Police drop appeal against man who got ticket while wife was in labor


By Stephanie Ebbert
Boston Globe

Related Article:
 Trooper gives ticket to woman in labor

BOSTON — A Massachusetts state trooper gained unwelcome fame late last year for making a woman who was in labor wait to get to the hospital while he cited her husband for driving in the breakdown lane. The story, first reported in The Boston Globe, ricocheted around the country and sparked outrage. MSNBC-TV commentator Keith Olbermann dubbed Trooper Michael Galluccio his "Worst Person in the World."

But all that notoriety was not enough for the State Police.

Even after the new father, John Davis, appealed the $100 ticket and a Cambridge clerk magistrate tossed it out, the department refused to give up. A lawyer for the State Police challenged the clerk magistrate's decision and appealed to restore the ticket late last month. A hearing was scheduled before a Cambridge District Court judge March 18.

Davis's attorney, David Lucas, said that in a dozen years, he'd never seen the State Police appeal a traffic ticket. He couldn't quite believe they were going to pursue one against a the husband of a woman in labor.

"When I asked, 'Are you sure the State Police want to be on record as appealing this?’ what he said was, “I just wouldn’t have any credibility if I did not appeal this,’” said Lucas.

State Police had maintained previously that the trooper was within his rights to ticket Davis for illegal use of the breakdown lane. Spokesman David Procopio declined to make the prosecutor who decided to appeal available today to explain his reasoning. But within an hour and a half of being contacted by the Globe, the State Police dropped their case. State Police Colonel Mark F. Delaney "immediately ordered it to be rescinded," Procopio said.

Procopio acknowledged that it is rare for State Police to appeal a clerk magistrate's decision and said they do so only in a "low percentage" of cases. In this case, he said, "We respect the magistrate's decision and it does not serve the interest of justice to pursue this beyond the decision."

He also said that state troopers are expected to make judgment calls all the time. "We understand that there may be a backlash to that," said Procopio. "That goes with the territory and we understand that. That said, we make the calls based on public safety and the interest of justice -- and not public opinion."

Readers were outraged by the story that John Davis and his wife, Jennifer, of Dracut recounted for the Globe in December after initially writing it as a letter to the editor. The Davises said they were trying to reach Mount Auburn Hospital in morning rush hour traffic Nov. 18 when Jennifer was in labor with their daughter. Her contractions were only about three minutes apart.

Two other troopers along their route had allowed them to drive in the breakdown lanes to reach the hospital, they said, but when they pulled up in the breakdown lane behind Galluccio -- who was already giving someone else a ticket -- he said no. He offered them an ambulance, which they thought would be useless in the traffic. Deciding that they did not have a true emergency, Galluccio then made them wait on the roadside while he finished writing someone else's ticket, warned them they would be getting a citation in the mail, and seemed to cast doubt on Jennifer Davis's labor, asking to see her belly.

Galluccio, a cousin of State Senator Anthony D. Galluccio, a Cambridge Democrat, has been a state trooper since 1999 and is assigned to the Brighton barracks. A review of his personnel record -- released by the State Police under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Globe -- revealed he has eight complaints against him for conduct on the job. Only one resulted in disciplinary action, the details of which the department did not reveal. Galluccio could not be reached for comment today.

Procopio noted that Galluccio had the discretion to decide whether or not to write a ticket and the prosecutor had the discretion to decide whether or not to appeal. Likewise, the clerk magistrate had the leeway to decide whether to uphold the ticket or drop it based on the evidence presented from the ticket and testimony John Davis gave in a hearing that lasted about five minutes.

Cambridge Clerk Magistrate Robert Moscow said both sides had a "reasonable argument" but he found Davis not responsible.

Copyright 2009 Boston Globe

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