In June 2007, witnesses in the small town of Milton, Massachusetts phoned the local police to report an incidence of roadside domestic violence. One witness who phoned the operator stated, “He’s pulling a woman out of a car. He’s beating her.” Another reported to the operator while witnessing the same event, that the man was, “absolutely beating the (expletive) out of a woman.” When local police responded, however, there was some confusion as to what the witnesses had reported. As a federal jury would hear in 2015, the woman was a middle-aged Massachusetts resident named Beth Shea. The man who was seen forcefully removing her from her Jeep Cherokee and beating her was none other than a khaki and polo clad Massachusetts State Police Trooper R. Bradford Porter.
The Catalyst – Misuse of Authority
Porter’s babysitter was the cause of the unlikely and soon-to-be explosive encounter. Tracy Gorfinkle, the trooper’s babysitter, told the jury she saw Shea driving too fast down Centre Lane so she made gestures to signal to Shea that she needed to slow down. Shea interpreted these gestures as a signal that Gorfinkle needed help. Shea then pulled over toward Gorfinkle and stopped her car. Porter saw this and assumed that Shea was attempting to run over Gorfinkle with her Jeep. Porter approached her vehicle and told her to roll down her window. Shea told him through the glass that she was calling the police. He responded that he was “the (expletive) police.” He told a jury that he left to get the keys to his police cruiser and Shea took off. Already on the phone with police, Shea was looking for a street sign to identify her location.
The Milton, Massachusetts Road Altercation
Porter would later testify that She was driving at least ten miles per hour over the speed limit based on his observations. He pulled up behind her, now in his police cruiser, with lights flashing and siren sounding. Shea refused to lower her window. Porter used his fist to pound on her window and crack it. Then, he used his flashlight to break a hole in the window. He reached into her car and unlocked it from the outside. He shouted obscenities and told Shea “You are mine.” Shea struggled as he pulled her out of her Jeep. Photos of the abrasions she sustained in this struggle were shown to the jury along with the photo of her busted driver’s side window. Shea was in jail for several hours before posting the $5,000 bail to secure her release.
The Personal Injury Case Verdict
The first jury to hear this case found that the officer engaged in malicious prosecution but did not use excessive force. The judge threw out this verdict stating that he “considered this case the strongest civil rights case” he had ever seen. The second jury found that Porter engaged in malicious prosecution and used excessive force during the arrest. Shea was awarded $300,000. Prior to the incident, Shea was earning $400,000 per year. She has since left her job due to post-traumatic stress. Her attorneys have stated that “While the jury’s award of damages will not make her whole, Beth wants R. Bradford Porter to acknowledge his responsibility for his actions.”
Holding our state’s law enforcement accountable for their actions is our judicial system’s only method of ensuring that civil rights remain intact. If you have suffered a personal injury at the hands of law enforcement contact attorney Peter Ventura today for a free consultation at 508-755-7535 or contact us online.