SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 14, 2013

Charges against Cullen dismissed

Hamilton: EMT scandal comes to a close

A scandal that shook the town of Hamilton to its core five years ago came to a quiet end yesterday, as a Salem Superior Court judge dismissed charges of fraud and larceny against the town’s former police chief.

Walter Cullen, the former chief, who was also in charge of the ambulance service, was found to have misrepresented his certification as an EMT in the course of an investigation into “no-show” recertification courses being offered to local police officers and firefighters. Cullen had not attended the required classes and had allowed his son to sign in for him.

The investigation was triggered by a whistle-blowing officer in the department, Michael Marchand, who had been the target of what were later found to be unsubstantiated complaints. He later won a $1.3 million settlement from the town after filing a lawsuit.

The discoveries led to the shutdown of the town’s ambulance service, indictments against Cullen and three others, and nine local police officers receiving fines and suspensions that totaled approximately $25,000 each.

Three others were also charged: former Middleton and Ipswich fire chief Henry Michalski, who ran EMT training courses; former Ipswich selectman and Wenham police lieutenant James Foley; and David Mastrianni, Cullen’s son-in-law, who ran training programs for the Hamilton police department.

Cullen received a continuation without a finding, a rare disposition in Superior Court cases, after admitting that he was guilty of the four charges against him during a hearing in December 2011. After Cullen spent 18 months on unsupervised probation and paid a $25,000 fine, Judge Timothy Feeley dismissed the case yesterday.

Cullen did not appear for the proceeding, which took less than a minute.

The disposition of the case was aimed at allowing Cullen to keep his pension, Feeley acknowledged in 2011.

Foley’s case, which had also been continued without a finding, was dismissed in March, three months earlier than scheduled, after he paid a $2,000 fine.

The two other defendants, Mastrianni and Michalski, completed terms of probation after they pleaded guilty. Unlike Cullen and Foley, Mastrianni and Michalski will continue to have records of criminal convictions. Their cases were heard by a different judge.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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