Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jun 2000
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2000 The Hartford Courant
Author: Thomas D. Williams


A six-member Hartford Superior Court jury Friday found Hartford police
Officer James K. Meehan Jr. guilty of three counts of perjury, three
counts of possession of cocaine and one count of larceny.

The 37-year-old Meehan, who was suspended from the force after the
charges and now lives in Meriden, was one of eight police officers - a
state police trooper, five Hartford officers and two New Britain
officers, arrested in late 1994.

Meehan is the son of former Hartford assistant police chief James
Meehan Sr., who along with his wife, daughter, James Meehan Jr.'s wife
and other family members watched the trial closely from the
spectator's section, behind the defense table.

James Meehan Jr.'s arrest with the other officers stemmed from an
18-month police corruption inquiry conducted by a one-man grand jury,
former Senior Superior Court Judge Arthur L. Spada, now state
commissioner of pPublic safety.

Meehan's trial was a closely contested affair. Veteran Hartford
defense attorney Michael Budlong attacked the state's key witnesses,
two drug dealers, two drug users and a street criminal, as liars
looking for leniency.

But Assistant State's Attorney Michael Gailor insisted their
testimonies were corroborated by one another, as well as by other witnesses.

And, in rebutting Budlong's attacks on the state's witnesses, Gailor
relied heavily on a hair expert who found that an examination of
Meehan's hair in August 1994 showed he had been using cocaine
regularly. Meehan agreed to the test requested by the state several
months after witnesses charged he was involved in illegal drug use and
stealing cash from a drug user while frisking him.

"No matter how you dissect this case, there was cocaine in [Meehan's]
hair. Now how did it get there?" Gailor asked the jurors.

Budlong countered with another expert who attacked the state's
examination of Meehan's hair as outdated and unreliable. During their
deliberations, the jurors asked for the defense expert's entire
testimony and cross-examination by Gailor to be read back to them.

The crux of the state's case, however, leaned upon those with long,
short and medium criminal records.

Budlong said to the jury: ``They either didn't know what the truth
was, or they were not motivated to tell what the truth was. They were
either intimidated [by the grand jury] or they figured something out,"
Budlong said.

They figured out they wanted lenient treatment for their crimes, he
added. But Gailor said none of them received any consideration
whatsoever for their testimony and one of them, David Perez, was
already serving a 17-to-18 year prison term.

Perez and Elba Lozada testified that they sold cocaine to John
Levesque inside the Hour Glass Cafe on Park Street in Hartford in
early 1994, and Levesque testified that on three occasions he sold the
drug to Meehan.

Two other witnesses, Manuel Villamarin, a vehicle mechanic and former
heroin user, and Vincenzo Befi, another heroin user, testified that
when they were frisked by Meehan, he stole, respectively, $240 and
$100 in cash from them on separate occasions about three to four
months apart. Neither Befi nor Villamarin was arrested after they were
searched, they said. Meehan was charged only with the theft of money
from Villamarin. Befi was used at trial by the state to show the
policeman had a proclivity to steal.

Meehan's perjury convictions Friday stemmed from charges that he lied
three times to Spada, the grand juror. In that testimony, Meehan
denied using drugs at the time Levesque said he gave him the cocaine.
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