Enfield Police Officer Matthew Worden: Beating “Not Significant”

One cop on the Enfield Police force stood out, Matthew Worden.  Not because he saved kittens stuck in trees. From the Hartford Courant:

Enfield, a department with nearly 100 sworn officers, has had 26 civilian complaints in the past four years. One-third of those were against Worden, records show. In 2013, Worden had half of the six citizen’s complaints against the department.

Might this be indicative of a small problem?  Chief Carl Sferrazza apparently thought so.  Enough so that an arrest warrant was sworn for his own officer’s arrest after the beating of Mark Maher.

Mayer

Yes, the Enfield police had enough.  The Enfield police did what so many would expect them to do, even if it took years to get there. The Enfield police would no longer tolerate a violent criminal on the force, and sought prosecution. 

The seven-page arrest warrant application submitted by Lt. Lawrence Curtis concluded that Officer Matthew Worden hit suspect Mark Maher with punches that “were neither necessary nor needed” during an arrest on April 1.

According to the arrest warrant application, Worden told Curtis that he hit Maher twice in the shoulder area because he was resisting arrest and that Maher was “tensing his arm” and “clenching his fists” while Worden was patting him down on the hood of a cruiser.

But there was video. Ah, video.

The application states Curtis concluded that the video did not show Maher resisting arrest and that at one point it shows Worden, while Maher is on the ground with one arm pinned behind him, stopping to adjust the glove on his right hand before delivering two of the four punches he threw.

Astounding?  Don’t get too excited, because this tale has yet to scratch the surface of astounding.

Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy rejected the arrest warrant application late last week, concluding that although Worden’s actions might violate police department rules they did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution.

“Although striking Maher may have violated Enfield Police Department’s use of force policies, Worden’s conduct seemed to be aimed at an attempt to restrain Maher who was resisting officers’ attempts to handcuff him, rather than an intention to inflict physical harm,” Hardy concluded.

That’s right, State’s Attorney Gail Hardy declined to prosecute.  Or as they say in Harford, take your cop-hating warrant and shove it.

Hardy said the video shows another person “slip” something to Maher which could be seen by the officers as threatening. The officers searched the other person and then Maher. Hardy said that as Maher was facing the hood Worden was trying to pat him down and at that point Maher was taken to the ground and there was a “pile-up.”

Hardy said the video shows Maher clearly continuing to resist arrest. Hardy acknowledges that Worden can be seen throwing punches but that the fact Worden claims he threw only two when the video shows he threw four is “factually insignificant.”

Video. It’s all so confusing. So many arms flailing, bodies moving, cops putting something on their hands before delivering the big blow. Who could possibly make sense of all this beating?

Hardy also concluded that it would be difficult for the state to prove that Worden intended to cause physical harm to Maher.

“Although the strikes could be considered unnecessary the use of force in this regard, was not more than that necessary and reasonable to bring Maher (who continued moving about while on the ground) into compliance,” Hardy wrote.

It may well be a truism that it’s hard to prosecute a cop for a beat down, since so many fine veniremen respect the hard work and dedication of the police in dealing with vicious criminals that they’re inclined to give police the benefit of the doubt. Plus, the guy deserved it anyway.

But what of the fabrications in the police report prepared by Worden, who used standard police jargonisms (“tensed his muscles!!!”) to explain the two blows, leaving the other two wholly unmentioned?

Hardy also rejected the fabricating evidence claim, saying Curtis’ analysis of the video is clearly “erroneous.” Hardy concluded that the discrepancy in how many times Worden said he hit Maher and where he said he hit him weren’t significant.

Hardy certainly has a point there, given that in the grand scheme of lies offered in a police report, such a discrepancy as how many times the cop punched the guy on the ground is small potatoes.  Two punches. Four punches. Whatever.

One of the perpetual questions is why police refuse to acknowledge, and address, brutality within their own ranks, this being a primary cause of the disrespect and disobedience that police face in the performance of their job.  They complain bitterly, but they create the atmosphere that causes their problems.  So here, the Enfield police did what all people of integrity would expect of them:

Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said his department did its job in thoroughly investigating the incident as a potential crime.

“We conducted our own criminal investigation and reviewed all of the statements and evidence and believed we had probable cause to submit an arrest warrant,” Sferrazza said. “Once we submitted the arrest warrant we did our job.”

And for doing right, they’ve been hung out to dry by State’s Attorney Gail Hardy.

H/T Gary Hochman

20 comments on “Enfield Police Officer Matthew Worden: Beating “Not Significant”

    1. SHG Post author

      Yeah, necessary and needed. I have no clue what distinguishes the two, but clearly both are critical.

  1. skitch

    This reminds me of when ‘Rocky’ was working out on the slab of beef, swinging in the freezer…!

  2. John Barleycorn

    I wonder if certain prosecutors simply become blinded over time?

    One would think “thick skin” is par for the course but abandoning all critical thinking short and long term under the cloaked umbrella is just bad strategy.

    The circumstances of this situation seem to allow for plenty of political cover for Gail.

    The skeptic in me thinks it might have been by design all along?

    Either way, I find it troubling that prosecutors fail to recognize the very real and troubling issues that can seep forth with community relations when they fail to discipline their own.

    Welcome to the new century.

    1. SHG Post author

      We all become blinded over time. That’s why a warrant from the EPD, a wake-up call if you will, makes this particularly outrageous.

  3. Gary Hochman

    Defending himself after the first two punches was apparently part of the problem. What Lieutenant Curtis says the video shows in point 10 of the arrest warrant “This video shows what appears to be Mr. Maher trying to cover his face/head area with his left hand in what appears to be an attempt to protect his face” was interpreted quite differently by the officers and State’s Attorney.

    1. SHG Post author

      There has long been a fine line between “resisting” and surviving, much like the vicious perp who attacks a fine officer’s fists with his face.

      1. ExEMT

        The charge of “resisting arrest” is a funny thing. The effects of this fall disturbingly on undeserving victims. It is a travesty that people can be charged with nothing else but resisting arrest, meaning that their only crime was resisting arrest. This makes little sense. In essence, there was no reason to arrest them, but since they resisted their wrongful arrest, they are now criminals.

          1. ExEMT

            Yeah, I knew I was spouting off a concept that many have already referenced and described, but I just thought it was a nice point to add to the article. You always cover 99.9% of the primary aspects to be considered, so the remaining things are tough to grab. Heck, as someone new to the site, I feel lucky to get a comment in :)

            1. SHG Post author

              Yeah, your point was pretty basic for a law blog. Even so, bear in mind that there are over 6k posts at SJ, so a lot of ground has been covered. That’s why I urge people to focus on the specific point of the post rather than the “emanations and penumbras” that may interest or occur to them.

  4. George B

    I suppose I should ask:

    And the USDOJ Civil Rights Division is……[fill in the blank]

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s way too soon to ask, but unlikely in any event. And, notably, irrelevant to this post.

  5. Charlesmorrison

    Clearly another example of prosecutorial discretion, operating as a minister of justice, in order to curb the the overly-aggressive police.

    Well, some of the police.

      1. Charlesmorrison

        I wholeheartedly agree. Whether or not to readjust gloves is a decision that you and I will never have to make under those circumstances. I consider myself lucky. Gosh, to punch or not to punch without the gloves perfectly fit; hard decisions indeed.

        1. SHG Post author

          Imagine how lucky Worden was to find the time, in the midst of this chaos. to make sure the gloves were perfectly fitted to maximize the deterrent value of the strike.

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