SOMERVILLE’S OPIOID HYPOCRISY

By Joe McCain (Somerville Police Lt. Ret.)

On June 14, 2003, I was standing over the dead body of Carlos DeMedeiros. He was still warm. As a police sergeant, it was a familiar scene. Too familiar. Since the early 1990s it was one I witnessed too frequently and it was taking a toll on me.

My cell phone rang. On the other end was high school resource officer Alex Capobianco. Chief of Police George McLean at the beginning of the school year in 2002 had appointed him to his position. The kids called him “Officer Oscar, Officer Beans or Officer Noddie,” because he frequently nodded off at basketball games and school events.

“Hey Sarge,” said Capobianco, “are you at the DeMedeiros scene?”

“I am, what’s up?” I replied.

“He’s wearing a Rolex and he’s got a couple of grand in his pocket. Can you get them for me? He was holding it. I owed him some money,” Alex asked.

My explicative-laced reply is not appropriate here. Suffice it to say, I replied, “Are you out of your mind? You want me to strip the watch and the cash off of a dead kid at a crime scene?” I hung up the phone.

Returning to the station with a cell phone belonging to Carlos that was found at the scene, I knocked at Captain Dan Matthew’s office. Through the thick oak door I could hear him summon me. “Come in.”

Captain Matthews was in charge of the detective bureau. He was a consummate gentleman. I grew up playing hockey with his sons, knew him well and respected him greatly. He was one of the good guys. He looked out for me. Having already heard the recorded conversation, I approached his desk and handed him the phone. The recording was cued up. I told him to press play. He looked over his glasses and listened as DeMedeiros said “Alex, do you need any?” When he heard Alex’s reply: “I, I, ya, I have like 600 of em’ sold, but can’t get nobody,” Captain Matthews asked, “Is that Capobianco?”

“Yes, sir. It is,” I replied.

Captain Matthews had a full head of white hair. He shook it side to side and then tuned in with more intent as Carlos continued.

“Forties?”

“No, eight[ies],” replied Capobianco. The number was a reference to the milligram content of each pill.

“How many Al?” asked DeMedeiros.

“Six-hundred of em’, I, I sold about six-hundred of them, but I can’t, I can’t do anything, ahh, no one has anything. I was wondering if you knew who did have some. So I don’t know what to do, no one has them,” said the high school resource officer.

“Ya, no one has any, not now anyway,” replied DeMedeiros..

Captain Matthews lowered the phone from his ear.

“Good luck,” I said, backing away from his desk and hopefully the whole situation. I closed the door behind me. He appeared to be well aware, as I was, that Joe Curtatone had just won the primary election and would soon be sworn in as Mayor of the City of Somerville.

As soon as resource officer Capobianco reached the halls and classrooms of Somerville High School in 2002, he began providing members of the narcotics unit with information regarding drug dealers operating in the city. It wasn’t long before these officers realized that Officer Capobianco was feeding them his competition.

That same school year, in June, DeMedeiros died. Three months later Curtatone, Capobianco’s first cousin, defeated Dorothy Kelly Gay and subsequently went on to win the general election in November.

The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Criminal Division respectively agreed to a request from the city of Somerville and granted Capobianco transactional immunity on September 24,th and September 30, according to the state civil service commission. By granting transactional immunity to Capobianco the city government of Somerville was enabled to control the investigation internally. Immunity also afforded Capobianco the ability to avoid criminal prosecution were further illegal activities on his part discovered.

Is it a coincidence that the office of the Middlesex County District Attorney and the Attorney General at would grant Capobianco immunity in the same month his first cousin won the mayoral election?

It has been suggested by several of my former colleagues, that the district attorney and attorney general granted Capobianco immunity, enabling him to avoid criminal prosecution, because he was feeding “bigger fish” to the prosecutors. But who is a bigger fish than a drug-dealing cop?

What now Mayor Curtatone didn’t count on was that Mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay would fire Capobianco. The state civil service commission in a decision handed down in 2005 found that Capobianco’s firing was “tainted by the influences of political considerations and retribution.”

In his May 19 decision, Civil Service Commissioner John Taylor found that Capobiano’s firing “raises concerns of a politically motivated decision.”

If anything, it was a politically motivated decision, concluded Taylor, who criticized Mayor Gay’s credibility as ”…low, based on her demeanor at the Commissions hearing.”

Taylor said Capobianco’s “credibility is high based on his demeanor and candor.”

To write that the former mayor’s credibility was less than that of a drug dealing cop is the height of preposterousness. Mayor Gay didn’t fire Alex because he was Joe’s first cousin or because he worked for Joe’s campaign; she fired him because he was a drug dealer.

********

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, Mayor Curtatone and the City of Somerville filed a lawsuit against several major pharmaceutical companies. They laid blame for the opioid crisis that has hit our city squarely at their feet.

“Through our investigation, we have evidence that these opioid manufacturers and distributors created the extraordinary crisis we are experiencing in Somerville, our claims include their scheme to fuel the market by pumping opioids into our city and, as a result, creating a public health crisis that we must both address now and prevent for future generations,” the city solicitor, Frank Wright, said in a news release.

The mayor is 16 years too late. In 2003, an investigation provided him with clear evidence Capobianco was dealing drugs. He chose to ignore that evidence. Now he attempts to close the barn door. Long ago the horse ran out.

Curtatone had an opportunity to stem a portion of the opioids flooding into the city by telling his first cousin not to file an appeal. Last week, when he pointed his finger outward, he should have instead been taking responsibility.

He could have prevented Capobianco from returning to the police force, but he did not. Capobianco was a pariah. His presence was an insult to every honest cop who ever wore a badge. Instead Curtatone was an enabler. He chose to use his authority to help a filthy cop dirty a whole city.

Capobianco was back on the job for 12 years. Did Curtatone care more for the job security of a family member, than for the safety and security of the children of this city?

Late one evening last week, over a second cup of Barry’s Irish Tea at a dining room table in a Somerville home, a mother shared her story with me. She told me what it was like living with a drug-addicted teenage boy. Her son went to Somerville High School in 2002, and knew Alex well. She knew Alex well. She said her son told her about what was going on at the high school and what their resource officer was up to. He had shared with his mother the nicknames fellow students had for Officer Capobianco. He had shared with his mother how during the prom Capobianco drooled and repeatedly nodded off. The mother told me how her boy asked the police officer what was wrong, and how Capobianco replied that he was just tired. But the teenage boy knew differently, his mother told me. It was no secret what Alex was doing and why no one did anything about it. To this day it provokes her ire. “He was supposed to protect our kids,” she said, her eyes watering up.

I listened. She described hell in real time. Every day she expected to find her son dead in his bedroom, as do so many other Somerville moms, dads, sisters and brothers.

Tears do not come easily to this battle-hardened veteran of the ravages of drug addiction. She is still angry. After all these years she was a lucky one. Her son survived, probably only because she checked on him every single day: she repeatedly went in his bedroom to make sure he was still breathing, she said. It was a common scene in the homes of her friends, who also had drug addicted sons. It was heart breaking.

I have three sons. They are now all grown men, but they have all have lost friends to this disease. I joined her and wept at her table. Then, she consoled me. She said that the young boys who became addicts in the early 2000’s, — the ones who didn’t die, who struggle to this day with addiction and steady employment — still can’t find good jobs because of drug related arrests.

She got up from the table and went into another room. When she returned, she held a stack of plastic prayer cards in her hands. Spreading them before me on the cloth dining room table cover with the ease of a black jack dealer it was clear to me that she had done this before.

The faces were of youths, some young, some in their mid-30’s. All of whom brought into clear focus the reality of what happened here in Somerville and what is still happening all around us to this day. She blames Alex Capobianco, she said. She blames Mayor Joe Curtatone.

“I watched a whole generation of young boys from Somerville die. P.J. Pefine just died. He went to school with my son. He was 33. Its a disgrace that Alex got his job back. It’s a disgrace that he was given back pay for the two years he was out. It’s a disgrace that the city awarded him a 72% disability pension while there are parents still struggling with the loss of their sons. He got his job back and back pay while mothers and fathers were trying to find the money to bury their children,” She said.

I put on my jacket. She pushed herself up from her chair, swiped the her hair from her face and walked over to me. We hugged. I turned and walked down the carpeted stairs to the front porch. Photographs of her family lined the walls of the staircase. She’s proud of each and every one of them and she should be.

As I mounted my motorcycle, I could see from the corner of my eye that she was picking up all the small pieces of litter from the street and the sidewalk in front of her home. Another proud, old school, Somerville mom. She told me I was crazy for riding my bike in this weather. I smiled and told her I would call her later in the week. I’m not sure she knows how much I respect her.

Lt. Joe McCain retired from the Somerville Police Department on his 26th anniversary on September 11, 2015. He was born and raised in Somerville. He graduated from Somerville High School where he was a trumpet player and Captain of the varsity hockey team. He is the father of 3 sons who were raised in the city. He is a former Marine. Lt. McCain has a Master’s degree in History from U Mass Boston and a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College. He, like his father, was the recipient of the George L. Hannah Memorial Award for Bravery; it is highest award for bravery given to police officers by the Governor’s office and it is the first and only time a father and son have been awarded this medal. He is the currently the Vice-President on the board of directors of Elevate Youth, a youth mentoring program in Somerville that focuses on getting inner-city kids out in the wilderness.

50 thoughts on “SOMERVILLE’S OPIOID HYPOCRISY”

  1. Let’s not forget the years and years of the close friendship between Alex and Somerville Police Chief David Fallon. A relationship that allowed Chief Fallon to repeatedly tarnish his own badge on an ongoing basis by covering up and protecting Alex during the crimes, the subsequent overdoses and deaths and the domestic violence incidents that he ( Fallon) had both a moral and legal obligation to address in his duties as a police chief.

    The network of corruption in Somerville City Government and in particular Chief Fallon’s administration is mind boggling and utterly disgraceful. The good people of Somerville deserve much better. The good men and women who serve those good citizens also deserve much better. They are victims of a campaign of fear and intimidation.

    The parallels of the Somerville City Government corruption and that of the current White House administration is absolutely astonishing and uncanny. Fortunately and thankfully the strength of a handful of men and women of integrity and honor who have boldly stood up and fought back is making great strides in exposing these criminals and their brutal displays of arrogance. You all know who you are and your time is in fast approach. Time to face the music.
    Retired SPD Lieutenant Michael Mulcahy

    1. You had me until u had to throw a jab at Trump. WTF does Trump have to do with the nepotism in Somerville?
      Comparing the two made you look foolish.
      I hate dirty cops. I can say that, cause I put my time in and seen these dirty rat type cops who would be white trash without the job.

  2. Joe curtatone should step down as he is a disgrace to the city and all people that elected him. People thought he had thei best interest at heart… no joe just cares about joe with his deep pockets Somerville was a great city growing up families in neighborhoods. Now no one knows thei neighbors everything is condos and you can thank joe for that. He is bringing the city down. I know the family of Carlos demedeiros and to this day they grieve the loss of a loved one .. a son a brother and sadly a father. Capobianco can spend time with his kids if he has any this now young lady never had that time. Do the right thing joe suck it up buttercup and step down the people of Somerville deserve better

  3. I grew up in the midst of all this I graduated Somerville high in 2004 and I had Joe curtatone as a football coach, he was also my dads divorce attorney years prior, I had the upmost respect for him and was proud to know him at one time, but as a proud union construction worker and a member of the Somerville stands together movement I have been let down numerous times by him, he has forgot his roots as a local and instead of giving us locals the opportunity to work in my proud city where I grew up he has let money in his own pockets come before anything. He has filtered the work away from us union workers to these out of state contractors where he has had kick back checks sent to him, the whole assembly sq infrastructure was a discrace to me as I picketed outside these sites with no action ever done by him, I then marched on city hall steps to rally for the hopes of getting into the future infrastructure of Clarendon hill and the green line extension over a billion dollars worth of work in the upcoming years and just to be shut down to the same greedy ways. As a local of This city where I am so proud to be from I am ashamed of the mayor who I considered as a friend of my family to be involved in so much corruption, I am surprised criminal charges have not been brought up on him yet, he has had so many opportunities to make things better but has repeatedly let me down.

    1. Why has he not been arrested yet? I”m a former resident of Somerville, and I’m appalled by the corruption throughout Somerville and surrounding Cities. The honest and good people in the communities must come together and clean house in an attempt to save and heal the communities and it’s people!!! As adults God expects us to take the necessary action!!! These corrupted politicians once and for all, need an anema!!! Also, there’s lots of corruption in the police force. The great apples in the police force, must come together to help rid of those rotten apples. It’s the only way, we the people can get and save the communuties!!! An absolute disgrace!!!

      1. When we get great police officers and firemen they’re killed by accident on the Job, none of these people are going to EVER be put in jail or taken off their jobs because they continue to cover up for one another keep the money in their own pockets and get away with poisoning neighborhoods with drugs guns and fake gangs, the original gangs are the police department the commissions office, the Mayors city council, and the lists goes on They tell the Media what to report clear records of those from family with deep pockets, the moment you question the corruption or you decline the offer to loose yourself morally and ethical
        as a police officer, firemen or anyone with a title you now have your death sentence, so don’t expect anything to change as long as opiods and corruption have a healthy pay day and real estate is booming business the corruption will go wherever they need to gain access and control of new players new territory, Elizabeth Warren has been a corrupt player Ayanna Pressley just couldn’t wait to get her foot in the sesspool of corruption, let’s sit and watch her do nothing, like Deval Patrick he played the game and got out I often wonder how much he paid to walk out alive.

  4. I’ve grown up in Somerville and my family all around are from the once great city. Somerville is known for its loyalty and pride to the city itself and to have a mayor like Joe Curtatone whose selfish arrogant rude and has had no expectations of “Doing Good” for the city is a disgrace. To have an officer who has contributed to many teenagers addictions and their own deaths. I just turnt 31 and I can’t tell you how many friends/ loved ones I’ve lost to the opioid epidemic it’s so sad. I have younger siblings who suffer from addictions my younger sister went to Somerville High and was telling stories about officer Capobianco it’s awful that a man who is supposed to honor his badge stood behind it to pray on kids to make a few dollars and maintain his own habit while mayor Curtatone basically swept it under the rug to save his pockets. Mothers who lost sons sisters who lost brothers fathers who lost daughters gone forever but this man is allowed to walk the streets and see his family at the end of the day it’s sick absolutely sick I would put my name on any petition or any form that would get Curtatone out of the mayors office.

  5. I could state many things wrong with this situation and WHY Curtatone should have been gone years ago…. along with his sister……. Bottom line that entire family needs to be gone out of the political world!!! They have done enough damage!!! As for the Dante comments, he should definitely have NOT lost his job… plain and simple!! and what Joe has done and treated Mario….. disgrace…… When will it end and someone finally give the city the justice it deserves????

  6. Lt. McCain – Thanks. I appreciate and understand your goals here. Best of luck – both with exposing what needs to known, as well as with bringing justice where it is due.

    As for name-dropping in the first sentence of your article – that is unnecessary and irrelevant to your goals in this public-facing asset. Kindly remove the name from the article with respect to the deceased’s friends and family.

    Thanks again.

    1. I’ve addressed this issue personally with the family. It was not my intent to hurt the family, however, the article was based on facts, not allegations, and in order to tell the story I used the Civil Service Commision Appeal of which his name is featured prominently. Again, my apologies to his family; especially his daughter.

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