District Attorney to Seek Grand Jury Indictments in Jail Inmate


The Cape and Islands district attorney said yesterday he will go to
a Dukes County grand jury to ask for indictments as the result of a
state police investigation into allegations of officer collusion in two
separate inmate beatings at the Dukes County House of Correction.

"We will more than likely be presenting evidence to a grand
jury in the coming weeks," said Michael Trudeau, the first
assistant Cape and Islands district attorney.

"The grand jury will hear testimony from witnesses and
ultimately it will be the grand jury's purview to make a decision
as to whether there is probable cause with which to charge an individual
or individuals," said Mr. Trudeau.

A special sitting of the grand jury is scheduled for May 5 in the
Edgartown court house.

In November Dukes County sheriff Michael McCormack first called for
state police to investigate after an inmate, Alan Thistle, 52, of South
Boston, charged that correctional officers had been involved in two
assaults last year.

"I have full faith that the district attorney's office
is doing the right thing by letting the grand jury hear evidence and
make the decision as to whether a crime has been committed,"
Sheriff McCormack said yesterday.

The grand jury convened on Tuesday to consider new indictments
during the opening of the spring sitting of Dukes County superior court.

"It is important to note that the grand jury proceedings are
secretive in nature, so anything that happens is not open to the
public," said Mr. Trudeau.

The investigation at the Dukes County jail was thrust into the
spotlight last month when Mr. Thistle drew attention to the beatings in
detailed letters written to Scott Harshbarger, the former attorney
general who is chairman of a special commission investigating the state
prison system.

The assaults at the center of the controversy occurred in June and
September of last year. In the first incident, an inmate attacked
then-inmate Paul Garcia, 54, of West Tisbury; in the second incident the
same inmate attacked Mr. Thistle.

In his letter outlining the attacks, Mr. Thistle includes charges of
intimidation and harassment by several officers and official
indifference to his complaints.

Sheriff McCormack said last month that his initial inquiries into
Mr. Garcia's beating turned up no evidence of official wrongdoing.

But the persistence of rumors among inmates, along with
circumstantial evidence, presented by Mr. Thistle, that there had been
staff involvement in the assaults led the sheriff to ask state police to

Mr. Thistle alleges that last year correctional officers T.J.
Roginski and Michael Trance propositioned inmate Jason Labbe to attack
Mr. Garcia in return for "chew," a container of chewing
tobacco. He says they also promised to "make his time comfortable
and get him some work details to lessen his sentence."

Mr. Thistle says the attack was intended to settle a score between
Mr. Roginski and Mr. Garcia, who formerly employed Mr. Roginski's
girlfriend and dismissed her over a financial dispute.

Mr. Thistle also says that after the assault he told officials at
the jail that several officers had asked Mr. Labbe to beat up Mr.
Garcia. Soon afterward Mr. Labbe was moved into the same cell as Mr.
Thistle, a move he suggested was meant to intimidate him into quieting
down about the incident.

Mr. Thistle was transferred from the Dukes County jail to the to the
South Bay House of Corrections in Boston on March 4. Several weeks ago
he was transferred to the Norfolk House of Correction in Dedham to serve
the remainder of his 18-month drug sentence.

Mr. Trudeau said he is continuing to review reports on the case from
the Cape and Islands State Police Detectives Unit, the investigative arm
of the district attorney's office.