HUPD Divided By Water Coolers

A bizarre criminal case involving two Poland Springs water coolers taken from the Law School's Harkness Commons has put the senior leadership of the Harvard Police Department effectively on trial.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts yesterday presented its case in Middlesex County district court that University security guards George D. Perry and Michael J. Auterio are guilty of larceny of property worth less than $100. Perry also stood trial on a count of receiving stolen property.

The two men remain employees in good standing with the Harvard Police Department, even as senior management argued yesterday that they are guilty. Perry and Auterio are accused of stealing water coolers rented by the University for June's Commencement ceremonies from a Law School room generally reserved for recyclables.

But numerous police officers, including several of those involved in the case, don't believe that Perry and Auterio should be convicted. Still, the police and prosecutors are pressing on, and department management will now have to answer publicly for the decisions it made in investigating two of its own.

At the same time, there is another group of police department employees prepared to testify in defense of the two men.


Acting Police Chief Lawrence J. Murphy, Crime Prevention Officer Sgt. Lawrence J. Fennelly, CriminalInvestigations Division head Lt. John F. Rooneyand Manager of Operations for Security Robert J.Dowling were among those present at theyesterday's trial. Rooney testified yesterday forthe prosecution, and the other three are listed aspotential witnesses.

The senior police officials were joined by fiveof the department's 13 sergeants, two detectives,three police officers and University AttorneyAllan A. Ryan Jr., who offered little explanationfor his unusual presence at the unusualproceeding.

Police officers in attendance at yesterday'strial refused to comment, citing the ongoingnature of the case.

But another reason for their silence, someofficers and sources privately suggest, may bethat the seemingly minor case has pitted colleagueagainst colleague in a department already reelingfrom internal divisions.

And what is perhaps most threatening about thecase is that it reflects poorly on one of thepolice's most respected units--its criminalinvestigations division--where some of its mosttalented and experienced professionals work.

Police sources familiar with the case allegethat there were numerous irregularities in theinvestigation of Perry and Auterio. And duringcross examination of witnesses offered by thestate yesterday, attorneys for Perry and Auteriorepeatedly referred to these allegedabnormalities.

That legal strategy appears to be working. Whenthey first were charged this summer, Perry andAuterio faced multiple counts of larceny,receiving stolen property and breaking andentering.

After the prosecution rested late yesterdayafternoon, the charge against Perry of receivingstolen property was thrown out. When the defensepresents its case sometime in the near future,each man will be facing a lone charge of larceny.

But at times during yesterday's proceeding, itwas the Harvard University Police Department--andnot Perry or Auterio--that faced serious charges.

The testimony of Rooney, the criminalinvestigations head, held many of the day's mostdramatic moments.

Under intensive cross-examination by WilliamHolman, who represented Perry, Rooney acknowledgedthat the department had submitted falseinformation on a sworn affidavit in order toobtain a search warrant for Perry's home.