Jury Awards Officer $165,000 for Wrongful Demotion

Robert Welch, a former supervisor of detectives in Stoughton, Massachusetts, has been awarded $165,000 in a federal lawsuit against the town.

Welch started working with the Stoughton Police Department in 1987 and served as head of the detectives unit from July 2000 to June 2005. He filed a civil lawsuit against Stoughton after he was removed from his post in 2005 by Acting Police Chief Christopher Ciampa. He claimed that his demotion was in retaliation for his participation in an investigation of police misconduct in an extortion case involving former police chief Manuel Cachopa and former police sergeant David M. Cohen.

Contributing to his demotion, was the fact that he refused to publicly support a petition to recall two of the five selectmen responsible for removing Cachopa, Welch said in the lawsuit.

According to court papers related to the lawsuit, Ciampa told Welch on June 28, 2005 that he was not going to be reappointed to the supervisor position.

Welch's lawyer, Hillary Schwab, told the jury that his client had been assigned to assist the special prosecutor in the grand jury investigation of the police misconduct. In the course of the investigation, Welch interviewed witnesses and served subpoenas. Schwab explained that Welch was assigned a job no one would have wanted, yet he fulfilled his duties - and was demoted as a result.

The jury agreed that former Acting Police Chief Christopher Ciampa removed Welch from his position because of the investigation and awarded Welch $165,000 in damages, plus interest and attorneys' fees.

In addition to the jury award for damages, The Boston Globe reported that Judge Patti Saris may choose to reinstate Welch as a supervisor.

Lawyers for the town have not yet decided if an appeal of the jury verdict will be filed.

Cohen was convicted of witness intimidation, attempted extortion, and filing a false report in 2007 and was sentenced to three years in prison. The charges stemmed from a complaint made by businessperson Timothy Hills.

Cachopa was convicted on Jan. 23 of being an accessory to attempted extortion. Prosecutors said that he used his authority as police chief to threaten Hills in an attempt to force him to drop the misconduct complaint against Cohen.

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