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Black lawyer sues MBTA for civil-rights violations over 2017 arrest; says cops arrested him instead of woman he says made up assault story at Haymarket

A Black attorney who was arrested on a charge of indecent assault and battery for an incident at the Haymarket bus station is suing the MBTA, saying he never should have been arrested for some jostling at a crowded stop at rush hour and that the only reason he was is because of his race and that police took the word of a known troublemaker without ever getting his side of the story or interviewing any of the witnesses he says would have backed him up.

Timothy Fraser of Chelsea says that because of the arrest in August, 2017, he lost his job and suffered emotional distress, humiliation and medical issues - even as MBTA detectives were realizing they had no case.

Fraser originally filed his suit in Suffolk Superior Court in July. Last week, the MBTA had the case moved to Boston federal court, citing the constitutional issues Fraser raised in his lawsuit for damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery resulting in personal injury, discrimination, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, negligent supervision and training, due-process violations and falsifying a police report, libel, tortious interference with business relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Fraser describes what he said happened around 6 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2017, involving a woman he identifies only as KTC, as in "Known to the Commonwealth," the phrase police used in their initial incident report to refer to the woman who told officers he ground himself into her at the bus stop.

What began as a simple, common "bump" by KTC on a crowded rush-hour bus platform (i.e., KTC bumped into Attorney Fraser), quickly escalated into KTC verbally (and falsely) accusing Attorney Fraser of assault.

KTC continued to escalate the situation, at which time Attorney Fraser in an attempt to diffuse the situation told the MBTA bus driver that he would disembark from bus #604 so that the bus driver could begin the 111C route on schedule. ...

As a witness to the entire altercation and false accusation, the MBTA bus driver agreed to pick up Attorney Fraser at the next stop, N. Washington Street at Thatcher Street, just a short walk from Haymarket.

Attorney Fraser re-boarded Bus #604 at the N. Washington Street/Thatcher Street stop at approximately 6:10 p.m.

Then, after the bus crossed into Charlestown, Transit Police officers in two cruisers pulled the bus over on Rutherford Avenue:

Upon the bus being pulled over, Attorney Fraser correctly assumed that the traffic stop was related to the incident that occurred at the Haymarket Station, and immediately disembarked Bus #604 to speak to the MBTA police.

Immediately upon seeing Attorney Fraser, a young African American male, without probable cause and without speaking with him at all other than asking his name, MBTA police immediately apprehended him, patted him down without reasonable suspicion that he was armed, restrained him tightly with handcuffs, and arrested Attorney Fraser - all immediately upon his disembarking Bus #604. ...

Defendants MBTA Officer Davie and MBTA Officer Harer knew or should have known after interviewing KTC that she was an unreliable and incredible witness, a criminal known to the Commonwealth with currently pending assault charges against her.

Fraser says he was charged with indecent assault and battery, that he was locked up for several hours and that, after one of the officers found his state bar ID, "prepared and filed a falsified police report, incorrectly describing the order of key events," as well as falsely claiming "Fraser was informed he was being detained as part of an investigation" when he was arrested, when he was not.

Then Transit Police detectives looked at the surveillance video, he says:

After the team of MBTA investigators reviewed the Haymarket Station security camera footage, they informed Attorney Fraser that the incident did not occur as complainant KTC had stated, and they found no evidence to support the filing of a criminal complaint against him and declined to file a criminal complaint in the matter. ...

Prior to Attorney Fraser's case being called, the MBTA investigators notified the Suffolk County District Attorney's office that the MBTA was declining to file a criminal complaint in the matter.

However, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office refused to withdraw the criminal complaint drafted by the MBTA officers.

Instead, the District Attorney's office informed Attorney Fraser (through his counsel) that he could plead "Not Guilty" at the arraignment and "if there is an exculpatory videotape, he can produce that at a later pre-trail hearing."

A plea of "Not Guilty" would have an extremely harmful effect on Attorney Fraser's standing in and connection to the Boston legal community. Such a plea would require an appearance in Court in front of his peers to face a criminal arraignment and subsequent hearings; a pending/open case for the salacious crime of indecent assault and battery for the indefinite future; potential suspension of his license to practice law; and potentially, a criminal trial, all due to the MBTA Police's racial bias and false arrest.

Fraser said that just minutes before he was scheduled to stand for arraignment, the assistant DA handling the case got word from DA Dan Conley's office to drop the prosecution, but the damage was done: He reported the incident to his employer, who immediately sent him home for the day and then, several days later, fired him. And he had to seek treatment at Massachusetts General, he says, for the pinched nerve caused by wearing tightened handcuffs for several hours.

Fraser charges none of this would have happened had he not been a young Black man.

Without probable cause and immediately upon seeing Attorney Fraser, a young African American male, instead of speaking with him at all, MBTA police immediately apprehended him, patted Attorney Fraser down without reasonable suspicion that he was armed, restrained him tightly with handcuffs, and arrested Attorney Fraser - all immediately upon his disembarking Bus #604. ...

Considering the recent climate of relations between the police and the African-American community as highlighted in recent nationwide media, Attorney Fraser feared for his life and a reasonable person in his position would have suffered severe emotional distress under the circumstances of the case.

The Defendant MBTA Officers' conduct was outrageous in character, extreme in degree, and goes "beyond all possible bounds of decency, such that it should be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." See Polay v. McMahon, 468 Mass. 379, 10 N.E.3d 1122, 1128 (2014).

Fraser is seeking to be reimbursed for the salary he lost after his arrest, damages and an order to expunge all police and court records related to his case.

The MBTA has yet to respond, except to have the case moved to federal court.

Complete complaint (4.2M PDF).

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Comments

They had video evidence absolving him and instead of following up and withdrawing the complaint, they took the lazy way out to force him to trial in front of his collegues. I have no doubt the KTC pulled a Karen move and the transit cops immediately sided with her in part due to appearences. I can only imagine what this man had to go through as a young black man to even get into a professional position (work twice as hard to be seen half as good) and for it to be stripped away from one FALSE and humiliating incident, must really suck. Filing false complaints/police reports should seriously have more legal consequences. It's a waste of time, resources and when this guy wins his lawsuit, MONEY.

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That KTC woman who pulled this shit with Fraser is the one who should've been arrested, detained, and charged with libelous slander and screwing up another person's life.

Here's hoping that the charges against Fraser are reversed and turned against that KTC bitch, instead.

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First one is the accusation. Despite her reputation, the incident did need some investigation because pervs often target women who are less believable/have little agency.

That said, it sounded like their "investigation" consisted of "see black guy, arrest black guy, and then cover ass for not doing their job right". That's far worse than anything this woman did. They had exculpatory evidence, but as they had already instantly arrested him rather than ask questions of the driver, and then pursued the case rather than dropping it because ... well ... I think we know why.

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KTC isn't the person who arrested Fraser as soon as they saw his skin color. KTC didn't put him in handcuffs and file a false police report--the cops did that. KTC didn't want to put him on trial even after the cops said there was no case against him--the DA's office did.

She's not entirely innocent, but the people who actively tried to ruin Fraser's life were the police and the DA's office.

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It's a waste of time to sue her even if they deem her partially responsible since you're unlikely to collect.

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If this complaint is to be believed, KTC is guilty, as are the arresting police, as is anyone in the DA's office who participated in this sham. But without any police reform, good luck getting through the qualified immunity shield.

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They didn't arrest him as soon as they saw his skin color. They arrested him because he matched the description provided by KTC. And they were correct in that match -- he was the person who KTC was accusing. It's not like they arrested someone who had nothing to do with this accusation because they picked the nearest Black man they could find.

That said, I don't know if this arrest was appropriate, or if the police are supposed to talk to additional witnesses first for a case like this.

I also take issue with "Defendants ... knew or should have known after interviewing KTC that she was an unreliable and incredible witness, a criminal known to the Commonwealth with currently pending assault charges against her." I'm no expert, but I hope there's no such thing as being deemed a known criminal, after which you're no longer taken seriously if you call the police for being assaulted.

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Of course there are known criminals as well as people who create problems. While that information can not be used to assume a person is guilty it is invaluable in determining the likelihood that the actual victim (here Mr. Fraser).

One person accuses another of harrasment or other bad behavior. No witnesses to corroborates. Yet the man fitting the description (which still is not sufficient) is arrested.

Reminds me of a black friend who was stopped and harrassed by police in the pubic parking lot in JP. He was stopped because he fit the description of a burglarer who was seen attempting to rob a house 5 blocks away.

The resemblence? Black male, 5'10", slightly over weight. Gee, just how precise was that?

I suspect that there may have been quotas at play in both situations.

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Which is an exhibit to the complaint, the description of the alleged attacker is pretty detailed, down to his clothing and the fact that he was wearing glasses. KTC also supposedly had taken a cell phone picture of Fraser which she showed to police. Fraser also met the T Police officers at the door of the bus because he had surmised that the bus was being stopped due to the altercation at the Haymarket busway.

There's no suggestion that Fraser wasn't involved in the altercation (as a victim). Rather, the complaint is that the police believed the woman who claimed to be a victim without discounting her account based on the existence of pending assault charges against her.

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You know who else "fits the description"?

IMAGE(https://i.redd.it/l04i0k9lbfk51.jpg)

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Yes, but the point is that KTC instigated that whole incident, so she should not get off.

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Who are they?

The MBTA did investigate and withdraw the complaint. But then the Suffolk DA didn't drop the case.

I'm lucky in that I don't have a lot of experience with this stuff. How are police supposed to handle this situation? If a woman accuses a man of inappropriate touching, how much investigation are they supposed to do before arresting the man?

I think it's also a major problem that someone can lose their job over an arrest that doesn't even come close to a conviction. Why is that even allowed?

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And cause isn't required unless there's a contract between the employee and employer. Even in employment relationships with a contract, one can be terminated without cause while in a probationary period. We don't know from the complaint whether the employer paid severance and/or a contractual termination payment.

The Suffolk DA did drop the case -- just not as quickly as the plaintiff wanted. Looks like they dropped it that morning, before he would have actually been arraigned.

But Fraser isn't suing the Suffolk DA. He's not that dumb. Suing the DA probably means he can kiss his legal career goodbye.

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I think it's somewhat ironic that someone who makes a living from our legal system gets all worked up over the consequences of an arrest not leading to a conviction. Unfortunately this kind of thing happens all the time, and defense lawyers make a lot of money off it.

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? If his former employer doesn't believe in that principle, he should find one who does.

Perhaps the driver made a statement over the radio which resulted in arrest. And how is it the MBTA’s fault if the DA refused to broom the complaint initially.

Sounds like this guy was a contract/gig attorney at fidelity. Hopefully he can latch on with another contract gig.

Except for Adam not one local media outlet has reported this tragic story of a black man fighting for his reputation and possible loss of freedom for being falsely accused and arrested by the police.
Governor Charlie Baker-No Comment
Mayor Marty Walsh-No Comment
District Attorney Rachael Rollins- No Comment
City Councilor Michelle Wu-No Comment
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak-No Comment
Chief of Transit Police Kenneth Green- No Comment

Even Fish hasn't defended the actions of the Transit Police.

Request that this case be moved from Superior Court to Federal Court?