Worcester Says Nga Truong’s Lawyer To Blame For Time She Spent Behind Bars

Worcester Police Sgt. Kevin Pageau, right, and Detective John Doherty, left, interrogate Nga Truong, 16, following the 2008 death of her baby boy. (WBUR screenshot)

Worcester Police Sgt. Kevin Pageau, right, and Detective John Doherty, left, interrogate Nga Truong, 16, following the 2008 death of her baby boy. (WBUR screenshot)

BOSTON — As the city of Worcester defends itself in a lawsuit over police treatment of a teenager who was jailed for nearly three years, the city is going after the lawyer who won the young woman’s freedom.

Nga Truong was freed after a judge examined video recordings of her interrogation by Worcester detectives and concluded her confession was the result of police coercion.

Truong is now suing for the time she spent behind bars, but the city claims Truong’s lawyer should share the blame.

Unprecedented Claims 

Truong, who at the time was 16, was in the box at the Worcester police station because a day earlier her baby son, Khyle, had stopped breathing and couldn’t be revived. Police had no physical evidence but insisted she had killed her son.

A judge later ruled that the police had engaged in a pattern of deliberate lies, threats and promises to coerce that confession. The judge reached that conclusion as the result of efforts by Truong’s attorney, Ed Ryan. He had filed a motion to suppress the confession and without that confession, the district attorney had no case. So Truong went free after spending almost three years in jail.

“Ed Ryan defended her ably, he defended her vigorously and he defended her well,” said attorney Jonathan Reinstein, one of the attorneys representing Truong in a civil rights suit against the city of Worcester.

But Reinstein is also defending Ryan, Truong’s defense lawyer, because the city now claims Ryan engaged in malpractice. It says he took too much time to prove the city had coerced the confession.

Reinstein, his fellow attorneys and almost two dozen other criminal lawyers showed up in court Thursday to call the city’s claim against Ryan unprecedented and bizarre.

“The chilling effect is the timing,” said attorney and Ryan supporter William Sullivan, of Quincy.

“It’s only on television that cases get solved in one hour with three commercial interruptions,” said George Gormley, another member of the legal team now suing the city and defending Ryan.

One supporting lawyer says he had a murder case that took six years to go to trial. Sullivan says he had one that took three and a half years.

“In a murder case, you get one shot at that motion to suppress so you don’t want to rush it,” Sullivan explained. “You get your one chance and you better do it right.”

The solicitor for the city of Worcester, David Moore, claims that Ryan took nearly two years to file his motion to suppress the confession. But federal Judge Tim Hillman concluded that was an exaggeration: It had taken a year and a half.

Moore told the judge that Truong ended up spending 995 nights in jail partly because of Ryan’s “breach of his duty” and that as a result Ryan, who won Truong’s freedom from a life in prison while the city’s police department denied any wrongdoing, must share the cost of any damages that might be awarded to to his own client.

Before the judge, Reinstein argued that the city of Worcester offered not a single allegation but only speculation that Ryan committed malpractice. After the hearing, Moore acknowledged there is no case, no precedent to cite to support the complaint against Ryan. But he says Ryan’s delay was “unreasonable.”

Ryan put the focus back on that interrogation video of two Worcester cops overwhelming a scared, naive 16-year-old with lies and threats.

Judge Hillman, a former trial lawyer himself, observed it is a tough enough job to defend a client from a murder charge without having to look over your shoulder and worry about being sued if you don’t file, even if you’re not ready.

At another point, in talking about scheduling, the judge said, “I’d like to take my time but I wouldn’t want anyone suing me.” The city solicitor didn’t laugh.

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  • biglindy4@yahoo.com

    If this is a sign of how things are going to be, I am fortunate to be in the end stage of my life. I feel bad for Americans being born now, they will never know a world without official oppression. So sad for you.
    Since the police do not have to admit any wrong doing, they are free to prosecute anyone for any crime they choose. This is not right.

    • fun bobby

      par for the course with the WPD

  • David_from_Lowell

    That’s similar to saying that the if someone were being beaten up on the street, passersby were also to blame for not stepping in sooner to help the victim, which on the face of it has a sliver of truth, but is intended to deflect blame away from the person doing the beating.

  • veritas78

    I’d suggest calling the City Manager for Worcester and asking why he hasn’t asked for Moore’s resignation. This is the kind of “justice” I’d expect in Mississippi – not Worecester.

    • fun bobby

      he does not have any control over the police chief whos response to this incident was to give the detective in charge a promotion to head of internal affairs. Did you know that the police chief is the highest paid city employee in Worcester? Completely conicidentially his brother just happens to be the second highest paid because of the complete coincidence that he gets all sorts of overtime. A local reporter tried to write an article about it but he got an threatening letter from the chief before the article was published. now that’s some good ole boy BS

  • KMH001

    This girl did nothing wrong, lost her child, was bullied into a false confession, spent three years in prison and the cities lawyer wants her lawyer to pay because he filed a motion that gained her freedom? The cops and the prosecutor should be fired with supreme prejudice and the girl should get a tidy sum from the city.

    • fun bobby

      the detective in charge of getting the false confession has been promoted to the head of internal affairs.

  • fun bobby

    At another point, in talking about scheduling, the judge said, “I’d like to take my time but I wouldn’t want anyone suing me.” The city solicitor didn’t laugh.
    but the corrupt cops who forced her false confession? oh they got promoted.
    Chief Gary Gemme even promoted one to head of internal affairs!
    Thank you David for writing these articles. Without you almost on one would know the terrible injustice that was done to this girl. Please keep digging as there is plenty of dirt on Chief Gemme that does not come to light because of his habit of intimidating members of the media and city council.

  • crescentfang

    It would be nice if this was a rare incident involving a few rogue cops. Unfortunately, it has become common practice to avoid the trouble and expense of a trial by jury by forcing defendants to confess. The real problem is “plea bargains” obtained by filing multiple charges for the same crime to make the suspect plead guilty to avoid a potential life sentence in return for reducing it to a few years. A similar example is the actions of the recording industry which used the DMCA to threaten people with million dollar penalties that would leave them and their children homeless if they didn’t pay $1000 and sign a confession. There is no difference between that and a mafia protection racket except that the courts are playing the thug role.

    The “right to a fair trial” guaranteed by the constitution no longer exists in most cases because we are spending all of our money on jails and not enough on courts to ensure they are guilty. This will only get worse if we don’t the compel the prosecutors to establish that the incentives to confess aren’t designed to make the innocent confess. Otherwise we will wind up like the Japanese. Their cops recently got five different suspects in succession to confess to the same crime before taking the last one into court. At least they understood how worthless the confessions were.

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