An arbitrator has ruled that a former Boston police officer who was acquitted on charges of being an accessory to a 2005 slaying was unjustly fired after a department investigation into the matter and ordered him reinstated with back pay.
In a 36-page decision dated July 19, independent arbitrator Richard G. Boulanger ruled for Baltazar DaRosa, 34, who had been terminated by the Police Department in 2010. Boulanger is an arbitrator approved by the patrolmen's union and the city to hear disciplinary appeals.
A Boston police spokeswoman said Tuesday that the department is reviewing the ruling to determine whether to file an appeal.
Bryan Decker, a Boston attorney who represented the union on DaRosa's behalf, said he expects DaRosa to return to work within weeks, if not days.
"I feel very happy for Baltazar," Decker said. "He's an upstanding member of the community, and I think that he is just excited to get back to work helping the people of Boston."
DaRosa could not be reached for comment.
He and a codefendant, Amilcar Cabral, were charged as accessories after the fact of murder in the shooting death of Joseph Lopes, 23, in January 2005 outside the Copa Grande Oasis nightclub in Randolph.
Prosecutors said that Cabral ushered the alleged triggerman — DaRosa's cousin, Carlos DePina — to DaRosa's car moments after the shooting and that DaRosa drove the men home despite knowing what occurred. DaRosa denied that he knew about the shooting or DePina's alleged role when he drove away from the club at roughly 2 a.m.
DaRosa and Cabral were cleared at trial in 2006, and DePina remains at large.
Boulanger said in his ruling that there is no evidence that DaRosa and his passengers discussed an attack on Lopes before or after the shooting.
While the Police Department suggested DaRosa parked his car outside the club near a highway access road to prepare for a quick escape, it is more likely that his late arrival and snow banks from a recent storm limited his parking options, Boulanger wrote.
He said there is no evidence that DaRosa saw Lopes at Copa Grande on the night he was shot or that anything unusual occurred between DePina and Lopes before 1:45 a.m., the time DaRosa said he went back to his vehicle and listened to music.
Boulanger wrote that DePina entered the car after the shooting and reportedly said, "Let's get out of here," but DaRosa contended that he did not hear the shooting, and DePina's statement does not suggest he admitted to it.
Boulanger said DaRosa assisted in the investigation of the 2003 killing of DePina's brother, and DaRosa testified that while he assisted in the probe, Lopes was not implicated in the slaying. Boulanger said there is no evidence that DaRosa believed DePina would avenge the slaying by killing Lopes.
A police official told the Globe during DaRosa's criminal trial that Lopes was a suspect in the 2003 case.
DaRosa was shifted from unpaid leave to paid administrative leave following his acquittal, and Decker said he remained on paid leave until his termination in December 2010. Decker said DaRosa will probably now receive about $100,000 in back pay.
Despite his acquittal, the Boston Police Department fired DaRosa after its own investigation determined that he had violated department rules. He later appealed his dismissal to the arbitrator.
Boston police Detective Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, hailed the ruling Tuesday.
Ellison has publicly accused the department of unfairly targeting minority officers in disciplinary proceedings, and he said Boulanger's ruling is a victory for all officers.
"I think it's a great day for Baltazar DaRosa," he said. "I think it's a great day for officers in general when someone independent" clears a wrongly accused colleague.
The president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association could not be reached, but the union on its website called the DaRosa ruling "a major victory for the BPPA."
"Arbitrator Boulanger found that although the department investigated the case for almost seven years, it produced no evidence that DaRosa knew of or was involved in the crime in any way," the union wrote.
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