DRACUT — A lawsuit alleging that Dracut police officials, a state police trooper, and a DEA agent conspired to retaliate against Dracut Officer Joseph Jakuttis for blowing the whistle on potential crimes committed by two fellow officers has been moved to federal court in Boston.
While the change of venue last week from state Superior Court is routine — all cases against federal employees are heard in U.S. District Court — it all but ensures that there will be no quick resolution to the lawsuit.
The U.S. Attorney’s office will now represent two of the defendants: DEA Agent Michael O’Hanlon and Massachusetts State Police Trooper Richard Poirier, who had previously hired a private attorney. They have 60 days from the change of venue to file their responses to Jakuttis’s claims.
In the original lawsuit, defendants Poirier and Dracut Lt. Demetri Mellonakos were referred to using pseudonyms. Laurence Sweeney, Jakuttis’ attorney, said the names were kept confidential in case the defendants decided to settle the matter quickly and preserve their anonymity.
With anonymity gone and the weight of the U.S. Attorney’s office behind two of the defendants, it looks increasingly like the case is moving toward a drawn-out fight that could lead to more allegations by both sides.
“I have no idea what’s in their mind,” Sweeney said, when asked if there was a possibility for an early settlement. “It looks like they want to litigate.”
An attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.
The town of Dracut and Deputy Police Chief David Chartrand are both represented by an attorney provided by the town’s insurer, who could not be reached for comment.
Since Jakuttis filed the lawsuit on Dec. 2, town officials have kept tight-lipped about the allegations, even amongst each other.
Jakuttis claimed in the lawsuit that, while working for a joint state-federal drug task force known as the Cross Border Initiative (CBI), he received information from two confidential sources that Mellonakos and Dracut Sgt. Gregg Byam were engaged in purchasing and consuming drugs.
He alleges that after he reported those allegations the defendants in the case conspired to retaliate against him, culminating in Jakuttis losing his job on the CBI and being removed from his position as a detective within the Dracut Police Department.
The lawsuit claims that the Dracut Police Department never investigated whether there was merit to the accusations against Mellonakos and Byam.
In mid-December, Dracut Selectman Tony Archinski, a former member of the Dracut Police Department, asked for updates on any internal investigations into the allegations.
Last week, Town Manager Jim Duggan responded that the town and Police Department were not willing to disclose any information about the situation, due to the pending litigation.
“As concerned as I am, I have to respect the process,” Archinski said.
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