With just weeks until Boston police officer Ken Conley is scheduled to begin serving a 34-month prison term for lying to a federal grand jury, supporters from all corners of the community are speaking out on his behalf.
They range from the 200 people who rallied outside the federal courthouse last Wednesday to the influential Boston Globe newspaper, which checked in recently with an editorial that said that sending Conley to jail would be "a grave injustice."
Indeed, it would appear, as Conley’s supporters claim, that the 30-year-old cop is being made a scapegoat, the target of frustrated federal prosecutors who were unable to make headway in a case involving the beating of a plainclothes officer by colleagues who apparently mistook him for a fleeing murder suspect.
There is no question that Michael Cox was beaten by fellow officers early one morning in January 1995. And it is a disturbing fact of this case that, solely because of a blue wall of silence, no officer besides Conley has been even charged, never mind convicted, in the case.
Conley himself was not charged with beating Cox, but in June 1998 a jury found him guilty of having lied to a federal grand jury in 1997 when he said he did not see Cox run up to a fence shortly before he was set upon by several of the estimated 45 officers involved in the pursuit. That same jury, however, found that Conley had not lied when he said he did not see Cox being beaten.
Conley, for his part, has maintained he was focusing on the four fleeing suspects the entire time, a difficult task in a dimly lit dead end. One of the jurors who voted to convict Conley later visited the scene under similar light conditions and, as a result, said he regretted his decision.
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So, a young Boston police officer is facing a prison term for his role in a beating that all agree he neither saw nor took part in, and for perjured testimony that at least one convicting juror admits was in all likelihood truthful.
Michael Cox was indeed a victim. The officers who assaulted him deserve harsh punishment for both the crime and their cowardly silence. But unless the appeals court revisits the case soon, the one officer who deserves his freedom, the one officer who it appears was doing his job by the book, Ken Conley, may in fact be the only one made to pay a price.