, Salem, MA

Local News

April 4, 2013

Judge blames Beverly police

Brennan says department's 'utter lack of follow-up' led to acquittal in assault case


“Are you serious?” Sutherland recalled asking the officer, who responded by telling him to leave.

When a blood-covered Lauren Sleeper tried to ask an officer to call an ambulance for the victim, the officer allegedly snapped, “Don’t touch me!”

Outside the party, Grimes interviewed the victim, according to his police report. “I asked him if he knew his attacker,” the officer wrote in a 11/2-page report. “He said that he did not know his name, but knew him as a lacrosse teammate of Mr. Tagnieri.

“I also asked others as they passed or stood in the crowd that had gathered if they had seen the fight or knew who had struck the victim. All said no,” Grimes wrote.

Soon after that, however, the victim pointed to Eppley as his assailant, then walked over to him, kicking at him.

At the hospital, the victim mentioned Holden as a possible second assailant. But after Holden denied striking him, he was not charged.

Defense lawyer Hugh Curran blasted the Police Department for “a complete and utter lack of any investigation,” suggesting that the officers had rushed to judgment.

Even a prosecutor, Patrick Collins, admitted during his closing argument that, “There are no perfect cases, there are no perfect investigations, and there are some that are worse — and you see that here.” Collins and fellow prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey opted not to call any of the Beverly police officers to the witness stand.

Instead, the prosecutors, who argued that the victim’s identification ought to be sufficient, called several students, including some who were identified by the defense investigator as potential witnesses. None of them testified that they saw who caused the injury.

A frustrated Collins also alluded in his closing argument to the “code of silence,” pointing to a “secret handshake” one student described on the stand.

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