Natale “Nat” Cosenza Was Wrongfully Imprisoned 16 Years After Worcester, MA Police Fabricated Evidence, Jury Says
After spending almost 16 years wrongfully imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit, yesterday a Worcester, MA man, Natale Cosenza, won an $8 million jury verdict and $30,000 in punitive damages in federal court. The verdict was the result of Cosenza’s 2018 civil rights lawsuit against the City of Worcester and eight current or former Worcester police officers.
The jury found that Worcester police officer Kerry Hazelhurst suppressed and fabricated evidence and that his partner, John Doherty, conspired with Hazelhurst to convict Natale Cosenza. The evidence at trial showed that Worcester police withheld evidence, falsified physical evidence, and fabricated a false identification of Mr. Cosenza that led to his wrongful conviction of assault and battery and armed burglary. He was represented in his civil rights suit by Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, a national civil rights law firm with offices in Chicago, Boulder, CO and Washington, DC.
Mr. Cosenza was arrested in 2000, and in 2016 with the assistance of the Committee for Public Counsel Services Innocence Program and local criminal defense attorney Chauncey Wood, he was able to overturn his conviction.
When DNA evidence from shorts found at the scene clearly showed Natale Cosenza’s innocence, the police engaged in a cover-up to continue to pin the crime on an innocent man. They had assumed that DNA from semen stains on shorts found at the scene by the victim would fully implicate Cosenza. When that didn’t transpire—the DNA on the shorts didn’t match him; the attacker has never been identified—a cover up ensued. Attorneys presented evidence showing that the lead police investigator rigged the photo lineup and lied about the chain of custody of the shorts.
While he was wrongfully imprisoned, Cosenza missed most of the childhood of his now-adult daughters. When his suit was filed in 2018, Alisia Cosenza said,
“There is no short explanation that justifies the dramatic impact on my life during the time my father was taken away from me. Sixteen years of my father being in prison had negative effects on my emotions, school, friendships, and more. Regardless of the positive relationship my Dad and I shared, communicating through glass, letters, and collect calls was never easy. My father is a victim of injustice, and as left behind children, my sister and I are too.”
After 22 years of trying to clear his name, yesterday Cosenza burst into tears as the courtroom deputy read from a verdict form that proclaimed the jury’s finding that “Detective Hazelhurst’s fabrication of evidence caused Plaintiff Cosenza to be wrongfully convicted.”
Mr. Cosenza was at trial by attorneys Locke Bowman, Megan Pierce, Steve Art and Kelly Jo Popkin, assisted by paralegals Hersheeta “Hershey” Suri and Destinie Brooks, all of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms, and over the past decade has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country. A copy of the suit, Natale Cosenza v. City of Worcester, et al., No. 1:18-cv-10936 is available here.