A Revere Police officer has been hit with a federal civil rights lawsuit this week from a Saugus man who was arrested at the 2007 Columbus Day Parade in the wake of the Officer Dan Talbot murder.
Pat Starkey, 37, has filed suit with Attorney Myong Joun of Arlington in Boston Federal Court against Revere Police Officer Marc Birritteri for unlawfully arresting him and lodging false criminal charges against him in retaliation for Starkey exercising his First Amendment rights.
City officials and the Revere Police reserved comment on the suit for a later date.
The situation was part of a high-tension event that took place at the parade right after the Talbot murder. The week prior had been wrought with tension, and the day of the parade was even more intense as Revere Police planned to march in tribute to Talbot that day.
Starkey – a former Boston Housing Authority Special Police Officer – had come to the parade with his wife, Heidi, when his son – Michael Piccardi – had called him and told him that he had been beaten up by several men because of a shirt he was wearing.
The shirt in question read ‘Free Lodie,’ and referred to the arrest of then-suspect Derek Lodie – who later pleaded guilty to his involvement in the murder.
Starkey’s lawsuit alleges that Starkey took the shirt off of his son, and put it on himself. Then, he put his own shirt on his son to keep him out of danger.
As he wore the shirt, Starkey alleges that he saw Officer Birritteri in the TD Bank parking lot. He decided to go over and speak to the officer about the situation involving his son – clearing up any loose ends.
“Mr. Starkey prepared to cross the street when a man suddenly stepped in front of Mr. Starkey and punched him in the face,” read the suit. “The man who punched Mr. Starkey was Billy Cianciarusso. As Mr. Starkey stumbled backwards from the punch, Cianciarusso pulled out a silver-colored revolver and pointed it at Mr. Starkey. Mr. Starkey put his hand underneath his shirt and told Cianciarusso that he too had a weapon but that he was not there to fight…Birritteri crossed the street, went over to Cianciarusso, and the two had a brief conversation. Cianciarusso had his silver revolver in his hand by his side while talking to Birritteri. Cianciarusso then exclaimed to Birritteri, ‘Look at his (expletive deleted) shirt’ while pointing at Starkey.
“Defendant Birritteri approached Starkey, grabbed his arm and pulled at it,” continued the suit. “Birritteri’s pulling of Starkey’s arm caused them to spin around and they tripped over a curb and fell to the ground. Birritteri quickly got up, drew his service firearm, aimed it at Starkey and ordered him to put his hands up. As Starkey put his hands up, Cianciarusso came over and kicked Starkey in the head and face several times. Birritteri did not intervene.”
The suit alleges that the attacks by Cianciarusso and others continued, and Cianciarusso was allowed to leave the scene with his weapon and was never charged with any crime.
Starkey was charged with numerous crimes, including felonies.
More than four years later, last fall, Starkey was finally exonerated of all the charges in a trial at Chelsea District Court.
Starkey’s suit alleges that Birritteri fabricated information to bring the charges against Starkey, and withheld important information about the incident.
“Birritteri provided false information to the prosecution,” read the suit. “Birritteri advised and/or assisted with the prosecution by continuing to provide false and fabricated statements. By doing so, Birritteri withheld exculpatory information from the prosecution during the course of the criminal proceedings…After a trial in Chelsea District Court on Oct. 18, 2011, a judge fully exonerated Starkey by acquitting him on all the charges. For more than four years, although the plaintiff knew he was innocent, he feared that he might be convicted of the false charges. He expended thousands of dollars to retain an attorney to defend him from the false charges. Most of all, as a result of Birritteri’s conduct, Starkey greatly suffered emotionally.”
Attorney Joun said that they are demanding a jury trial in federal court, and requesting compensatory and punitive damages – as well as court costs for the lawsuit.
They are officially claiming false arrest and malicious prosecution.