FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – A Fall River District Court judge has rejected a motion to reopen a drunk-driving case that a defense attorney argues was targeted by the district attorney because of comments she made in a Target 12 investigation examining police misconduct.
Judge Cynthia Brackett ruled against the motion filed by the Bristol County District Attorney’s office, deciding prosecutors didn’t file the request quickly enough after she dismissed the charges earlier this year on Sept. 7.
“This court finds this motion was not timely filed and, accordingly, the motion is denied,” Brackett wrote in a decision on Dec. 15.
The ruling comes in the wake of an unusual fight between the district attorney’s office and Sarah Emery, a defense attorney who argued earlier this month that prosecutors only sought to reopen the drunk-driving case because she publicly discussed grand jury testimony with Target 12. The testimony, she argued, called into question the credibility of the arresting officer, William Silvia.
“This was in retaliation to a news story,” Emery told Brackett during a hearing on Dec. 2.
As part of its investigation published last month, Target 12 reached out to Fall River Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza — who has since announced he’s stepping down for health reasons — and the district attorney’s office to inquire about Silvia. Shortly thereafter — about 70 days after Brackett tossed out the drunk-driving case — the district attorney’s office filed the motion to reinstate the case against Emery’s client.
Emery’s defense focused on Silvia’s credibility, which she argued was questionable because of his ties to another Fall River police officer, Michael Pessoa, who was charged in 2019 with 15 criminal offenses. The charges include falsifying police reports and assault suspects, although four have since been dismissed.
As part of her drunk-driving case, Emery discovered one of the suspects Pessoa allegedly beat was a local resident arrested by him and Silvia in 2018. (Those charges were not dismissed.) A year later, Cardoza told a grand jury that video he reviewed of the arrest did not match a report written by Silvia.
Emery repeatedly requested the video evidence referenced in the grand jury investigation, which the district attorney’s office didn’t turn over, ultimately resulting in Brackett dismissing the drunk-driving case.
On Dec. 2, while debating the district attorney’s motion to reinstate the case, First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg argued his office didn’t turn over the requested evidence to Emery in September because they were prepping for a murder trial. He also criticized her for discussing information related to grand jury proceedings, which are typically kept secret.