Key witness in long-running Springfield police scuffle dies from COVID

SPRINGFIELD – A key prosecution witness in Nathan Bill’s longtime bar fight prosecution has died from COVID-19, a family lawyer has confirmed.

Jackie Ligon, 37, of Springfield, died at her home on Tuesday. He was among the alleged victims in the case, sparked by a bar brawl in 2015 that pitted four black civilians against a group of officers on leave after one of the civilians allegedly hissed at a female cop in the popular tavern of the city. East Forest Park neighborhood. .

A disagreement inside the bar led to a scuffle in a nearby parking lot after the pub closed. Ligon, his brother Jozelle Ligon, his cousin H. Paul Cumby and his friend Michael Cintron were beaten by a group of officers on leave, and their colleagues then staged a cover-up, according to prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office of the State, Maura Healey.

Defense attorneys for the officers and two of the bar managers argued that civilians were the antagonists and that the state had crossed the line in its prosecution.

Joe Smith III, an attorney for Jackie Ligon, has confirmed the circumstances of his client’s death. Smith said he hoped it wouldn’t impact the trajectory of the case, which has evolved icy cold since the grand jury indictments were handed down in 2019. The COVID pandemic -19 contributed to the trial delays previously set for 2020.

“Justice must prevail now in his memory,” Smith said Thursday.

More than a dozen current and former police officers were originally indicted in the case – with groups widely divided between “assault” and “cover-up” defendants. This number has been reduced slightly as defense lawyers have obtained motions to dismiss on various grounds.

A lawyer for one of the main defendants in the case, Officer Daniel Billingsley, has filed a petition in Hampden Superior Court to exclude any evidence generated by Jackie Ligon, citing his death. Ligon identified Billingsley and other officers involved in the fight.

“Daniel Billingsley proposes to exclude all evidence relating to any testimony or identification proceedings relied on or referring to Jackie Ligon by the Commonwealth. Mr. Billingsley further proposes to exclude all evidence relating to Jackie Ligon at trial, ”defense attorney Shawn Allyn wrote in a motion filed Wednesday.

At a recent court hearing, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Carley last month informed a judge that civilians could refuse to testify without the granting of immunity protecting them from self-incrimination.

The civilians received a collective civil settlement of $ 885,000 in this regard in 2018.

The case has become an albatross for a police department already struggling with race relations, an unflattering report by the US Department of Justice on excessive force and other image issues during the Black Lives Matter era .

City officials have argued that the Nathan Bill incident has been unfairly portrayed as racially motivated, as the officers allegedly involved are of multiple races and ethnicities.

Trials have been staged in the interest of “judicial efficiency”, with one group to stand trial on November 1 and another on December 1. Two defendants are set to stand trial without a jury in Worcester Superior Court potentially sooner than that.

Contacted to comment on the potential impact of Ligon’s death on their case, a spokeswoman for Healey’s office said little.

“We express our deepest condolences to the Ligon family for their loss,” the spokesperson said, declining to comment further.

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