Massachusetts man sues, says race factor in wrongful arrest
A Massachusetts man said in a lawsuit filed Monday that we was wrongfully charged with murder based on his race and what his attorneys called fabricated evidence.
Dana Gaul, 43, said in the federal suit against the city of Worcester and five city police officers that he was charged in the November 2020 stabbing death of Jehlon Rose, 19, based on coerced statements and because he is Black.
Witnesses at the scene described the perpetrator as a thin, light-skinned or white man, about 5 feet, 7 inches (1.7 meters) tall, while Gaul is Black, weighs 200 pounds (91 kilograms) pounds and is 5 feet, 10 inches (1.8 meters) tall, his lawyers said.
“Plaintiff is a Black man, and but for his race, defendants would not have targeted him for unlawful arrest, imprisonment, and/or malicious prosecution based on the flimsy evidence it had,” the lawsuit said. “In fact, the witnesses to the murder described the assailant as white, a description that does not match plaintiff.”
Investigators coerced some people — none of whom were actually at the scene of the stabbing — into saying that grainy surveillance video of the suspect looked like Gaul, according to the suit filed by Debra Loevy and Mark Reyes.
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In addition, DNA found on the victim’s body and clothes was compared to Gaul’s DNA, but did not match, according to his lawyers. Gaul did not know Rose and was nowhere near the scene of the stabbing, his lawyers said.
The city will conduct its own investigation, according to a spokesperson for the city manager’s office.
“The complaint will be forwarded to the Worcester Police Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards who will conduct an investigation,” Robert Burgess said in an email.
Worcester police Lt. Sean Murtha said in an email that the department does not comment on pending litigation and the case remains open.
Gaul, a father of four from Leicester, was arrested last June and spent five months in prison before he was released. The Worcester district attorney’s office dismissed charges against him in February and investigators have focused on a different suspect.
“Plaintiff was entirely innocent and there was never any legitimate evidence connecting him to the murder,” the lawsuit said.
Gaul is happy to be free but “lives his life in fear,” Reyes said.
“Defendants’ misconduct continues to cause plaintiff pain and suffering, humiliation, constant fear, anxiety, and other physical and psychological effects,” the suit said.
The suit seeks a jury trial, unspecified damages, and attorney’s fees.