HARTFORD, Conn. — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a nearly $190,000 jury verdict in favor of a New Haven police officer who sued the city after he was acquitted of groping two women.
Justices ruled 5-0 that the civil trial judge was wrong to bar transcripts of the women’s testimony from the criminal trial, and they ordered a new trial.
Officer Anthony Maio was arrested on misdemeanor sexual assault charges in April 2008 after the women complained to police that he had inappropriately touched them at BAR nightclub. Maio was in uniform but being paid by the bar at the time of the encounter.
Maio denied the allegations, saying the two women made the accusations after he asked them to leave a restricted area of the bar. He was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the criminal case.
After he was acquitted in 2009, Maio asked the city to reimburse him for his legal costs and other expenses. A state law says officers found not guilty of crimes allegedly committed on duty shall be reimbursed for costs related to the prosecution.
City officials refused, and Maio filed a lawsuit. A New Haven Superior Court jury found in Maio’s favor and awarded him about $187,300 in attorney fees, lost overtime wages and accrued compensatory time.
The city appealed the verdict, citing Judge Robin Wilson’s decision to prohibit the women’s testimony and other reasons.
City officials also argued the reimbursement law on acquitted officers does not apply to police when they work “extra duty” jobs, as Maio was at the nightclub. The Supreme Court rejected that argument.
Maio did not return a message seeking comment. His lawyer, Daniel Scholfield, said Maio was surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Scholfield also noted the court did rule in Maio’s favor on the reimbursement law issue.
“If the city wants a new trial, we’ll be ready for a new trial,” Scholfield said.
Christopher Neary, the city’s deputy corporation counsel, said city officials were pleased with the ruling. He said it’s not clear yet whether there will be a new trial, because there will be new talks with Maio and his lawyers.