No prison time for former NH trooper
NASHUA – A former New Hampshire State trooper on Thursday admitted he used excessive force when he repeatedly pummeled a suspect with his fists and knees and agreed to never serve in law enforcement again, saying his burst of anger made him unfit to wear the uniform or even carry a weapon.
But Andrew Monaco, 31, who resigned from the state police July 22 after four years on the force, will serve no jail time for assaulting Richard Simone Jr., of Worcester, Mass., who led police on the May 11 high-speed chase from central Massachusetts to Nashua.
“I apologize to the members of law enforcement, especially those who were there that day. But, most importantly, I apologize to the citizens of New Hampshire,” Monaco said in Nashua district court, where Judge James Leary reluctantly accepted the negotiated plea agreement.
“I severely regret my actions,” Monaco continued. He said “emotions and anger” took over and he was unable to separate them from his conduct during the traffic stop.
Simone, through his attorney, said a sentence that doesn’t include jail time proves the criminal justice system runs on “two sets of rules.”
“If they were plain-clothed individuals who committed that assault, they would be in jail,” said attorney Joseph Comenzo, of Boston, who represents Simone.
Simone currently is incarcerated on a felony charge in Worcester county jail.
“The only thing that keeps this defendant from serving jail time is the uniform he was wearing. So there are two sets of rules,” Comenzo added.
The event drew national attention as news crews in helicopters videotaped the high-speed chase from Massachusetts to dead-end Brigham Street in Nashua. There, an unarmed Simone stepped out of his pickup truck and complied with officers’ commands to get on his hands and knees when Monaco and another officer rushed forward and began punching and kicking Simone as he lay on the ground, Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Susan Morrell said in describing the events.
Massachusetts State Police trooper Joseph Flynn, 32, allegedly was the second officer who beat Simone. He faces two counts of misdemeanor simple assault for alleged excessive force.
Judge Leary was reluctant to accept the negotiated plea deal – despite its lengthy conditions – because it did not impose any jail time so long as Monaco complies with its terms.
“My hang-up is the punishment,” Leary told Monaco, who stood at the defense table with his eyes trained on the judge.
The plea deal includes a deferred one-year term in the House of Corrections with the remaining two years suspended. Monaco also agreed to surrender his New Hampshire law enforcement certification.
Since Monaco was an on-duty state trooper at the time of the incident, the misdemeanor charges carried enhanced penalties of two to five years in state prison. Typically, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in county jail and fines.
“With some apprehension, I am going to accept this plea agreement. The fact that you acknowledged responsibility for this act … and you stood here today in front of me and the press and the citizens of New Hampshire and admitted your responsibility, mitigated … the punishment I feel you deserve,” Leary added.
Comenzo criticized the punishment as lax, noting his client, Simone, had stitches to his ear and suffers from issues related to “his concussion and trauma,” including sensitivity to light and sound, significant headaches, problems with his right hand and he found fresh blood in his ear canal a few weeks ago.
Simone was also faced with explaining the incident to his 11-year-old daughter, who watched the video of her father being beaten on television, Comenzo added.
“She saw this police officer brutally beat up her dad for some unknown reason and he doesn’t know how to explain that to her,” he said.
New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster called the plea agreement appropriate and said it sends a message to other law enforcers that excessive force will not be tolerated.
“Law enforcement are and must be held to a high standard of conduct in every interaction with the public, particularly in moments of high stress,” Foster said after the hearing.
“Individuals who surrender peacefully to law enforcement should never, ever, be in fear of assault,” Foster continued. “Mr. Monaco’s resignation from the New Hampshire State Police, his relinquishment of his law enforcement certification and his guilty pleas today reinforce that message to our law enforcement community and to the public.”
In arriving at the terms of the plea agreement, Foster said prosecutors took into consideration the events that led up to the assault – including a high-speed chase in which Simone “put the officers and the public at significant risk of bodily injury.”
Simone is being held on $50,000 cash bail in Worcester County jail in West Boylston, Mass. He is next scheduled to appear in Worcester district court on Sept. 13 on a felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charge for allegedly trying to run down a Millbury, Mass., police officer with his vehicle, according to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early’s office. He also faces a charge out of Leominster, Mass., district court.
Morrell and defense attorney Eric Wilson portrayed Monaco as a remorseful officer with an “unblemished record” who served with the Marines before joining the state police.
“In the 20 seconds that this incident occurred, he lost control and, in admitting that he lost control, he has admitted that he can no longer be a police officer,” she said. “When you note events around the country, there are very few police officers who will stand up in court and say what they did was wrong, what they did was a crime, and they should not be a police officer.”
Monaco said his childhood dream was to be a state trooper, and Morrell said he was the “whistleblower” in reporting a Salem police officer’s excessive use of force that resulted in that officer serving 21 days in county jail.
In exchange for his guilty pleas, Monaco received a deferred one-year sentence in the House of Corrections followed by a two-year suspended sentence. He agreed to surrender his New Hampshire law enforcement certification and never serve in law enforcement again or any profession that would require he carry a weapon, Morrell said.
In addition, Monaco agreed to pay restitution to the victim, undergo anger management counseling and any other counseling jail officials recommend. He agrees also to remain on good behavior, perform 120 hours of community service, and cooperate with state prosecutors and testify truthfully in the ongoing case against Flynn.
Flynn is charged with two counts of misdemeanor simple assault and, if convicted, could face enhanced penalties of two to five years in state prison. He remains suspended without pay from the Massachusetts State Police.
In documents filed in Nashua district court, Flynn’s attorney, Ronald Caron of Manchester, said his client “was justified in the use of non-deadly force” in arresting Simone.
Flynn, he wrote, was “acting in his capacity as a law enforcement officer … to defend himself and fellow officers from what he reasonably believed to be the imminent use of non-deadly force” encountered while trying to arrest Simone and prevent his escape.
Flynn is scheduled to appear in Nashua district court for a pre-trial conference on Oct. 13.
Telegraph staff writers Don Himsel and Damien Fisher contributed to this report. Kathryn Marchocki can be reached at 594-6589, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_KMar.