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Retired RI State Police brass calls coercion accusations ‘meritless’

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A defendant accused of trying to coerce a R.I. State Police trooper into altering the background check for a new recruit is calling the claim meritless.

Former Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin, who is a co-defendant in the lawsuit filed by state trooper Lt. Michael Casey, said state police leadership never asked for the changes.

Retired Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin

He’s now challenging Casey to explain himself.

“[Changing reports] is something you don’t do,” Philbin told Target 12. “I actually don’t want the case dismissed now. I want Mike Casey and his attorney to get in front of a judge and explain the accusations.”

Casey returned to duty last week 16 months after going on sick leave for “multiple disorders caused by prolonged exposure to a hostile work environment,” according to his lawsuit.

Casey filed a suit in June against Philbin, along with state police Col. James Manni, Maj. Dennis Fleming and Asst. Det. Commander Gerald McKinney. Casey accused the state police top brass of trying to “coerce him to alter and falsify” the report.

The defendants denied the allegations in August. Manni, who is named in the suit in his capacity as the head of state police, declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, Casey discovered “23 police contacts” in Rhode Island and four more in Massachusetts during the 2018 background check of Garrett Demers, the son of retired state police Capt. James Demers.

Police contacts are typically recorded when a person has any type of interaction with law enforcement — good or bad. The younger Demers’ contacts included a roll-over crash and a sexual-harassment allegation, according to the lawsuit.

A 24th “police contact” in Rhode Island was recorded during the recruitment process.

Philbin, who retired in October, said he “never told any troopers or detectives to change the report.” According to the 25-year veteran, a series of text messages and emails will show Casey’s allegations are “meritless.”

“As soon as [Casey] told me that applicant Demers failed to disclose an arrest, he was out of the process,” Philbin said. “I told [Casey] that several times. Once it’s learned an applicant failed to disclose an arrest, you’re not going to recover from that. You’re out of the process.”

State records indicate Demers was employed as a legislative aide for the R.I. General Assembly with an annual salary of nearly $38,000 at the time he was considered as a recruit.

This year, Demers received a pay bump to more than $45,000 a year, earning the new title of assistant clerk of the House Judiciary Committee, according to state payroll records.

Philbin said he was never asked to change the report by anyone at the Statehouse.

In his lawsuit, Casey also cited a 2011 background check of a recruit that he claimed was altered. Philbin pointed out neither Demers nor the other recruit “made it through the process.”

“If they became troopers maybe you have a story,” Philbin said. “The two background checks that were called into question by Mike Casey, neither of the applicants made it on to state police.”

Philbin retired in the fall after 25 years on the job. He said the lawsuit had nothing to do with his decision

“I think I started planning to retire at 25 years about 15 years in,” Philbin said.

Philbin called the allegations “surprising,” considering Casey was in his wedding and served as a pall barer at his father’s funeral.

“You expect to have problems with [criminals.]” Philbin said. “You would never expect to have problems from Mike Casey. And everyone close the situation knows. He was a very good friend of mine for over 25 years.”

Casey’s attorney has not immediately returned a request for comment.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter@wbuteau

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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