Alleged victim in excessive force case cleared of charges

Detective Robert Kramer, in black and Joseph O'Brien on video in 2014 incident

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The alleged victim in a Taunton Police Department booking room skirmish that was caught on video was acquitted of a pair of charges connected to the 2014 incident.

Joseph O’Brien slowly nodded his head in approval as the foreman of the three-man, three-woman jury read “not guilty” verdicts for assault and battery of a police officer and disorderly conduct charges. A charge of resisting arrest had been dropped before the one day trial started on Monday.

“I was shaking, palms sweating, very nervous,” O’Brien said. “But the video said it all and my attorney did a great job of breaking it down.”

The Taunton Police Department launched an investigation within weeks of a Target 12 report on the video that showed the booking room confrontation between Detective Robert Kramer and O’Brien. Police Chief Ed Walsh ordered a $4,300 investigation by an independent firm that determined Kramer used unnecessary force. Walsh hired a second expert who came to a similar conclusion.

A third expert he hired determined Kramer acted appropriately. Walsh decided not to punish the officer.

“While I was not at the trial, I was surprised by the verdict,” Walsh said after the trial.

O’Brien’s attorney Ken Fredette argued Kramer had no reason in the first place to cuff his client on the Taunton green on June 1, 2014.

Joseph O'Brien reacts to verdicts.
Joseph O’Brien reacts to the verdicts

“It just escalated from there,” Fredette said. “I’m glad there was a camera in that booking room.”

The jury deliberated for about 10 minutes and then asked the judge to see the video, which had been shown frame by frame during the trial. About 15 minutes later, the verdicts were reached.

“I had said, it’s all there on the video,” Fredette said. “I’m grateful the jurors watched and saw what we saw.”

O’Brien remembers the night vividly, saying that he did not fight back until the assault didn’t stop.

“I was getting the knee strikes to the head,” O’Brien said. “Then at one point, they had my head on the floor and they were [punching me] when it was right on the floor. I had no choice but to protect myself.”

Fredette had argued that under Massachusetts law, a suspect can defend themselves if a police officer is using excessive force.

“My client was mistreated by the officer who made the arrest and he did nothing but defend himself when attacked,” Fredette said. “I hope that detective Kramer doesn’t engage in the type of activity that we saw on that video. I hope that the message has been sent that there is a way to make people accountable.”

Bristol County District Attorney spokesman Gregg Miliote said, “We respect the jury system and the jury’s verdict.”

The jury was not allowed to hear about O’Brien’s criminal record, which dates back to when he was 18.

The jury also did not hear about accusations that O’Brien was not the first suspect to accuse Kramer of excessive force. According to records obtained by Target 12, O’Brien is one of five people arrested by Kramer since 2007 who claim the detective used excessive force.

One of those cases involves Rosemary Jenkins who last month filed a $1 million excessive force lawsuit, naming Kramer and five other Taunton officers. The city solicitor told The Taunton Gazette that the lawsuit is “baseless.”

In another case, Taunton paid a $65,000 claim for injuries suffered by Celinda Kaye during a 2007 incident. Kramer alleged Kaye interfered with a drug-related arrest, but the charges were dropped in 2008. Kaye claimed Kramer beat her, causing “multiple facial fractures, (and) two broken ribs.”

“The decision to settle was clearly financial and not reflective of the city’s belief that [Kaye] would prevail at trial,” said Chief Walsh.

Another case surfaced in May 2011, when, according to court documents, Roberto Alvarez-Delgado claimed Kramer “assaulted (him) causing physical injuries.” According to Alvarez-Delgado’s attorney, the assault charges were dismissed on the day his attorney expected to get Kramer’s personnel file, following a motion that was granted by the judge in the case.

Also cited in a court document is the arrest of Ulises Saldana, who claimed Kramer threw him “to the ground and repeatedly kicked him.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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