Warrant: Hartford Sergeant Used Cocaine On Duty; Judge Puts Him In Protective Custody

A Hartford police sergeant accused of stealing a ballistic vest, mountain bike and other items from the police department regularly consorted with an accused drug dealer and consumed cocaine and alcohol with the accused dealer and others while on duty, according to the warrant for Sgt. Justin Torniero’s arrest.

The accused drug dealer, John Butler, 42, also told Hartford police internal affairs investigators that on at least 20 occasions Torniero drove him around in his police patrol vehicle while the pair consumed cocaine and alcohol, answered calls and made stops at police headquarters. The allegations span a two-year period before Torniero was arrested and suspended without pay in December on related charges.

Torniero, 34, turned himself in Tuesday to face a charge of first-degree larceny and three counts of second-degree larceny. He was arraigned Wednesday in Superior Court in Hartford, where a judge set his bail at $175,000.

Prosecutor Carl Ajello told Judge Ann Lynch that Torniero’s alleged conduct “seriously erodes the public trust of the Hartford Police Department” and potentially “calls into question every case this defendant has investigated.”

Public defender Brian Pear asked the judge to release Torniero on a promise to appear in court. He said he has regularly appeared in court for the other case pending against him, has ties to the community and turned himself in when notified a warrant for his arrest had been issued.

The judge declined to reduce Torniero’s bail, but did ask that he be placed in protective custody at the Department of Correction. The case was continued to Oct. 3.

Butler told investigators, according to the warrant, that Torniero used about 3.5 grams of cocaine a day at a cost of about $200. Butler was arrested in March on charges that included operating a drug factory and dealing narcotics. He is free on $500,000 bail.

Torniero was suspended without pay in December 2017 when he was arrested and accused of routinely using a police vehicle while off duty and without permission. He was charged with sixth-degree larceny, fifth-degree computer crime and using a motor vehicle without permission.

Torniero “repeatedly took a police vehicle, filled it with city of Hartford gas and drove it for extended miles without authorization or permission” while he was off from work on accrued leave, police said in December. He also tampered with a computer modem and automatic vehicle locator inside one of the department’s vehicles. Torniero was released after posting $1,000 bail in that case and he has applied for accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation for first-time offenders.

In March, multiple law enforcement agencies conducted a drug raid at Butler’s home at 14 John Steele Road in Farmington. In addition to drugs and dozens of guns, police found a cache of stolen police equipment linked to Torniero, they said.

Butler was charged March 14 after police found 228 grams, or 8 ounces, of cocaine; 2.8 pounds of marijuana; 1.7 pounds of edible marijuana; 98 Percocet pills; packaging materials; and drug paraphernalia in his home. Officers also found 28 rifles, 29 handguns, ammunition, about $108,840 in cash and $900 in U.S. bonds.

Butler, who spoke to Hartford police last week with his lawyer present, said Torniero used the police vehicle to drive to his Farmington home to use cocaine. After Torniero’s arrest, Butler told police that he told his friends to stop providing cocaine to Torniero.

“For two weeks after Torniero was arrested [in December 2017] he would steal cocaine from Butler while Butler was in the shower,” the warrant reads. “Torniero stole different amounts of cocaine from Butler, with the most on one occasion being approximately fourteen grams.”

As for the Hartford police items found in Butler’s home, Butler said he did not ask for or want the items, but Torniero brought them to his house. “Butler … believed that Torniero was giving him the items as an excuse to get into Butler’s residence and steal cocaine from him,” the warrant reads.

In addition to the ballistic vest, which was marked with Torniero’s name, and the bicycle, Torniero is accused of giving Butler a police night stick, a police department reversible jacket, a police department shirt and baseball cap, six evidence bags, police evidence tape, four drug testing kits and a sharps container, according to the warrant.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
24°