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"My husband would have still been in jail today"
A post in three parts
This is a post in three parts, organized neatly if unoriginally by three subheads, in case you want to jump around.
Part 1: A little update from a surprisingly impactful bit of police misconduct testimony at Council this week and some digging on the abuses described. Stunning stuff.
Part 2: An excerpt from my recent story for the seminal newsletter Welcome to Hell World on the Department of Justice investigation.
Part 3: Worcester thrash metal band High Command released their second LP today. It’s called Eclipse of The Dual Moons, and it’s a great record, one which I was very involved in making and am extremely proud of, and it’s finally out on Southern Lord Records.
Still running my holiday subscription deal! Every contribution helps build this thing out toward the local journalism operation I want it to be.
Part 1: “The incompetence to police appropriately”
Every city council meeting starts with a round of comment from the public. Anyone can get up at the mic and say whatever they want, so long as it’s related to an item on the agenda. This period has its regulars. There’s Conservative Danny Devito (Fred Nathan) and Anti-Racist Grandma (Idella Hazard) and sometimes we’re treated to delightfully combative testimony from Wahya Wolfpaw (“You guys need to get some fuckin balls. Fuck you.”) Then there’s a cast of regular community activists on one side of things and the guy from the Chamber of Commerce on the other. Watch enough of these and you could more or less script out who is going to say what before it happens. There are rarely any surprises.
At the meeting Tuesday night, however, we got a big surprise. One Liliana Rosado Gaul, who laid down a remarkably honest, palpable and damning bit of testimony that we would have never ever heard on the city council floor if the Worcester Police Department was not under investigation from the Department of Justice.
I pulled the video.
And here’s a transcription of what she said:
I’m here to talk about item 16n. Sorry I’m a little nervous and my emotions are kind of high right now. I’m here tonight to speak on this. I had petitioned yesterday but I was denied for next week. My husband Dana Gaul was secretly indicted and charged for a murder in June of 2021. He spent almost six months in the Worcester House of Corrections for a crime he did not commit. He was released from jail because the actual assailant turned himself in and confessed to the crime. If he did not turn himself in, my husband would have still been in jail today. He was released November 30, 2021, right after Thanksgiving. When he was released, they put a GPS monitoring device on his ankle even though they knew he was innocent. On Feb. 11, 2022, the court finally ordered to drop all charges. We have been dealing with the incompetence and harassment from the WPD since December, 2020. My husband and our family have been through so much stress and pain throughout this whole ordeal and I also attended the audit that the CNA conducted at the Voke school. I’m concerned as to why the council is questioning the motives of the DOJ in opening this investigation on the WPD. Even way before my husband’s case, Dana, there has been multiple settlements, lawsuits, videos and much more evidence on the incompetence to police appropriately. The investigation is not only warranted but needed and it should have happened years ago. Everyone in leadership positions in Worcester should be held accountable for not holding the men and women who swore under oath to protect us accountable for the damage the Worcester Police Department has caused to not only my family but many other families here.
Again, without the DOJ investigation, we would have never ever ever ever heard this. The mayor would have shut such a statement down, saying it’s not relevant to any agenda item. The item which gave her the greenlight to speak about the monstrous treatment her family was subjected to at the hands of the Worcester Police Department was 16n., and it was filed by Khrystian King. It asked for “a report concerning the process the Department of Justice uses to pre-investigate communities to determine whether to move forward on formal investigations of their police departments.”
So already, this investigation is allowing for an open examination of the WPD which would not have been possible without the presence of the Department of Justice. If we think of the City Council as a castle wall defending the WPD from public scrutiny, and I think it’d be quite fair to think that way, this DOJ investigation has already thrown up a ladder letting us climb over it. One of those grippy ladders from the Helms Deep scene in the The Two Towers. The kind you can’t easily push back over. Then, with any luck, the results of the investigation will be like this guy...
...who will do this...
...to the council’s ability to shield the police department from public scrutiny. Like Rosado Gaul said in her testimony, this should have happened years ago.
It’ll be a long time until the DOJ presents findings. A year, at least, but probably two. For now, the mere fact that the investigation is happening has already proven productive. If you need a refresher, I explained what these investigations are and how they work in a post last week.
And then earlier this week, I wrote about it for a non-Worcester audience in Welcome to Hell World, and I’m gunna share a chunk of that a little later.
But for now, I want to return to Gaul’s story, as it is a perfect example of what the Department of Justice should be looking at. And it is just one of many recent examples.
Her husband, 43-year-old Leicester man Dana Gaul, was charged with murder in June, 2021, after being secretly indicted by a grand jury. The indictment was announced by District Attorney Joe Early Jr. on June 25, 2021. At some point this year, however, that press release was removed from Early’s website. Hm! I went to the Wayback Machine and found it. Not sure why his office would remove it, seeing as it was dutifully reported by the local press and those stories are still live. No mea culpa to explain why it was deleted either. Dana Gaul’s name does not appear once on the DA’s website, despite the office having sent him to prison for five months on evidence that was so bad they should have known better, but I’ll get to that.
In the now-deleted press release, Early’s office wrote:
Around 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2020, Worcester Police responded to the report of a group fighting in the area of 96 Water St. When they arrived, they found Rose suffering from multiple stab wounds. Rose was transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center – University Campus where he died three days later of his injuries.
The Worcester Police Department Detective Bureau investigated the case for eight months. They identified Gaul through surveillance footage, cell phone video and images, and eyewitnesses.
Worcester detectives investigated this case for eight months before throwing the wrong person to the DA’s office for grand jury indictment. The case was built on three pieces of evidence, the DA alleges in this release: camera footage, cell phone footage and eye witnesses. Keep those three things in mind as we work our way through this.
So the fight happens and Jehlon Rose dies of a stab wound in November, 2020. Gaul is indicted in June, 2021 and held without bail. Gaul spends five months in the Worcester House of Corrections until February, 2022, when Early’s office withdrew the murder charge, citing “newly discovered evidence.” In a story at the time, MassLive wrote that Gaul was “held without bail until new evidence came to light that pointed to another individual being responsible for the killing of Rose.” The DA/MassLive says “new evidence came to light.” Gaul’s wife said that another guy turned himself in. Nothing the cops like more than hiding behind the passive voice.
Court records show that Jorge Luis Rivera-Baez is now being investigated in connection with the fatal stabbing of Rose.
On Nov. 10, an individual and his attorney walked into the Worcester Police headquarters and provided authorities with evidence that appeared to clear Gaul. According to court records, the man was Rivera-Baez, who is Hispanic but investigators say bears a striking resemblance to Gaul, who is Black.’
Despite withdrawing the murder conviction, the DA still ordered Gaul to wear an ankle monitor and he still had to report to probation.
There’s one line from Liliana’s testimony Tuesday night that’s really sticking with me. “If he did not turn himself in, my husband would have still been in jail today.”
This April, three months after the DA withdrew the murder charge, Gaul filed a civil lawsuit against the Worcester Police Department and five officers involved: Joseph Albano, Elisa Baez, Dan Heavey, Sean Lovely and Tim Foley. Names to remember, it would seem.
I got my hands on a copy of that lawsuit and my god. The allegations paint a picture of stunning incompetence on the part of the WPD detectives involved.
Just read this real quick. (If you want to read the whole thing, here’s the document.)
So remember when I told you to put a pin in the type of evidence the cops used to convict Gaul? It was security camera footage, cell phone footage, and eye witnesses. Line 26 up above here reads: “Not one witness to the murder ever identified (Gaul) as being present.” And then, the next line: “That is because (Gaul) was nowhere near the murder and is completely innocent.”
Welp. Cross out the “eye witness” evidence. Without the witnesses, that leaves us with two pieces of evidence: security footage and cell phone footage and—ohp—ah jeez. There’s a whole section on the cell phone footage, and it describes not just incompetence but patently thuggish behavior on the part of the officers.
Focus on line 36 there. Officers Albano and Baez took screenshots of a cell phone video as they “set about to easily ‘solve’ the murders by falsely implicating him.”
So how did they go about it? They lied and they pressured other people to lie. In the lawsuit, they describe this lying as “the use of suggestive identification techniques.”
The detectives here were straight up leaning on people like the bad guys in a mafia movie. They were pressuring vulnerable people into lying so they could more effectively lie in an effort to destroy an innocent man’s life. I don’t know how you could look at this and see it as anything other than thugs shaking people down.
These five detectives get the lies they want out of people by intimidating and pressuring them. They then package those lies and deliver them to the District Attorney’s Office, and then District Attorney Joe Early takes these lies and repackages them to a grand jury. Just like how the detectives got what they wanted out of the people they were leaning on, Early gets what he wants out of the jury. He gets his indictment. The murder is solved.
And they all would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for that rotten actual perp who turned himself in.
At no point during this process was the truth an apparent consideration for any of the cops involved. They were just trying to ruin a man’s life by way of another man’s corpse.
Left unsaid, even in this lawsuit, is why they were trying to ruin Gaul’s life. Maybe they had some beef with him, or it could be they simply enjoy ruining people’s lives. Perhaps the ruining of people’s lives is the true and necessary function of police? Maybe our society coerces participation via the looming threat of ruination, and thereby requires a class of people who are ruined to serve as an example for the rest of us? And you need people to do the ruining? And those are the cops? But that would be crazy! There would have to be a lot of people in jail for that to work! There would have to be like... 25 percent of all the world’s prisoners here in American prisons despite us having only 5 percent of the world’s population. And that would just be outlandish if that was the case!
No. The cops protect and serve. Definitely. And their number one concern is definitely the truth and what is morally right and how those things translate into our nation’s laws. They definitely value those things above inflicting suffering for suffering’s sake. And the Worcester detectives who built a case against Gaul definitely made an honest mistake. Just a little whoopsies. Whom among us has not made a little whoopsies?
Gaul’s lawsuit is still pending a ruling and these things often take years. But fun fact! The firm representing Gaul, Chicago-based Loevy & Loevy, is the same firm which recently won an $8 million judgment against the WPD in another very similar case. Back in 2000, Worcester detectives built a case to convict then-Worcester resident Natale Cosenza which put him behind bars for 16 years. The court in that case found that Worcester cops “knowingly fabricated evidence.” And I’d say based on Gaul’s case they haven’t learned their lesson. Still fabricating evidence, it seems.
Reminder that the Department of Justice is looking for “patterns or practices” of bad policing, and it seems to me there’s a pretty clear pattern going on here!
Also, this is $8 million which comes out of the city’s budget. Not the police department’s. It’s not the cops who will suffer the monetary hardship here. Most likely, that money will come from the schools. It always comes from the schools. And the prospect of decreasing the police department’s budget is still unthinkable for our city manager and city council.
This Gaul case is just one item on a veritable laundry list of things the DOJ should look into. Still working on the master List of Things. Because HOO boy. There are a lot of things.
Part 2: Welcome to Hell Worcester
Earlier this week, I published a piece on the DOJ investigation for a non-Worcester audience in Welcome to Hell World, Luke O’Neil’s wonderful newsletter which really served as a model for Worcester Sucks when I launched it. In the piece, I look at the Worcester investigation compared to other similar investigations in other cities, as well as the fictional depiction of such an investigation in David Simon’s 2022 HBO mini-series We Own This City which focuses on the chaos of the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of Freddie Gray.
I’m particularly proud of the way I sketched the Worcester situation for the uninitiated. Here’s an excerpt:
Worcester is what we like to call a “mid-sized city” at around 200,000 people. Usually when national publications parachute in to write about it they’ll call it a “former mill town” or “hard-scrabble.” A place where the factories used to be and now are not anymore. The rust belt of New England. Lately it’s been a “city on the rise,” which is even worse. It’s a poor city (the poverty rate is double the county and the state) with big immigrant populations (only 63 percent of the city speaks English at home) and a lot of reactionary working class whites we in Massachusetts like to call “townies.” We in Massachusetts also know that the Townies are pound-for-pound some of the most racist people in the world. Worcester is far from a progressive city and, while reliably blue-voting, it borders a very conservative area. There’s a band that runs through the middle of the state, from Worcester on the east to Springfield on the west, that is comprised of extremely conservative rural and exurban communities. Most of the towns in Massachusetts that went for Trump in 2020 are in this band. So Worcester is in the part of the state where its progressive branding is most out of step with reality.
The city’s downtown is hollow and fake and pock-marked by relics of a long-ago time of prosperity. The local political machine is a provincial backwater. The city’s police chief, Steven Sargent, is lauded by the apparatchiks of this backwater and enjoys wide support. He has been in the department for some 37 years, following the footsteps of his father, who served at the WPD for 36 years. He’s deeply entrenched and politically connected and steeped in the culture of law enforcement and people around here tend to love him for that. In 2020, he said not once but twice that he’s never seen an instance of racism in his time on the force. Both times, he was at a public forum on police racism with the media present. In the nearly four decades he’s been on the force, there have been countless examples of WPD publicly doing racist things. In fact the department was sued for racism by its own officers in 2013. But he said it anyway, and he faced exactly zero consequences for it.
That in a nutshell is what the DOJ is dealing with here. The Worcester Police Department is an institution run by townies for the benefit of townies. It supposedly has a boss in the city council, but the council is also run by townies, and they would rather buy the cops new toys than engage in any serious reform effort. I can say all of this in such broad strokes because I’m a local reporter here and I watch every city council meeting and read every report that comes out of the city manager’s office. In recent memory they’ve bought cops a drone and a spurious piece of artificial intelligence software called Shotspotter Connect which portends to “forecast crime.” Critics of both purchases were easily waved off as naysayers. After this DOJ investigation was announced, one of these city councilors attempted to defend the WPD by saying “just because things have happened in the past doesn't mean they’re happening now.” That councilor’s name is Kate Toomey and she is the chairwoman of the council’s public safety subcommittee, which is the body designed to be the main pressure point of police accountability. The person in charge of the accountability body says ‘idk if there’s anything to worry about.’ You couldn’t write a better Parks & Rec bit.
So this isn’t Chicago or Los Angeles. The DOJ is not investigating a 300-murders-a-year major city like Baltimore, but rather a 10-murders-a-year city with a department that has never faced any serious scrutiny and behaves from the top down like it is above reproach.
In that way Worcester will be an interesting case study for the effectiveness of these DOJ consent decree operations. The whole world will not be watching, as was the case in Ferguson or Baltimore. And the local players are going to be just as resistant to change, if not more so.
While DOJ officials haven’t expressly said what in Worcester triggered the investigation, they did say in a Zoom meeting with the community that investigations like this are preceded by a sort of mini-investigation drawing largely from information which is already publicly available, like media reports and court filings. In the past year alone, the local news has been rife with such headlines.
You can read the rest on Welcome To Hell World, which includes maybe my first foray into film criticism. The piece was initially behind a paywall but is now free-to-read. Luke’s newsletter is still well worth a subscription however!
Part 3: The Dual Moons eclipse
I often focus on the things which make Worcester suck here at Worcester Sucks but High Command’s new record Eclipse of the Dual Moons—out today!—is firmly in the category of things about Worcester that I love.
Eclipse of the Dual Moons is the band’s second full-length record. Clocking in at about 50 minutes, it’s a concept record in keeping with the larger high fantasy world singer Kevin Fitzgerald has built in past releases. The story follows the barbarian warrior Dikeptor, this High Command at his side, and an elite platoon of soldiers known as the Infernal March. The Infernal March has defended their home city of Secartha for generations, ensuring the protection of its people in a harsh and violent world bent on snuffing them out.
Dikeptor and his Infernal March have cut down every foe in all four realms, but what of an enemy from another world? In Eclipse of the Dual Moons, a mysterious horde of automaton warriors called the Lunar Dawn fall from a cosmic rift in the sky and quickly massacre the helplessly small village in the Seven Hills of Onyx. Seeing the carnage in the distance, Secartha prepares for warfare as Dikeptor and his High Command ride out to learn what they can about this new foe and what it will take to defeat them. It’s a hell of a story, and it’s articulated like a long, epic poem in Fitzgerald’s lyrics.
There’s a lot going on here. So much so that we were able to create an entire fantasy map, drawn wonderfully by Worcester tattoo artist Johnny Garlin (@garlin_in_da_club).
High Command is one of the most promising musical projects in the history of Worcester music. They’re doing a damn fine job representing us to the wider musical world. When it comes to rock and roll, Worcester has a long and rich history. Going back all the way to the 60s, with the J. Geils Band, The Commandos in the 1980s, and bands like Bane and Four Year Strong in the 1990s and early 2000s, and more recent acts like the The Hotelier, our “hard-scrabble” little city has something of an outsized mark. While there are other great Worcester bands right now, it’s really High Command’s moment to carry the Worcester torch and they’re carrying it well.
Of course, I’m biased. I’m good friends with everyone in the band. I’ve played cello and synth and piano on both of their full-length records. I demoed every song on Eclipse of the Dual Moons in the band’s practice space before they went to the studio, and I sat in on the entire two week recording session down at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket. I also went to Europe with them this summer to do merch and other roadie stuff. And, dearest to my heart, I’m working with Fitzgerald to adapt the story of the record into a run of comic books (more on that hopefully very soon but it’s been the funnest and biggest writing project of my life).
But anyway, bias acknowledged, I think I’m right in saying High Command’s ascendance is something the city should be celebrating. Just as Dikeptor’s loyal High Command carries the standard of Secartha into glorious battle with the Lunar Dawn, the real life High Command carries the standard of Worcester in the music world. They’ve made big enough a splash to get signed to Southern Lord records (no obscure DIY label, but rather the home of huge bands like Sleep and Sunn), and I’ll never forget the dozens of Danish metalheads up against the security gates at Copenhell this June shouting Fitzgerald’s words back at him. Such a trip to see people halfway around the world connecting so hard with my friends’ art.
So I’m just proud, ok?
I listened through the whole record today for the first time since recording wrapped in February and it’s more impressive now than it was then. With some critical distance, it really feels like a cohesive record with a firm concept, very cool moments and consciously insane, over-the-top production. So check it out.
And for what it’s worth, you can hear me play cello on the beginning of the sixth track, Chamber of Agony...
...and at the end of the eighth track, Spires of Secartha.
That’s enough for today I think. I hope everyone had the best possible Thanksgiving and to anyone working retail or in restaurants today, my condolences.
Luckily, I don’t have to do either right now and can instead focus on chronicling the abuses of the WPD. Thank you to everyone who values this product enough to pay for it. I am thankful for you <3
Also, I have a few orders to mail out from the merch store, which I’ll be doing on Monday. If you want some Worcester Sucks merch smash the link and that’ll also get mailed out on Monday ya dig?
Some other quick odds and ends!
My lovely lady is a very talented tattoo artist and she’s opening up her books for 2023 on December 1. That’s next Thursday. Mark your calendar because her books fill up fast. She’s been absolutely killing it lately. Look at this god damn Midsommar tattoo she did the other week.
Born Without Bones is hitting the road for a quick tour in support of their recently released record “Dancer.” And guess what? I’m going with them! I’ll be playing keys and guitar and percussion and doing background vocals.
Born Without Bones is suuuch a tight live band and I’m stoked for this run.
Speaking of which, we have practice tonight and now I need to get this thing posted so I can practice before the practice so they don’t regret asking me to help out.