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Judge orders new trial for Hub cop

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jim Smith

BOSTON — In a stunning development, a federal judge has ordered a new trial for former Boston police officer Ken Conley, who was convicted in 1998 of lying to a grand jury about what he saw during the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 1995, when a fellow police officer, Michael Cox, was brutally beaten by other officers who mistook him for a fleeing murder suspect.

Conley supporters throughout South Boston and beyond have claimed that the 31-year-old Irish American was squeezed for information and hung out to dry by federal prosecutors, who were frustrated by the two-year wall of silence that surrounded the case.

In his 32-page ruling last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Keeton wrote that prosecutors may have withheld information that could have been helpful to the defense. In addition, he wrote that some new evidence, presently under seal, "taken together with all the conflicts presented in evidence . . . presents a dramatically more compelling basis for finding that defense counsel’s opportunity to present a creditable challenge to the government’s case as a whole and to cross-examine effectively particular witnesses was severely impeded. . . . I determine that it is in the interests of justice that a new trial be allowed."

Conley, who was facing 34 months in federal prison, was delivering furniture in Brockton last Wednesday when his brother-in-law called him with the good news.

"My heart just dropped when I first heard that the judge made the ruling," Conley said. "When I found out what the decision was, I felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders. Now I’m starting to feel that an end to this is finally in sight."

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Conley supporters are now hoping that prosecutors will end the proceedings against Conley, and editorials in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald are calling for that resolution. Last Friday’s Herald editorial offered a stinging rebuke of the federal prosecutors.

"If this turns out to be the mockery of justice it smells like," the editorial said, "it must not go unpunished. . . . [W]ithholding evidence to secure a conviction also is a serious offense."

Although Conley’s ordeal is not yet over, he is breathing easier and looking forward to the day when his reputation is restored.

"So many people stood by me through all of this," he said. "I’ve been getting calls all day from people who heard the news. I’m just very relieved and thankful."

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