PAWTUCKET — In light of the vexing matter it is for many, the city has decided to ask the state's highest court to review a lower court ruling that prevented it from firing Pawtucket Police Officer Nichalas Laprade, convicted of indecent exposure in an off-duty incident in 2010.
Mayor Donald R. Grebien has instructed the city's legal counsel in the case, Vincent Ragosta, to prepare a petition for a “writ of certiorari” to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, asking that the appeal be heard.
“This is not an individual we feel should be a member of the Pawtucket Police Department,” Grebien told the Times. “This is the type of case that warrants seeing the legal process through to its ultimate conclusion.”
Ragosta added, “We remain optimistic the justices would revisit the concept of judicial notice to enable the city to present the fact of Laprade's criminal conviction of indecent exposure to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights committee.”
Laprade was convicted on Feb. 8, 2011 in District Court on a charge of indecent exposure/disorderly conduct stemming from an incident on Nov. 9, 2010 where he was allegedly observed masturbating and exposing himself to two women traveling in a nearby vehicle while driving on a highway in Providence. Laprade did not appeal the conviction.
The city subsequently sought to fire Laprade, who exercised his right for a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). During that process, the city missed an informational filing deadline by one day that prevented it from introducing witnesses and evidence at the scheduled LEOBOR hearing on July 20, 2011. The city's attempt to extend the hearing date for informational filing purposes was denied by Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Gibney, in a decision citing the LEOBOR rules.
In a later hearing, Laprade's motion to exclude the city's witnesses and evidence as untimely was granted by the three-member LEOBOR panel, which consisted of members chosen by the city and Laprade and a neutral party agreed to by both sides. The panel voted 2 to 1 to deny the city's request to take “judicial notice” of the record of Laprade's District Court conviction, thus preventing it from being entered into evidence.
The panel on Dec. 14, 2011 voted 2 to 1 in Laprade's favor on all nine surviving charges. On Oct. 17, Superior Court Judge Sara Taft-Carter filed her decision denying the city's appeal. Laprade will remain on suspended-with-pay status pending the high court appeal process, Grebien said.
In response to a request filed by The Times under the state Access to Public Records Act for the amount of money the city has spent so far on legal costs pertaining to Laprade, the Legal Department responded that the figure to date is approximately $48,350. The city estimates that it will cost $12,000 to $15,000 for the Supreme Court appeal.
Additionally, Laprade, while under paid suspension, has received approximately $140,000 in salary and benefits to date, according to the Legal Department. He was hired as a patrol officer in 2007.