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Chelsea man sues MBTA police over arrest

Claims officers made arrest with insufficient evidence of wrongdoing

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Chelsea man sues MBTA police over arrest
The MBTA Police headquarters on Southampton Street. BANNER FILE PHOTO

A Chelsea man arrested by MBTA police in 2017 on a false indecent assault charge is suing the agency and the officers who arrested him for violating his civil rights.

In his complaint, Timothy Fraser, then an attorney with an accounting firm, says he was among a throng of passengers jostling on a crowded platform outside Haymarket Station when a woman bumped into him, then accused him of assaulting her.

Fraser boarded the 604 bus. Then, as the accuser continued to escalate, he told the driver he would get on at the next stop. The driver, who witnessed the incident, agreed to pick him up at the corner of Washington and Thatcher Streets. But after Fraser reboarded the bus, he gave the driver his contact information in the event the MBTA might need to contact him.

When the bus had traveled to Charlestown, two MBTA police cruisers stopped the bus. Assuming the stop was for him, Fraser exited the bus.

What happened next is described in Fraser’s complaint:

“Immediately upon seeing Attorney Fraser, a young African American male, without probable cause and without speaking with him at all other than asking his name, MBTA police immediately apprehended him, patted him down without reasonable suspicion that he was armed, restrained him tightly with handcuffs, and arrested [him].”

Joseph Feaster, an attorney for Fraser, said the officers never bothered to question Fraser or interview others who were standing on the platform, the bus driver or any other witnesses who saw the incident between Fraser and his accuser. The officers returned Fraser to Haymarket station, where his accuser made an identification, told him he was being arrested for indecent assault and battery, and then took him to the MBTA police station on Southampton Street, where he was processed and jailed.

The next day, according to Fraser, one of the arresting officers, James Davie, filed a falsified police report, incorrectly listing the sequence of events from that day. Fraser eventually posted bail and went home.

The following morning, MBTA investigators reviewed the Haymarket Station security camera footage, then informed Fraser that the footage contradicted the accuser’s claims and that they did not find evidence to support filing a criminal complaint. Yet, just before his arraignment hearing the next morning, a Suffolk County prosecutor refused to withdraw the complaint.

The DA’s office eventually ordered the prosecutor to drop the complaint. But by then, Feaster said, Fraser had already suffered public humiliation and harm to his reputation.

“By that time, the damage had been done,” he said.

When Fraser returned to work the next day, he informed a partner of the charge and the resolution of the incident, in accordance with company policy. He was sent home on personal leave. The following week, he was fired.

In July of last year, Fraser sued the MBTA, alleging violation of his civil rights for false imprisonment, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, official misconduct, due process violation, assault and battery, and personal injury — he suffered a pinched nerve due to compression from the handcuffs MBTA officers placed on his wrists.

Attorneys for the MBTA police officer sought to have the case moved to a federal court, then filed for a motion to dismiss. Justice Dennis Saylor ordered the case remanded to Suffolk County Superior Court and dismissed counts 1 and 2, which alleged violations of Fraser’s civil rights by means of false arrest and false imprisonment.

Feaster says he’s looking forward to Fraser’s case being tried in state court.

“Our contention is that he lost his job as the result of this particular allegation,” he said. “The question is whether they should have investigated it before they made an arrest.”

No trial date has been set in state court.

MBTA police