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).