Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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A newly filed lawsuit in Superior Court naming Colonel James Manni and the Rhode Island State Police has been filed by Lt. Staci Shepherd, a 22-year veteran of the agency. The lawsuit filed in Bristol County Superior Court states that despite her suffering a heart attack while on duty, her request for a disability pension was treated differently than past practices.
Of the 14 members of the State Police’s Command staff, all but one are men.
This is just the latest lawsuit or complaint filed against the agency in the past couple of years.
See List of State Police Controversies BELOW
According to Shepherd’s lawsuit, “On May 2, 2017, the Plaintiff Staci Shepherd, then a 22 year veteran of the Rhode Island State Police, participated in the State Police’s annual firearms re-qualification program. While participating in the annual in-service training, Lt. Shepherd suffered a heart attack and was transferred via rescue from the Rhode Island State Police Training Academy to Miriam Hospital.”
Further, the suit states, “Lt. Shepherd remained at Miriam Hospital and underwent a surgical procedure to insert two stents. She was discharged on May 5, 2017.”
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Later she needed to have a third stent inserted. The RISP placed her on “injured on duty.”
But two years later when she sought a disability pension, Manni and the Department rejected the request.
Under Manni, the Department has been hit a number of controversies — allegations of discrimination made by now-retired Captain Gerald McKinney, an ongoing whistleblower lawsuit involving Lt. Michael Casey, and ongoing arbitration with former Trooper Jamie Donnelly-Taylor.
A GoLocal investigation in January unveiled that a Rhode Island State Police Commander had run a commercial business while working and on medical leave. Attorney General Peter Neronha announced in July that Lieutenant John (Jay) Gibbs pled nolo contendere in Kent County Superior Court to misdemeanor charges stemming from conducting private business activities while on official duty.
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District Court Judge Anthony Capraro accepted Gibbs plea to one count of violating the State’s code of ethics and one count of giving a false document to a public official. Lt. Gibbs received a one-year suspended sentence with probation and was ordered to pay $500 to the Victims of Crimes Indemnity Fund.
He had been placed on injured on duty while being investigated by Manni for an injury that took place a decade earlier.
Lieutenant’s Legal Action
Shepherd is represented by two former veterans of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, Kathleen Hagerty and former Assistant Attorney General Tom Dickinson. Of note, Dickinson represented GoLocal in its lawsuit against Governor Gina Raimondo and the RI State Police asking the courts to compel them to release interviews conducted by the agency in 38 Studios case.
According to Shepherd’s suit, “After consultation with her treating physician, the Plaintiff made a formal request for retirement on April 25, 2019, pursuant to Rhode Island General Law §42-28-21 due to the injury she suffered that was determined to have caused a permanent disability which prevented her from returning to work as a member of the Rhode Island State Police.”
“Defendant Manni declined to follow the past practice of the Rhode Island State Police and determined that the long-held presumption in favor of work connectedness would not apply to Lieutenant Shepherd,” said the suit.
The suit is requesting that Shepherd be awarded a disability pension.
Manni wrote in an email to GoLocal, “Due to pending litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time”
Hagerty declined to comment and said the lawsuit speaks for itself.
Donnelly-Tayor Involved in Shooting and Forced Back to Work
January 28, 2014
On a late winter night, Trooper Jamie Donnelly-Taylor was involved in a shooting incident — less than a month before the infamous confrontation with Lionel Monsanto.
After the shooting, Donnelly-Taylor was ordered immediately back to work.
One former member of the State Police command staff told GoLocal, “There is no police department in America that would allow an officer to come back to work right after being involved in a shooting.”
According to multiple State Police sources, Donnelly-Taylor was responding to an incident at the University Heights parking lot in Providence near the McDonald’s, and a suspect drove his car directly at Donnelly-Taylor and he fired one shot through the front window of the vehicle. The incident took place on January 28, 2014.
The shooting was found to be appropriate by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office. “A multi-agency investigation, led by the Providence Police Department, began immediately after the shooting. Based upon the results of the investigation, it has been determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to a grand jury for review. Instead, the facts and circumstances were reviewed by this Department and no further investigation is required,” wrote the Attorney General’s office to O’Donnell, dated September 2, 2014 — eight months after the University Heights shooting.
Pursuant to State Police procedure, Donnelly-Taylor should have been placed on administrative leave, but then-Colonel O’Donnell kept Donnelly-Taylor on the job and was he was never offered psychological services nor a psychological assessment, according to Donnelly-Taylor and confirmed by other members of the State Police with direct knowledge.
Just three days after the shooting, Donnelly-Taylor was back at work — well before the Attorney General found that the shooting was justified.
O’Donnell refused to respond to questions as to why Donnelly-Taylor was not placed on administrative leave. O’Donnell said in an email to GoLocal, “It’s impossible to respond to a point by point inquiry without access to records. As mentioned earlier, four separate courts of record have reviewed the entire litigation and all came to the same conclusion.”
Donnelly-Taylor and Monsanto Incident
February 26, 2014
A video of a physical incident between Donnelly-Taylor and Monsanto has been seen by much of Rhode Island. Donnelly-Taylor’s reaction to Monsanto’s threat was found to be reasonable based on an expert’s report unveiled by GoLocal last month.
It found, “Donnelly-Taylor’s actions taken up to the point – pushing Monsanto into the cell to clear space and delivering 6 or 7 closed fist strikes – to address a perceived threat – were reasonable based on industry standards, Donnelly-Taylor’s training, and RISP policy and procedure,” according to the Daigle report contracted by the Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General. Many community leaders and minority police leaders have condemned the incident. The Daigle report caused approximately $30,000 according to state records.
Others were more critical, “The time in processing appeared to be a fairly routine procedure. It obviously became much more problematic when he was taken to the holding cell,” Lieutenant Charles P. Wilson, the National Chairman of National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers told GoLocal after the release of the tape.
“Actions such as those exhibited have no place in professional law enforcement. They serve no useful purpose. They are, in my opinion, illegal and merit investigation as a civil rights violation. It is unlikely, however, that the justice department in the current administration will consider it as such,” said Wilson.
GoLocal has learned that after the Monsanto incident, Donnelly-Taylor was never interviewed at any time by any State Police officials.
O’Donnell Promised to Indemnify Donnelly-Taylor, Swears Former Speaker of the House Harwood
June 23, 2014
According to a sworn affidavit by former Speaker of the House and Donnelly-Taylor’s attorney John Harwood, O’Donnell told Harwood and Donnelly-Taylor that he would indemnify Donnelly-Taylor from any legal action from the Monsanto incident.
In Harwood’s affidavit he swore, “Prior to entering the Plea, we had discussions with the Rhode Island State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell about whether or not Trooper Donnelly-Taylor should accept a plea or go to trial. Col. O’Donnell told me on the phone and in person that he did not want Trooper Donnelly-Taylor to go to trial because of a tape that would embarrass the State Police; It should be noted that Trooper Donnelly-Taylor had a strong personal relationship with Col. O’Donnell in the lacrosse world as well as when he graduated from the Rhode Island State Police Training Academy.”
At a meeting at the Panera Bread shop in Cranston, Harwood says O’Donnell promised that the State Police would indemnify Donnelly-Taylor from any civil lawsuits relating to the Monsanto incident.
“Specifically, Col. O’Donnell, Trooper Donnelly-Taylor and I met at Panera Bread located in Cranston…where the Colonel indicated to Trooper Donnelly-Taylor that a plea would benefit the Rhode Island State Police in that if the tape disclosed could possibly be embarrassing,” said Harwood in his affidavit.
“After meeting at Panera Bread but prior to the plea, Trooper Donnelly-Taylor and myself called Col. O’Donnell to make sure that his assurance that Trooper DonnellyTaylor would be indemnified by the Rhode Island State Police for any civil liability. Col. O’Donnell clearly assured us that if we entered a plea for the said misdemeanor charge that Trooper Donnelly-Taylor would not need to worry about being indemnified for civil liability,” added Harwood.
In a question during a deposition relating to one of the lawsuits tied to the Monsanto and Donnelly-Taylor incident, the lawyer for Donnelly-Taylor asked O’Donnell the following:
Question: When you told these people [other top troopers] that you were going to support the troopers in every way possible, did you have an understanding that some of them might not be indemnified?
Answer by O’Donnell: Indemnification never came up, ever.
Question: It didn’t come up at all?
Answer by O’Donnell: Those words never came up.
Question: Now, you mentioned to Mr. Caron that you talked to John Harwood?
Answer by O’Donnell: I did.
O’Donnell describes in detail a phone conversation between himself with other members of the command staff with Harwood in which the issue of indemnification was discussed. But O’Donnell is unclear about the details between himself, Harwood and Donnelly-Taylor at the Panera Bread the morning of Donnelly-Taylor’s plea.
In the deposition, O’Donnell does not support Harwood’s assertions.
Question: Did you talk to Attorney Harwood the morning that Trooper Taylor took the plea?
Answer by O’Donnell: I don’t know, it’s possible. I don’t know.
Question: Did you call him on your cell phone?
Brief break requested by O’Donnell’s attorney
Answer O’Donnell: I don’t know. I have no idea.
Question Is it possible that you used other words or terms — let me ask you a better question. Is it possible that you used terms or words other than “support” during your conversations with Trooper Taylor and Attorney Harwood regarding how you would help him if he was sued civilly?
Answer O’Donnell: It’s possible.
Question: Did you ever say that he would be covered?
Answered O’Donnell: It’s possible.
Question: Did you ever say that he wouldn’t have to worry about defending himself or paying a judgment if he was sued?
Answer O’Donnell: I don’t remember saying that.
Ultimately, the State Police did not indemnify Donnelly-Taylor — leading to a series of legal actions. The ramifications continue today.
State Police 38 Studios Investigation — Former Top Lawyer Alleges Command Staff Told to “Go Light”
July 29, 2016
At a press conference on Friday, July 29, 2016, Colonel Steven O’Donnell and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced that no charges would be levied in the 38 Studios collapse.
According to Lisa Holley’s interview with RI’s consultant Terry Gainer in the spring of 2017, “The Command staff were told to go light on interviews with elected officials during the 38 Studios investigation.”
The State Police’s interview has been widely criticized — and the State Police repeatedly blocked the release of the interviews. GoLocal filed a lawsuit against the State Police, Governor Gina Raimondo and the Office of Public Safety to force the release of the documents.
Former Chief Legal Council Alleges Criminal Behavior in the State Police and Cover-Up by Superintendent Steven O’Donnell
Memo Dated: June 5, 2017
Lisa Holley, who served as Chief Legal Counsel under both State Police Superintendent Brendan Doherty and Steven O’Donnell, warned a top law enforcement consultant — hired by the State of Rhode Island — of specific examples of improper payments, misuse of federal funds, and the hazing of recruits resulting in an adverse impact on minority recruits in the Rhode Island State Police.
Consultant Terry Gainer was hired by the administration of Governor Gina Raimondo to do an assessment of the Rhode Island State Police. The no-bid contract paid Gainer and his team of top law enforcement experts $225,000 in 2017, according to state records.
According to an email sent by Gainer to top officials at the Rhode Island State Police, he conducted a phone interview with former State Police Chief Legal Counsel Lisa Holley, who volunteered facts indicating malfeasance and potentially criminal behavior by State Police officials. Gainer wrote that his report was the “essence but not verbatim” of Holley’s statements.
Daigle Report — RI State Police and RI Attorney General Pay $30,000 to Investigate Monsanto and Donnelly-Taylor Incident
Report Filed April 2, 2018
On October 25, 2019, GoLocal published a copy of the Daigle report and a recording of a telephone conversation between three of the top members of the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) command staff including the former Superintendent as well as Rhode Island State Trooper Jamie Donnelly-Taylor on the call.
On the phone call, Donnelly-Taylor outlines allegations of cover-ups and charges of political influence at the highest level of the State Police. He was highly critical of the Department’s handling of his case — and unveiled the existence of a never-before disclosed report conducted by a third party expert. According to state payment records, Daigle Law Group, LLC was paid approximately $30,000 in 2018 by the Department of Public Safety.
Secret Phone Call of Top State Police Command Staff
April 30, 2018
In a twenty-minute phone call that took place on April 30, 2018, that was initiated by then-Superintendent Ann Assumpico to Donnelly-Taylor and also included Lt. Colonel Joseph Philbin, and Major Timothy Sanzi — (although they did not identify themselves at the beginning of the phone call) — the three members of the command staff told Donnelly-Taylor repeatedly that they were not aware of the Daigle Report.
During the call, Assumpico said that she was ‘checking up on him,’ but the conversation’s tone changed almost immediately when Donnelly-Taylor pressed the head of the State Police with allegations — and about pending litigation that asserted that former Superintendent Steven O’Donnell had promised to indemnify Donnelly-Taylor from a lawsuit relating to the incident in 2014 between the trooper and Monsanto.
Donnelly-Taylor urged the three high ranking officers on the call to review the Daigle report and repeatedly they say they are unaware of the report.
When the Donnelly-Taylor video of the incident with Monsanto was released on July 2, 2019 at a press conference, Manni said, ”I would say this — that I can’t second-guess what a previous superintendent did. [Former Superintendent Steven O’Donnell] was presented a certain series of facts under that circumstance and he made a decision based on those facts.”
EXCLUSIVE: RI State Police Command Members Being Investigated By CT State Police
Friday, September 6, 2019
As GoLocal was first to report:
At least 20 members of the Rhode Island State Police have been interviewed by members of the Connecticut State Police regarding an incident involving at least two high ranking members of the RI State Police, GoLocal has learned from top law enforcement officials.
The interviews have taken place over the past few weeks, according to multiple members of the RI State Police.
A number of issues have emerged regarding the RI State Police, including allegations made by State Troopers now on the job and some who have left the force.
The Department has been under significant scrutiny for the handling of the Jamie Donnelly-Taylor case.
Rhode Island State Police Superintendent James Manni asked for the Connecticut review. Presently, Manni is traveling overseas.
GoLocal has asked both Rhode Island and Connecticut State Police to comment.
Connecticut’s State Police public information office directed all questions to the Rhode Island State Police, “I have referred your request to the Rhode Island State Police, Deputy Superintendent/Chief of Field Operations, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Barry.”
RI State Police tell GoLocal that under the RI Policemen’s Bill of Rights, the agency cannot comment.
RI State Police Internal Survey Shows Poor Morale and Communications, Manni Committed to Improvement
Friday, September 20, 2019
GoLocalProv.com through an Access to Public Records Act request received portions of a detailed internal survey of the Rhode Island State Police which was initiated by Superintendent James Manni approximately a month after taking command.
The results of the survey paint a profile of an agency with significant morale issues and deep concerns about management’s ability to communicate.
Sixty-three percent of troopers rate the State Police’s morale “fair” or “poor” and just 4 percent rank it as excellent.
The State Police have been in turmoil and under greater scrutiny in the past 24 months.
A series of incidents that took place under the command of Colonel Steven O’Donnell have come to light and sparked controversy and a number of lawsuits.
O’Donnell also came under criticism for the Department’s handling of the 38 Studios investigation. A GoLocal lawsuit led to the release of the State Police interviews that showed the agency was less than vigorous and that key players tied to the controversy were called by investigators and asked only a few questions.
O’Donnell retired from the State Police in September of 2016.
Captain Gerald McKinney Alleges Racial Discrimination and Claims of Retaliation
Sunday, November 17, 2019
GoLocalProv.com has secured copies of documents submitted to the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights by recently retired State Police Captain Gerald McKinney alleging that State Police Superintendent Colonel James Manni had “taken measures of retaliation” against him.
Manni in a message to GoLocal said, “To my knowledge, no official charge of discrimination has been filed with the R.I. Commission for Human Rights, nor has the RISP received or been served with a charge of discrimination. That said, the RISP categorically denies any and all allegations set forth in the recent article…these allegations of discrimination and bias are completely baseless and wholly without any legal merit.”
“With full confidence, I look forward to addressing any complaint of discrimination that may be served on the RISP in the proper forum,” added Manni.
Presently, the Rhode Island State Police have an eleven-member command staff of which only one is a minority — Major Darnell Weaver — and one woman Captain Laurie Ludovici.
RI State Police Top Lawyer Alleges Potential Fraud and Cover-Up
April 17, 2017 Interview
In the email sent in 2017, Gainer outlined the specific claims that Holley made in essence but not “verbatim.”
One of Holley’s charges was a Trooper improperly billing for overtime and, at the time of the incident, then-Colonel Steven O’Donnell covering up the incident.
“In the Trooper Sean McCarthy case, Colonel O’Donnell interfered in the outcome of the investigation, ordering Ms. [sic] Holly to draw an agreement allowing Trooper to ‘remain on the books’ until he can retire notwithstanding the Trooper took thousands of dollars in overtime in violation of federal grants. Questions remain about RISP practices concerning federal overtime abuse, but Colonel [O’Donnell] did not want to explore it. The McCarthy files are later purged so the Trooper can get a federal position. She [Holley] learned this from Ms. Danika, Colonel O’Donnell’s new General Counsel,” stated the Gainer email.
Efforts by GoLocal to reach former Rhode Island Trooper McCarthy have been unsuccessful. Presently, he is a member of the Northeastern University Police Force.
GoLocal has learned that this charge of financial malfeasance has been referred recently to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.
RI State Police Commander Has Run Commercial Business While Working and on Medical Leave
Thursday, January 16, 2020
GoLocal investigation unveils that Jay Gibbs is a 25 year veteran of the Rhode Island Island State Police. Gibbs is also the Co-Owner and Vice President of Ocean State Scale and Balance.
Members of the Rhode Island State Police are not allowed to operate outside businesses without the approval Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. Colonel James Manni told GoLocal on Tuesday that the outside business activities and use of state equipment by Gibbs as a Commander of the State Police is now under investigation by the agency.
Gibbs is featured in a promotional video and marketing material for the company.
A GoLocal request for State Police documents specifically relating to Gibbs shows that he used his State Police email and computer for documents related to his business.
In November of 2019, GoLocal filed for the records under the Access to Public Records Act. GoLocal was billed $1,750 by the State Police for the documents relating to Gibbs’ outside activities and other matters.
The requested documents delivered to GoLocal on Monday by Rhode Island Office of Public Safety Legal Counsel Adam Sholes unveil that Gibbs had nearly 200 pages of documents relating to his private business on Rhode Island State Police computers. The majority of those documents were forwarded by Gibbs to his personal email address in 2018.
The documents emailed included his company’s payroll, insurance documents, tax documents, sales documents, and training materials.
The longest document of Gibbs on his State Police computer was his draft “Employee Handbook” for his Ocean State Scale and Balance. The draft document includes guidance for his employees for every aspect including “standard of conduct” and “code of ethics.”
Gibbs reached on Tuesday evening declined to give comment about the State Police investigation.
RI State Police Officer Suspended After GoLocal Investigation into His Outside Business
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Rhode Island State Police veteran Jay Gibbs was placed on suspension with pay on Thursday, GoLocal has learned.
The suspension is pending an agency investigation.
Colonel James Manni of the State Police tells GoLocal, “I am prohibited from making a public statement under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.
Gibbs, a 25-year State Police veteran, is also the Co-Owner and Vice President of Ocean State Scale and Balance — the business is at the center of the controversy.
Members of the Rhode Island State Police are not allowed to operate outside businesses without the approval Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. Manni told GoLocal last week that the outside business activities and use of state equipment by Gibbs as a Commander of the State Police were under review by the agency.
Gibbs is featured in a promotional video and marketing material for the company.
A GoLocal request for State Police documents specifically relating to Gibbs showed that he used his State Police email and computer for documents related to his business.
Former State Police Lieutenant Pleads to Charges Following GoLocal Investigation
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Following a GoLocalProv.com investigation that uncovered a Rhode Island State Police Commander had run a commercial business while working and on medical leave, Attorney General Peter Neronha announced Wednesday that Lieutenant John (Jay) Gibbs pleaded nolo contendere in Kent County Superior Court to misdemeanor charges stemming from conducting private business activities while on official duty.
Gibbs pleaded nolo contendere before District Court Judge Anthony Capraro to one count of violating the State’s code of ethics and one count of giving a false document to a public official. Lt. Gibbs received a one-year suspended sentence with probation and was ordered to pay $500 to the Victims of Crimes Indemnity Fund.
State Police Colonel James Manni said in a statement, “This should serve as a clear signal to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island that the Rhode Island State Police will not tolerate criminal activity within its ranks and will evenly enforce the law when appropriate.”