A Springfield man who was initially convicted of murder then acquitted in a second trial, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and two police officers.
Charles Wilhite was charged in the shooting death of Alberto Rodriguez in October 2008, even though eyewitnesses initially described the shooter as a light-skinned Hispanic. Wilhite is a dark-skinned African-American.
But attorney Howard Friedman says officers Anthony Pioggia and Steven Tatro threatened witnesses and fabricated evidence that put Wilhite in prison.
“They spoke to witnesses and got the witnesses to make an identification that was not what they initially had said,” Friedman says. “Or they…called something an identification when it wasn’t.”
Wilhite spent three years and four months in prison before he was released last January.
His aunt, Vira Douangmany Cage, says the suit also hopes to shed light on police practices.
“Young men and women should not feel when they go home, when they walk to school, when they come from home, from a job or when they’re with their children on the bus, getting off the bus, that they will be frisked, stopped, searched and violated and have no due process,” Cage says.
Calls to the city solicitor for comment were not returned.
In a statement to The Republican Newspaper, Springfield Police spokesperson John Delaney called the two officers named in the lawsuit good and dedicated, and said the department acted professionally and properly.