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WARREN Man who complained of police brutality pleads guilty



Published: Tue, May 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defendant could receive up to 21/2 years in prison, an assistant county prosecutor says.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A 30-year-old city man whose complaint of police brutality prompted officials of the U.S. Department of Justice to visit the city has pleaded guilty to three charges.

Lamont Murray entered the pleas Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to two misdemeanor counts, resisting arrest and obstructing official business, and one felony count of passing bad checks.

Murray could receive probation or up to 21/2 years in prison, said Atty. Chris Becker, an assistant county prosecutor.

Judge W. Wyatt McKay said Murray will be sentenced after a background check by the county adult probation department.

On June 25, Murray was arrested after police stopped a vehicle he was riding in because the driver of the vehicle failed to put on a turn signal before making a turn.

Murray, who is black, filed a written complaint shortly after his arrest against Sgt. Rob Massucci and patrol officer David Weber, who are both white, saying the two used excessive force when they arrested him that day.

Justice Department visits

A few days after Murray's arrest, the U.S. Justice Department contacted the city, saying it was sending a representative to meet with officials, NAACP members and a few citizens invited to attend. The meeting was not open to the public.

An official with the Justice Department has returned to the city several times to meet with the mayor and citizens. The mayor, who has declined to say exactly what was discussed during the closed-door meetings, said the Justice Department official wants to help the city improve race relations.

Murray said police used pepper spray on him, hit him with a nightstick, and kicked him. He said he needed 20 staples to close a gash on his head caused by police.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos said the internal affairs investigation, which was recently completed, showed that police acted properly and did not use excessive force.

Defends officers

"As I said from day one, my officers did nothing wrong," Mandopoulos said. "Every once in a while someone will get arrested and then they will claim the police were brutal and they will call the Justice Department and the FBI. We are in the business of arresting people who break laws, and when someone won't come along willingly we will have to do what we need to do to make them comply."

The chief added that the two officers who arrested Murray are under 6 feet tall and weigh about 180 pounds. Murray is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 365 pounds, police said.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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