PAWTUCKET — The city last week formally asked the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that blocked its attempt to fire convicted police officer Nichalas Laprade, convicted of indecent exposure during an off-duty incident in 2010.
On Nov. 7, the city's attorney, Vincent F. Ragosta, Jr., filed a petition for a “writ of certiorari” to the decision by Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter to deny the city's appeal in the Laprade case. Laprade, who has been suspended with pay since his 2010 arrest, will remain on that status pending the outcome of the appeal process.
Laprade was convicted in District Court in February 2011 on a charge of indecent exposure/disorderly conduct stemming from a November 2010 incident where two women said they saw him masturbating and exposing himself to them while driving as he passed their vehicle on a highway in Providence. He did not appeal the conviction.
The city subsequently sought to fire Laprade, who exercised his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). However, during that process, the city missed an informational filing deadline by one day that prevented it from calling any witnesses. The city's request to extend the hearing date was then denied by Superior Court Judge Alice Gibney.
In a later hearing, a three-member LEOBOR panel granted a motion by Laprade to exclude the city's witnesses and evidence. The panel voted 2 to 1 to deny the city's request to take “judicial notice” of Laprade's conviction, thus preventing it from being entered into evidence. The city appealed in December 2011 and on Oct. 17, Taft-Carter issued her decision rejecting the city's appeal.
Laprade, hired in 2007, has collected about $140,000 in salary and benefits since his 2010 suspension. According to the city's legal department, the city has spent about $48,450 on legal fees in the case so far and anticipates spending another $12,000 to $15,000 to see it through to the Supreme Court phase.
Both Mayor Donald Grebien and Police Chief Paul King have indicated their frustration with the legal rulings that have prevented Laprade from being terminated. Grebien previously issued a statement saying, “This is not an individual we feel should be a member of the Pawtucket Police Department.”
The city's attorney in the case, Ragosta, stated that he remained optimistic that the Supreme Court justices would revisit the concept of “judicial notice” to allow the city to present the fact of Laprade's criminal conviction of indecent exposure to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights committee.