Lawyer: Client Charged With ‘Driving While Being Hispanic’

A Seymour resident claims Ansonia police targeted him because he is Hispanic when they pulled him over and arrested him this month.

Andres Reyes, 26, was charged with interfering with an officer, tampering with physical evidence, and illegal possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle after Ansonia police pulled him over March 1.

Reyes also received infractions for possession of less than a half-ounce of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia, and failure to display lights.

“He didn’t do anything wrong,” said Rob Serafinowicz, Reyes’ defense attorney. “He got pulled over for driving while being Hispanic in the Valley.”

Ansonia police said the traffic stop was “legitimate” and led to the other charges because officers smelled marijuana in the car.

Lt. Andrew Cota said the department does not target people to pull over based on race.

“That’s just not happening,” Cota said. “That didn’t happen here.”


Reyes said he’s been pulled over by police in Ansonia four times since he moved to the Valley this year.

He was only issued charges during the March 1 stop, according to Serafinowicz.

Reyes was given warnings for the other traffic stops because of his service in the U.S. Marinies, Serafinowicz said.

Reyes served eight years in the U.S. Marines and did two tours of combat — one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

“The last thing I expected was to return to my own country and be discriminated against because of my race and the car I drive,” Reyes wrote in a statement e-mailed to the Valley Indy.

Reyes drives a “souped-up” Honda Civic with a dual exhaust and racing stripes, Serafinowicz said. He advised his client not to be interviewed while the criminal charges are working their way through Derby court.

Reyes told the CT Post he was harassed, “choked and punched” by Ansonia officers.

“Adjusting to life after spending time in combat is difficult enough, without be targeted by local police,” Reyes wrote in his statement.

Traffic Stop

Ansonia Police Officer Jean-Pierre Lessard noticed Reyes had a headlight out as he drove on Main Street in Ansonia on March 1, according to Lt. Cota.

Officer Lessard pulled Reyes over on Derby Avenue in Derby, just over the town line, Cota said.

“If an officer sees a violation — a head light out, a tail light out — they make a motor vehicle stop,” Cota said. “It was a legitimate motor vehicle stop.”

The officer smelled marijuana coming from the car, so he called in the department’s police dog and officer to verify, Cota said.

Cota said Reyes was chewing marijuana, trying to get rid of it before police could see. Police also found marijuana on his pants and on the floor of his car, he said.

The weapon police said they found in the car was an expandable metal baton, according to Cota.

Serafinowicz disputes the claims, saying there was no marijuana in the car — only a pipe.

Serafinowicz also claims police put a flashlight in Reyes’ mouth, cutting him.

“They tried to say his mouth was bleeding because he was chewing on marijuana,” Serafinowicz said. “You’re not going to chew on marijuana stems and cut your mouth all up.”

Serafinowicz said he will fight all the charges except for the missing tail light, “because quite frankly he did have a headlight out.”

“What we’re looking to do is see that all the false charges are thrown out and this gentleman can get on with his life,” Serafinowicz said. “It’s a case that needs to be fought because the gentleman didn’t do anything wrong.”

Reyes is due back in Superior Court in Derby on April 26.

“The case will stand on its merits in court,” Lt. Cota said.


posted by: Karl Heitz on March 20, 2012  7:09pm

This kind of thing happens all of the time but it is not dependent on race. Basically, you are pulled over because you have a car that sticks out. The busted light gives even more reason. If they don’t notice anything out of place, then chances are you will be let off with a warning. The smell of marijuana extends the issue and now you have given reason for it to go further. And then you have a weapon. It is too easy to jump and say it is because of race. If you weren’t doing anything wrong, fine. But, the busted tail light wasn’t the only issue. Just because you are an ex-marine, does not mean you can do as you please. You still have to follow the law. It got you off the first couple times, but that wasn’t enough. “didn’t do anything wrong” Obviously, the lawyer does not know the law when it comes to possession, paraphernalia, weapons, and destruction of evidence. Oh that’s right, lawyers get paid to twist the truth. It seems like only yesterday that I was reading an article about how gangs and other bad elements have infiltrated our military in order to get training and come back and use it on the other side of the law. I am not saying that’s the case and discrimination doesn’t happen. It does. But what basis does that come from. I can just as easy say I get pulled over because I play loud music or drive a white car or wear earrings…so what if there is a pound of drugs in the back. You shouldn’t have pulled me over, um…because I’m Hispanic.

posted by: Ruthann Haluschak on March 20, 2012  7:36pm

Wow, this is unbelievable on the part of the claimant:  He said in the other three incidents he was let go with a warning but on March 1 he was, “choked and punched in the mouth with a flashlight for repeatedly requesting a lawyer.”

Read more:

Wonder why that was coconvenientlyeft out of this report?  I would guess he’s fabricating.

posted by: Kim Pignataro Patierno on March 20, 2012  8:44pm

Does not surprise me, valley is corrupt!