1/29/06 Officer acquitted of false report By Elaine Thompson TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF CONCORD - A Hudson police officer yesterday was found not guilty of filing a false police report against Police Chief Richard Braga's nephew and his girlfriend. Officer Michael S. Vroom, 28, of 315 Berlin St., Clinton, who has been on paid administrative leave the past 15 months, smiled after hearing Concord District Court Judge Robert J. McKenna Jr. announce the not guilty verdict immediately after closing arguments from both sides. The officer, however, declined comment because he is still facing an internal investigation, which will determine the future of his career. Officer Vroom was accused of filing a false police report and false assault and battery charges against Kate Lugin, 19, of 5 Temi Road, and her live-in boyfriend, Michael Moura, whose father is the brother of Chief Braga's wife. The chief recused himself from the criminal and internal cases and turned the matter over to Capt David Stephens. The charges came after the officer responded to a call on March 3, 2004, from Ms. Lugin's neighbor, John Sherman, that someone in the woman's house had parked their car partially blocking his driveway. Mr. Sherman, the couple and Ms. Lugin's mother said there were years of bad blood between occupants of the two homes. Officer Vroom testified yesterday that he banged on the door several times before Ms. Lugin opened it. He said he asked to come in to speak to the owner of the vehicle. Ms. Lugin refused, but the owner, Mr. Moura's cousin, Jose Moura, came out another door and went over to talk to the officer. The officer said Ms. Lugin closed the door and he asked Jose Moura to have her come outside. When she opened the door, the officer said, he smelled marijuana. He said he told Ms. Lugin that he smelled marijuana and asked who else was in the house and if he could come inside and look around. The woman denied having smoked marijuana and slightly pushed the officer's chest with an open hand as she tried to close the door, Officer Vroom said. She got agitated and pushed me and said, No. Go away. I told her not to do that, not to touch me,the officer testified. He said Ms. Lugin pushed him a second time and tried to retreat back into the house, but he reached around the door and held onto her arm. â€œShe tried to close the door and I put my foot in the door jam. I told her she was not free to go â€¦ that I was placing her under arrest for assault and battery, the officer said Officer Vroom said he heard someone run inside the house and slam up against the door, knocking Ms. Lugin to the ground. He said at that point he saw that it was Michael Moura who had pushed the door. He said he went to go arrest Mr. Moura, but that Mr. Moura opened an adjacent door leading to another part of the house, ran through it and slammed it behind him. The officer said he suspects that Mr. Moura ran out a back sliding glass door that led to the backyard. Mr. Sherman, the neighbor, called 911 and told police that an officer needed assistance. He also testified that he saw Mr. Moura run out the back of the house. But, Mr. Moura, as well as his father, brother, girlfriend and her mother, Patricia Quinn, testified during the trial that Mr. Moura was not at the house that night. Mr. Moura told the court yesterday that he was with his brother and father, doing a plumbing job at a Dunkin' Donuts on Cape Cod from March 3 to 5. Assault and battery and resisting arrest charges against the pair were never prosecuted because of Mr. Moura's Cape Cod alibi. Officer Vroom's lawyer, Joseph W. Monahan, maintained that Mr. Moura was indeed in the house, but couldn't chance getting into trouble because he was already on probation for at least three convictions, including driving to endanger, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, and driving after revocation of his license He has also been arrested for possession of marijuana. In July 2003, he led police on a high-speed chase that began in Hudson and ended in Stow when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid under a car. After the accident, his license was revoked for three years for being a habitual traffic offender. He also broke his right wrist and had to have a metal pin inserted to hold the bones together. Mr. Monahan maintained that the injured right hand prevented Mr. Moura from being able to do the job on Cape Cod. But Mr. Moura said he was able to use his left hand. You try to make me look like a bad kid, Mr. Moura said to the defense lawyer when he pointed out the young man's criminal record several times. Sgt. Thomas W. Boudreau, the supervising officer and a backup officer to the Temi Road incident, testified that a push on the chest from Ms. Lugin was enough for Officer Vroom to file assault and battery charges. But, he thinks the matter should have been handled differently. A parking complaint that escalated to an arrest, that should not have happened in my opinion, Sgt. Boudreau said. He said he does not recall what Ms. Lugin said, but that she was œverbally venomous toward Officer Vroom. He also said an ashtray that the officer found inside the house contained ashes that smelled like marijuana but he decided that charges would not be filed. Capt. David Stephens said even though the judge cleared Mr. Vroom of criminal charges, he still has internal charges pending. He declined to elaborate on those charges Mr. Stephens has handled the case because Chief Braga recused himself because of the family ties. The captain said the chief has never even read the internal report. He said the district attorney's office reviewed the case and concluded there was sufficient evidence to go forward with the case against Officer Vroom. He said he is disappointed with the judge's decision and for the lack of explanation from the judge. It would have been nice to know what his reasons were. But, now weâ€™ll move forward with the internal noncriminal part. That will go to a hearing officer who will decide on the other charges we have pending, he said. There are different standards of proof for a criminal case and an internal case. In a criminal case you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. In an internal case, it's preponderance of the evidence. The trial was the first of two this week involving a Hudson police officer. Officer Kevin F. Andrade, 27, of Hudson, is to go on trial today in Framingham District Court on a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was arrested after a bar brawl in Hudson last June.