to the probable cause.

Mass is the same as any other state in terms of "stop and identify".

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Voting closed 8

If the physical similarities are enough for a field inquiry, so be it. If they are enough to create probable cause for an arrest, so be it.

But it is extremely troubling that a citizen's decision to assert his rights "adds" to probable cause. That principle hardly seems to protect the underlying rights.

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Voting closed 17

Pete, I respect your expertise on the law, but your statement that Mass is just like any other state in terms of stop and identify law seems at odds with the fact that some states have stop and identify statutes and some don't.

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Voting closed 10

My understanding that these states that have the "stop and ID" rules actually use charges that we have here in MA too. Basically "interfering" with an investigation. Very similar but I bet these other states use the charge more so that might be the difference.

But take this case here (which is pretty rare). He wasn't charged with not giving his name, but by not giving his game it has to add to a rational human beings decision to know something is not right (since you already have PC to arrest, let alone search or stop).

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Voting closed 4

If it adds to the nuance of what a "rational human being" understands, let me say that some people (myself included), entirely innocent of any crime, would refuse to give his or her name upon being stopped on the street, seemingly out of the blue, by the police.

If my actions fail to dispel any probable cause that may exist, and I am arrested, I guess that's the price I will have to pay.

I don't think a charge of impeding an investigation would stand up and I would be happy to bring that issue up through the courts.

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Voting closed 12

But lets say you are walking down the street wearing something distinctive (lets say a Providence College black home hockey jersey). Now what you don't know is that the police get a call about someone who just sexually assaulted someone wearing a black hockey jersey with a long word on it that the vicim things started with the word P.

So now the police see you walking near this (and this is important, as you can see the case adam references above) and the police stop you. First ask yourself, should the police stop you and what should they do?

Now, it is a fact they have the wrong person and it is also a fact that the real suspect might be getting away. But you decide to not give your name and act like the police don't have the right to stop you (you have no knowledge why the police stop you unless they tell you, which they would need to do so it wouldn't be "out of the blue" like you write above)

You can see where this is going right? By acting this way (not giving your name) the police are now unable to follow the correct lead and get the actual suspect. Are you hindering an investigation on purpose? Maybe you were with the other person and you both had jerseys but you two split up and you don't want to give the other persons name (happens a lot minus the jerseys).

There are all sorts of factors which you could throw into a scenerio like this which would change things.

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Voting closed 5

In your hypo, it sounds like the police have reasonable suspicion to make the stop.

And in your hypo, the police explain the basis suspicion and it's no longer "out of the blue." Perhaps the polite explanation from the police puts our citizen in a cooperative mood. Maybe a nasty tone puts him off. Maybe it wouldn't matter either way. (I'm going to guess, however, that an improvement in tone is one way this incident could have been avoided).

Whatever the case, there are all sorts of non-criminal reasons to decline to give your name to the police. So while your hypo illustrates how it is possible that the motivation is to impede the investigation, I have a hard time seeing how a reasonable person concludes there is probable cause for an arrest for impeding.

(Unless you introduce other facts, of course; I think we are just talking about a guy who has no connection to the suspect and doesn't want to talk to the police).

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Voting closed 6

More about giving your name and whether or not the police have the right to stop you and ask you questions.

As a stand alone charge I don't really see that ever in MA (impeding without another charge on someone).

I also assumed that the police in the case here explained why they were there but the citizen here claimed he gave his name anyway. So long story short both sides had different stories

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Voting closed 4

Except wearing the same clothes as a perp isn't the same thing as being the same race.

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Voting closed 1