In a February 13, 2020 decision from the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, RJA Attorney Andrew Gambaccini obtained a favorable decision in which a terminated Chicopee police officer will be returned to work.
Fired over sharing photos of murder victim Amanda Plasse, Chicopee police officer wins back job
CHICOPEE — A former police sergeant who lied about his role in sharing photographs of a murder victim will return to the department at a lower rank after winning an appeal of his termination.
The state Civil Service Commission voted on Thursday to allow Jeffrey Godere to return to the department effective Nov. 2, 2018, the date he was fired by then-Mayor Richard J. Kos. The commission ruled that he would be demoted to patrolman because of his misconduct and prior disciplinary record.
City and Police Department officials have received the decision and are reviewing it with lawyers and exploring options to appeal it in superior court, said Michael Wilk, police public information officer. Mayor John L. Vieau said Monday he did not want to comment before learning more about the decision.
This is the second time in his 19-year career as a police officer that Godere has won an appeal with the Civil Service Commission. In 2016 the commission ruled in his favor after he was demoted to patrolman for “untruthfulness” in a burglary case.
In the present case, Godere was one of four officers implicated in sharing unofficial photographs of the victim’s body and crime scene in the 2011 murder of 20-year-old Amanda Plasse. The scandal rocked the Police Department, exposing multiple problems and a deep rift among officers. There continues to be fallout from the case four years after Dennis Rosa-Roman was found guilty in her death and sentenced to life in prison.
The Civil Service Commission ruling identifies the other implicated officers only by their initials, but their names have been widely publicized in the past.
Sgt. Keith Lemay and Officer Terry Dec each snapped photographs of the bloody scene in a third-floor apartment at 73 School St. with their cellphones. Dec passed the photograph onto nine fellow police officers, the ruling said.
Lemay later showed Godere the photograph he had taken while explaining the importance of not contaminating a crime scene, and then sent the photo to him at this request. Godere passed it onto Officer Chad Levesque, who later showed it to parents at a youth sporting event in Agawam, the ruling said.
About two months later, then-Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni learned of the photo sharing and aired concerns to then-Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette.
“He was deeply troubled by the allegations for many reasons, including the fact that pictures taken by first responders would be significant in any criminal prosecution related to the case,” the ruling said.
Police Chief William Jebb, who was then the deputy chief and in charge of internal affairs, conducted a four-month investigation. Godere was charged with incompetence and then-Chief John Ferraro issued Godere a written warning as discipline.
Mastroianni reviewed the investigation, and in a message to Bissonnette said he was “deeply concerned” about the officers’ behavior and their reluctance to be truthful with Jebb. Citing a federal court decision in a case called Brady vs. Maryland, Mastroianni said he felt he would have to disclose information about the case any time Godere or the other officers testified in court.
“They subjected the victim and the family of the victim to a great indignity,” Mastroianni said in a written statement that appears in the Civil Service Commission ruling. “Turning to the officer’s behavior during the internal affairs investigation, there is evidence of more than one officer’s reluctance to be candid about his activities … and a prolonged effort to hide the truth by misleading or false statements.”
In the ensuing years, Mastroianni became a federal judge, Kos was elected mayor, and Ferraro retired and was replaced, first by Tom Charette and then by Jebb. During the changes, the information about the Brady ruling was not passed on, even to Godere, the ruling said.
While investigating another matter in 2017, Jebb learned of the Brady ruling and notified Kos. He also reassigned Godere to the traffic bureau, where he likely would not be called to testify in criminal matters, the ruling said.
The information prompted Kos to conduct a new disciplinary hearing, and in 2018 he fired Godere, the ruling said.
“The requirement and expectation for police officers to be truthful is the (linchpin) of every police officer’s credibility and reliability. … You were untruthful and impeded this investigation,” Kos wrote in Godere’s termination letter.
In the appeal, Commission Chairman Christopher Bowman wrote that the amount of time that has passed since the photos were shared in 2011 made the case difficult to decide. But said he believed Godere lied during Jebb’s investigation in 2012.
“I have found, however, that Sgt. Godere was untruthful in his Jan. 27, 2012 written reply to Jebb when he wrote that he could ‘not recall’ who sent him the photograph or to whom he sent it,” Bowman wrote. “Jebb did not believe that. Judge Mastroianni did not believe that. Mayor Kos did not believe that. Neither do I.”
“Rather the more plausible explanation is that Sgt. Godere, rather than assisting Jebb in his critical investigation, chose to be untruthful in an effort to avoid implicating another officer,” he said.
Eventually Godere did tell Jebb that Lemay sent him the photograph, the report said.
But Bowman said there were flaws in the firing of Godere. The city was aware that Godere lied in 2012 but decided against charging him with untruthfulness. Bowman also argued Godere was not told of the Brady decision for six years and was treated differently than the other officers involved with the case.
Levesque resigned in 2018 when faced with a similar disciplinary hearing.
Dec currently works as a detective in the narcotics bureau. He also was not initially forthcoming about the nine people who he sent the photographs to, and lied when he said he sent it by a group text instead of individually, according to Bowman.
Another officer, who has not been named publicly in the case, was promoted to provisional sergeant even though he was not forthcoming in telling Jebb who sent him the photo, Bowman said.