LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that a sheriffs deputy who arrested a local man had reasonable suspicion that he may have committed some kind of crime and that the traffic stop that led to the arrest was justified.
Judge James O'Neill III denied Matthew Tusi's motion to suppress drug evidence seized after his August 7, 2013 arrest. Tusi, 30, of Isabella Street is charged with three counts of possession of narcotics.
Through his attorney Robert Hemeon, Tusi had argued that there was no reason for the deputy to stop him because he had committed no traffic violations during the time the deputy was behind him.
The judge ruled that taken in its entirety, Tusi's contact with the deputy gave him an "articulable" reason to stop him. The deputy first saw Tusi outside the Belknap County Jail at 9 p.m. and the two, who know each other, spoke. He told the deputy he was at the jail to "bail someone out" but the deputy said he knew the woman had been sentenced and wasn't waiting for bail. The deputy followed Tusi from the jail to Union Avenue telling the judge that he was waiting for Laconia Police support before he initiated the stop.
The deputy testified that Tusi seemed angry, was moving around in his car as if he was looking for a weapon, and didn't put his car in park when he stopped — something he said he has seen because sometimes people who are stopped take off once an officer is out of his or her car.
After the stop, which occurred around 10 p.m., Tusi ran from the deputy who was being assisted by Laconia Police and a plain-clothed, off-duty Gilford police officer. As Tusi ran behind a house on Gilford Avenue, the deputy zapped him with a Taser twice to bring him down and stunned him once more to get him to stop struggling, according to his own reports.
According to police reports, a subsequent search revealed Tusi had drugs on his person.
The detention and search of Tusi after the arrest triggered a complaint of excessive force against the deputy by Tusi's mother, who claimed her son was beaten during the course of his arrest and sexually assaulted when the deputy allegedly removed his pants and checked his private area for drugs once Tusi was in an ambulance.
She was not at the scene that night but many of her relatives were.
Two of the police reports filed since event have been made available to The Daily Sun and it appears Tusi was searched twice — once initially by the Gilford Police officer who was one of the first people to catch up to Tusi and once inside the ambulance by the deputy after he was cuffed and in custody.
A civilian witness wrote that he saw "a lot of rough motions toward the man (Tusi) who was on the ground and screaming for help. He said he called 9-1-1 and told them the police "were beating on some guy and they won't stop."
He also said he saw two police officer dragging him behind two cars that were parked in the back lot. He also said Tusi's uncle was a witness to the whole thing and said he didn't want his nephew to be out of his sight.
The witness said one police officer allegedly said to "hog tie" him and put him in the cruiser and then Tusi's uncle demanded an ambulance. He also noted that there were a number of people beginning to arrive and the police "started calming down about 75 percent."
He said he saw one officer reach into the zippered part of Tusi's pants but not remove anything.
The Gilford officer's report said he searched Tusi for weapons and didn't find any. He said he felt a square object in his pants pocket that felt like a wallet.
He mentioned the square object to the deputy and said it appeared to him that Tusi was trying to hide something at or near his groin. His report also said that when Tusi went into the ambulance, the deputy went in to "retrieve the item" and several bystanders, who were standing around the ambulance, started to "yell and act up."
Many of the bystanders were family members of Tusi, who live in the neighborhood. One of them, a female cousin, said she was looking into the ambulance and "she could see them rip his pants off and put their hands on him."
Accounts of other family members who were standing around the ambulance. His uncle wrote that the deputy "manhandled" Tusi and pulled his down his pants and underwear and grabbed him and and searched underneath him.
The deputy's report said that Tusi was flailing in the stretcher and he told the ambulance attendants that Tusi has something in he crotch and he want to search for their safety and his.
He said he was able to get his legs apart and Tusi agreed to allow a male Laconia Police officer search him. The officer found "a clear plastic bag containing several drugs."
Responding to Tusi's mother's complaint, Sheriff Craig Wiggin ordered an investigation.
He said the investigation determined that Tusi had not been assaulted and that all people who are taken into custody by police are searched and, occasionally, the search can be extensive.
"Furthermore, it was determined that in fact it was not (the deputy) who initially searched Mr. Tusi, it was another police officer on the scene," he wrote.
Wiggin said that because Tusi was facing criminal charges and was represented by a lawyer, he was unable to question him regarding the complaint.
Wiggin said yesterday that all complaints against the Belknap County Sheriff's Department are investigated thoroughly. Because the criminal case is still pending, he said he couldn't comment any further but said the investigation into the allegedly physical and sexual assault is closed and no further action will be taken.