Monday, 16 October 2023 06:42

From Victim to Suspect

Credit: Illustration by Molly Mendoza

A young mom with a daughter to support puts up with her boss’s crude behavior, until one night she says he goes too far. She goes to the police – but that doesn’t solve her problem. It creates a new one.

Nicole Chase was a young mom with a daughter to support when she took a job at a local restaurant in Canton, Connecticut. She liked the work and was good at her job. But the place turned out to be more like a frat house than a quaint roadside sandwich spot. And the crude behavior kept escalating – until one day she says her boss went too far and she turned to the local police for help. What happened next would lead to a legal battle that dragged on for years. The U.S. Supreme Court would even get involved.

Reveal reporter Rachel de Leon spent years taking a close look at cases across the country in which people reported sexual assaults to police, only to find themselves investigated. In this hour, we explore one case and hear how police interrogated an alleged perpetrator, an alleged victim and each other.

De Leon’s investigation is also the subject of a documentary, “Victim/Suspect,” now streaming on Netflix.

This episode originally aired in March 2023.

Dig Deeper

Read: ‘If the Police Don’t Believe You, They Might Prosecute You’: How Officers Turn Victims of Sexual Assault Into Suspects (Reveal)

Watch: “Victim/Suspect” (Netflix)


Reporter and producer: Rachel de Leon | Lead producer: Katharine Mieszkowski | Producer: Kathryn Styer Martinez | Editor: Cynthia Rodriguez | Additional editing: Kate Howard | Fact checkers: Nikki Frick and Kim Freda | Data consultant: Sarah Cohen | Research assistance: Betty Marquez, Skyler Glover, Vanessa Ochavillo and Elena Neale-Sacks | Production managers: Steven Rascón and Zulema Cobb | Sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda | Post-production team: Kathryn Styer Martinez | Episode art: Molly Mendoza | Digital producer: Nikki Frick | Interim executive producers: Taki Telonidis and Brett Myers | Special thanks to Amanda Pike

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Park Foundation.


Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson: From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. It’s 2017, Allie Archer is in her early twenties and she’s working at not Nodine’s Restaurant.
Allie Archer: Everybody seemed very relaxed and everybody was pretty easy to get along with. It seemed like fun at first.
Al Letson: Nodine’s is in a town called Canton, Connecticut just outside of Hartford.
Allie Archer: It’s definitely a well-known name around the towns. It seems like everybody knows Nodine’s Meat.
Al Letson: Since the late sixties, the Nodine family has been curing and smoking meats in the foothills of the Berkshires. Ronald Nodine started the business. The restaurant is a new venture which opened in 2016, a couple of years before Ronald passed away. His son Calvin, runs this small spot off the side of the road with wood panel walls and plaid curtains. While the decor may be kitschy Country Inn, the vibe is more Frat house. Allie says, Calvin stashes beer in the back freezer and drinks on the job. She remembers one day in particular.
Allie Archer: He was walking around barefoot without his shoes on and he was drinking alcohol in front of all the customers and it showed up on one of our Yelp reviews.
Al Letson: We found that review, it says, “Very inconsistent, owner can be seen randomly wandering in his socks with a beer in hand”. Several employees at Nodine’s are related to Calvin. His wife helps him run the place. His stepson is the head chef. Allie is even a distant relative. She says Calvin tells dirty jokes about women, about blondes, and soon Nodine’s goes from being fun and relaxed to toxic and chaotic.
Allie Archer: I didn’t feel safe being around Calvin.
Al Letson: And then one day Allie says, Calvin’s been drinking all day and crosses the line from being crude and offensive to getting physical with her friend and coworker, Nicole Chase.
Allie Archer: This time he actually came up behind her and put his arm around her.
Al Letson: Nicole, like Allie, is in her twenties, but she’s not a part of the Nodine family.
Allie Archer: And he had this joke and it was like a three part joke and every part of the joke he would move his hand down and by the end of the joke, he had his hand on her butt. And I just remember seeing that and standing right next to her and for me, I wish I had actually said something to him. I wish I slapped him honestly.
Al Letson: But it doesn’t stop there. What happens later that night at Nodine’s and how the police respond will spark years of lawsuits. A police investigation and the actions of two officers will be scrutinized and the dispute will wind its way all the way to the Supreme Court. The court battle that ensues lasts longer than the restaurant itself would stay in business. We first brought you this episode earlier this year, and before we continue, we want to let you know that it includes descriptions of sexual assault that may be difficult for some listeners to hear. Reveal’s Rachel de Leon went to Connecticut to meet Allie’s coworker Nicole, and to investigate the aftermath of that night at Nodine’s.
Rachel de Leon: The first thing you need to know about Nicole is that the job at Nodine’s Restaurant really mattered to her. When she was working there, she was a young mom with a six-year-old daughter to support.
Nicole Chase: I had no savings. I didn’t even have a bank account, I didn’t have credit cards, I had nothing. My fiancee took care of us as much as he could, and besides that, I had not a pot to piss in.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole doesn’t drive and Nodine’s is close to home and easy to get to. She does a little bit of everything there, waitressing, cooking, cleaning, ringing up orders. Along the way she gets used to putting up with Calvin’s alleged inappropriate jokes.
Nicole Chase: Within the first day I was there, he like, oh, you want to hear a joke? Blah, blah, blah, and I was like, ha ha. You’re kind of laughing, but it’s like a fake laugh. Okay, goodbye. Let me go on with my stuff.
Rachel de Leon: But his behavior keeps getting worse. Some of the forms of sexual harassment Nicole and Allie describe are so overt and over the top they sound like scenes from a bad 1970 sitcom. Like Calvin dropping his eyeglasses and then telling his female employees to pick them up so they’ll have to bend over in front of him.
Nicole Chase: After a few times, I had caught onto what he was doing and I would stop picking them up, but then he’d be like, pick up my glasses.
Rachel de Leon: Calvin is 30 years older than Nicole. When he allegedly puts his hand on her butt in front of Allie, Nicole’s confused and not really sure what to do.
Nicole Chase: In my head, I kind of brushed it off as like, oh, he is drunk, he’s feeling good, but I didn’t really go further than that I don’t think.
Rachel de Leon: A lot was going on that day. Nicole says Calvin had just promoted her to manager and she needed her job, so again, she lets the incident go, but as the night wears on, Nicole says Calvin starts pushing his wife to leave to go home and feed the dogs.
Nicole Chase: The incident raised huge red flags in my head, but it was like, wow, he’s really trying to push her out here compared to usually they leave together.
Rachel de Leon: Everyone eventually leaves except a dishwasher who yells out for Calvin. That’s when Nicole says Calvin grabs her arm.
Nicole Chase: I remember Calvin pulling me into the bathroom.
Rachel de Leon: Then she says he locks the door and puts his finger to his lips for her to be quiet. The dishwasher calls for Calvin again and for Nicole as he’s leaving, Calvin shouts goodnight back. Then, according to Nicole, he exposes himself to her and tells her to perform oral sex. Her account of what happened at Nodine’s is all in police and court records.
Nicole Chase: I just remember, yeah, him pushing my head down and I remember he was wearing blue boxers because anytime I pull out blue boxers of my fiancee’s, I remember.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole says she freezes, fighting back or even resisting doesn’t cross her mind.
Nicole Chase: It was just like I had left me. Even though I could be a tough person, there was no like I’m going to beat this man up. It wasn’t like something that went through my head. It was just like this is actually happening.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole says she does what he tells her to do and all she can think is, please let it be over.
Nicole Chase: Just get me home. Get me home.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole didn’t physically resist or try to run away. This is not uncommon. Survivors have told me it felt safer to avoid a fight. They have no idea if the attacker will resort to more physical violence if they resist and they want to survive with as few injuries as possible. I asked Calvin to tell us his version of what happened. I reached him by phone, but he said he wouldn’t talk to me. In court records, Calvin has denied sexually assaulting or harassing Nicole. The morning after all this happened, Nicole goes to the Canton Police Department with her mom. Officer Adam Gompper comes out to meet them.
Adam Gompper: How you doing? So what’s going on?
Nicole Chase: A lot of stuff.
Rachel de Leon: I got this video through a public records request. Instead of taking Nicole to a private room, Officer Gompper talks to her in the lobby of the police station, which is visible from the street. Nicole notices the large windows and they make her feel on display. She tells Officer Gompper some background about the restaurant and then shares that Calvin exposed himself to her.
Nicole Chase: I’m like, oh my God. Oh my God, and I froze. It all happened so quickly and I looked down and he was like, I know you must not get it at home, so suck it, or something.
Rachel de Leon: But she leaves it at that. She doesn’t mention the alleged earlier butt grabbing or that she felt coerced to perform oral sex and at this point Nicole hasn’t told a soul the full story, including her mom who’s sitting right next to her.
Adam Gompper: If you want to make a complaint, it’s going to be investigated, which means I would take a written statement from you.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole’s not sure she’s ready for that. Also, she’s acutely aware that it would be her word against Calvin’s and she thinks his status gives him the upper hand.
Nicole Chase: I know he’s a rich man and I can’t do shit about it and I have no proof.
Rachel de Leon: Also, she’s really worried about losing her job. She says she’s supposed to go into work later that day.
Nicole Chase: I didn’t want to see him, but I want to pretend to go to work and pretend that he doesn’t know or I’m hoping he doesn’t remember so I can go to work and at least feel halfway normal.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole was hoping that Calvin had been so drunk the night before he wouldn’t remember what had happened and she could go back to work and somehow forget about it too. This might sound a little strange, a victim tells only part of the story and then hopes her alleged perpetrator will forget the whole thing, but this fits with all the research about sexual assault victims. They often want to minimize and avoid what happened because it’s like reliving a trauma and the closer the relationship is with an assailant, the more likely they are to hold back details. It often takes time to get the full story. It is clear that Nicole isn’t ready to launch a full police investigation yet. She and Officer Gompper talk some more. He gives Nicole a card from the Office of Victim Services where she can seek support if she needs it, and he tells her she can come back if she decides she wants to make an official complaint.
Nicole Chase: Thank you very much.
Adam Gompper: No problem. I hope it works out, but it sounds like he’s never going to change.
Rachel de Leon: As soon as Nicole gets back to work, she realizes returning was a big mistake. In police records, she says Calvin tries to lure her into a small closet with him and propositions her for sex. By the end of her shift, she decides she’s never coming back and takes home the photo of her daughter she keeps at work. A few days later, Nicole goes back to the Canton Police Department with Allie, her friend from work and makes her official complaint with Officer Gompper. She talks about Calvin grabbing her butt, exposing himself to her and telling her to perform oral sex, but she still doesn’t tell the full story. Officer Gompper notifies Calvin Nodine there’s a complaint against him. When he arrives at the Canton Police Department he’s with his lawyer David Moraghan. Calvin is questioned by Detective John Colangelo who’s an experienced investigator. He’s been on the force in Canton for 20 years. The interview starts off with the attorney and the detective talking about people they know in common. It turns out the attorney used to play golf with Detective Colangelo’s dad.
David Moraghan: He was my golf partner for a long time. He taught me how to play.
John Colangelo: No, he didn’t. He can’t putt himself.
David Moraghan: He was the best putter in the class.
John Colangelo: No, it wasn’t.
David Moraghan: Yes he was.
Rachel de Leon: This may sound like a pretty chummy way to start an interrogation, but a friendly approach is a technique used to build rapport before a detective starts asking tough questions.
When the conversation turns to Nicole’s allegations, Colangelo strikes a casual tone.
John Colangelo: What’s this girl’s name again?
Calvin Nodine: Nicole.
John Colangelo: Nicole. What’s Nicole’s deal?
Calvin Nodine: I don’t know.
Rachel de Leon: Detective Colangelo asked Calvin about the sex talk at work.
John Colangelo: Nicole’s saying that there was inappropriate talking and speech and sexual stuff.
Calvin Nodine: I’m a meat guy. I grew up in meat plants since I was nine years old, so does what I say get a little harsh sometimes? Yeah.
Rachel de Leon: Then the detective brings up Nicole’s and Allie’s allegation about him grabbing Nicole’s butt. That could be considered a sexual assault in the fourth degree.
John Colangelo: Apparently, according to her and someone else, your hand made it down to her rear end.
Calvin Nodine: No, I wouldn’t have done that.
John Colangelo: They’re saying. Why are they saying it? That’s what I have to ask.
Calvin Nodine: Yeah, that’s the problem. I don’t know.
Rachel de Leon: Eventually Colangelo brings up Nicole’s more serious allegation.
John Colangelo: She then look down and you exposed yourself to her.
Rachel de Leon: Calvin says that he didn’t even know where Nicole was then.
Calvin Nodine: She could have been out front having a cigarette. I don’t know where she was.
John Colangelo: Okay, why would she say this?
Calvin Nodine: I don’t know. Maybe she thinks the business is going down. She’s looking for money.
John Colangelo: Possible. That’s one of the angles I’m looking at.
Rachel de Leon: And then Colangelo tries to minimize what happened. Police often do this to get somebody to tell them more.
John Colangelo: If you were fooling around with Nikki consensually, that’s a whole different story and that might open-
Rachel de Leon: When it comes to sex crimes, arguing that an act was consensual is a common defense for suspects.
David Moraghan: Can I have a minute with him?
John Colangelo: Sure.
Rachel de Leon: Calvin’s lawyer asks to meet with his client privately and the two men leave the room for a few minutes. When they come back, Calvin has a new story.
Calvin Nodine: She grabbed me and said, look, I’ve got something for you to see. I figured there was a problem in the men’s room. She was the one that dropped my pants and gave me [inaudible 00:14:13], And it was pretty much so fast. It’s like, okay, that [inaudible 00:14:18] happened.
Rachel de Leon: His story throws everything he’s been saying into question. Calvin’s now claiming Nicole pulled him into the bathroom and initiated everything and Detective Colangelo has now succeeded in getting Calvin to admit that he’s been lying.
John Colangelo: When you come in here and I ask you something and you’re telling me she left already, but then the story changes.
Calvin Nodine: Look, I am trying to protect myself. It’s embarrassing. It was a moment after a 12-hour day and a bad decision. I should have stopped her.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole called it. It’s his statement against hers and it’s the time when the detective should be pressing for more details like how long were you in the bathroom? Were you intoxicated? Draw me a map of where you were standing, but that’s not what happens. Instead, Colangelo offers Calvin a way to turn the tables on this whole situation.
John Colangelo: So you think she’s a liar?
Calvin Nodine: As far as it not being consensual? Yes, absolutely.
Rachel de Leon: Then Detective Colangelo tries to convince Calvin to take a polygraph.
John Colangelo: If you pass a polygraph, she can be brought in and it gives us leverage to see if the story changes.
Rachel de Leon: He tells Calvin he’s used this strategy before in a past case. Later, he’ll claim he was bluffing.
John Colangelo: Now she’s a suspect in a false statement, in a false police report. Now she can be asked if she will take a polygraph, completely different animal. So you switch the case, that’s all.
Rachel de Leon: Switch the case. Just like that, the victim can become the suspect. Weeks go by. Nicole wonders what is going on with the case. Then she’s called back into the Canton Police Department. This time it’s just Nicole and Detective Colangelo.
John Colangelo: Have a seat.
Rachel de Leon: And they’re in a private room with the door shut.
John Colangelo: This case is now on my desk.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole has no idea in this conversation that she may now be considered a suspect. She tells the detective she’s concerned about how slowly the case is moving.
John Colangelo: I’ve done a lot of work on this as is Officer Gompper.
Nicole Chase: Well, I’m glad. Yeah, for a while I was like, I just don’t think they’re taking this seriously.
John Colangelo: No, we are taking it very seriously.
Nicole Chase: And I was like, I don’t know what more I can do.
John Colangelo: Well, he seems to take time though too.
Rachel de Leon: Actually, we looked at the police case file and after they interviewed Calvin, the police didn’t do much. They documented a phone call from him saying he failed a private polygraph because he hadn’t taken his medication and they received a fax from Calvin’s lawyer saying that he won’t be taking a police administered polygraph.
Nicole Chase: I know it takes time, but this man has caused me to lose so much money that I had to move out of my place. I went to a doctor, had to get put on more medicine for my PTSD and my anxiety attacks and all that, so my whole life has been flipped upside down.
Rachel de Leon: Detective Colangelo assures Nicole that he’s working hard on the case. Then he starts to ask her about her relationship with Calvin.
John Colangelo: Was there any relations between you and Calvin that were consensual prior to that Saturday?
Nicole Chase: Nothing.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo keeps pressing Nicole.
John Colangelo: I have to be able to understand where these relationships are because he’s going to tell me something different and he did.
Rachel de Leon: And it’s here almost an hour in that this interview takes a drastic turn because Colangelo starts to deploy an interrogation technique meant for suspects, not alleged victims.
John Colangelo: I offered him a polygraph. Do you think you’ll take it?
Nicole Chase: I think he would try to.
John Colangelo: Okay, you think you’ll pass it?
Nicole Chase: No.
John Colangelo: What if I told you he took one?
Nicole Chase: Did he pass it?
John Colangelo: You tell me.
Nicole Chase: I don’t think so.
John Colangelo: You don’t think you would or did? What if I told he took two.
Nicole Chase: Really?
Rachel de Leon: Actually, Calvin took one polygraph and he failed it.
John Colangelo: He’s taken two polygraphs.
Nicole Chase: Okay.
John Colangelo: And I know that there are issues in some of these stories.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo is using what police call a ruse, a bluff or a ploy. It’s legal and it’s used to corner a suspect into a confession.
John Colangelo: So I need you to think about it. Is there anything that you think will come up or has come up in this investigation that I should know about?
Rachel de Leon: Nicole breaks down crying and she discloses what she hasn’t told anyone before. Not her friends, her fiancee or her mom. She’s finally confronting what she says happened to her that night.
John Colangelo: There’s tissues right there.
Nicole Chase: I didn’t do anything. It was just him. He pulled me in there and he dropped them and as soon as he told me to do it, I just did it because I just didn’t know what to do.
John Colangelo: So you did give him oral sex?
Nicole Chase: Yeah.
John Colangelo: Okay.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo hears this as a consensual encounter, but Nicole is clear she didn’t want to engage in oral sex. She says she wanted to tell the whole story, but she was afraid of what other people would think.
Nicole Chase: I just don’t want my boyfriend to know and I don’t want people to ask me why I did it when I didn’t want to do it, but I was just so scared.
Rachel de Leon: Detective Colangelo asks Nicole if she wants to change her previous statement. She says she does.
Nicole Chase: I don’t want it to make, I know it looks bad if you change your story, but I just was so scared I didn’t know what to do.
John Colangelo: This is why these are very important, because it’s an oath basically, and you’re saying that I understand that by signing this I’m telling the truth and if you’re not, then you’re actually committing a crime also.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole didn’t tell her full story and to Colangelo that’s a lie. He doesn’t dig deeper. He doesn’t ask for more details about her state of mind during the alleged assault, which would help explain why she complied. This black and white thinking, either she’s lying and she wasn’t assaulted or she’s telling the whole truth and is a real victim can shortcut an investigation and it’s a common theme I found in my research. I began looking into cases just like Nicole’s several years ago, where an alleged victim of sexual assault becomes the suspect and is charged with crimes like false reporting. I looked closely at 52 cases and I saw patterns emerge like 15 cases were decided in a day. Once police find inaccuracies or contradictions, they turn their investigation around. Other times they never even interview the alleged suspect. Police records sometimes show very little evidence to back up the false reporting charges. After Nicole tells her whole experience to Colangelo, she has to decide whether she wants to officially change her statement or not.
John Colangelo: Do you want to consult with your attorney?
Nicole Chase: Can I do that?
John Colangelo: Sure.
Nicole Chase: I just want to make sure that I might even still have a chance at least of getting some type of justice.
Rachel de Leon: Three weeks after her interview with Colangelo, Nicole goes back to the station. She’s there to officially revise her statement and turn in printouts of texts which Colangelo asked her for. A dispatcher tells her Colangelo is busy and he’ll reach out if he needs her. She never hears back from him and emails the detective twice to follow up. By this time, Colangelo has already submitted a warrant for her arrest. When he finally emails her back, he doesn’t tell her that. It’s been two and a half months since Nicole has told Detective Colangelo the full story. She gets a call from him and she can’t believe what she’s hearing.
Nicole Chase: You have a warrant out for arrest, you need to come into the station, and I just held that phone and in my head, I have no idea what a warrant for my arrest is for because I haven’t done anything wrong.
Rachel de Leon: The charge, making a false statement to a police officer. She turns herself in later that day.
Al Letson: Nicole started out as a victim reporting an alleged crime to the police. Then a detective lied to her and now she’s being charged for lying to him. When we come back, Nicole fights back. That’s next on Reveal.
From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Today we’re bringing back a story about a police investigation into a report of sexual assault, but this isn’t your typical case. What makes it stand out is who the police arrested, not the alleged perpetrator. They arrested the alleged victim and we should note again, this episode may not be appropriate for all listeners. We can’t know from our investigation whether a sexual assault actually occurred, but we can review how the police decided to charge Nicole Chase with a crime and how she and her attorney fight back. Reveal reporter Rachel de Leon takes it from here.
Rachel de Leon: Today, Nicole lives in a small town not far from where she used to work. It’s a cute neighborhood. The houses are spaced out. She’s got half an acre around her. When we pull up Lew Chimes, her attorney, is standing in the driveway.
Lewis Chimes: Welcome to the northeast. We’ve got some snow.
Rachel de Leon: The ground is covered in five inches of snow and Nicole’s house is cozy. She keeps apologizing for the mess, only the place is tidy. It is a full house though. She lives here with her fiancee, two kids and a brand new addition.
Nicole Chase: Blue. Blue, go get it.
Rachel de Leon: Hi, sweetie.
Al Letson: What’s his name?
Nicole Chase: Blue. I just got a puppy. His name is Blue. Yes. Right now is the potty training and the nipping and the chewing of everything.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole surprised her fiancee with Blue a few weeks back. It was his dream to have bloodhounds someday. This house goes back generations. It’s where she and her mom both grew up and now she owns it. Her kids walk the same road she used to to go to school.
Nicole Chase: I feel like I’m doing good, but I’m hoping that I just keep working on myself more and more and I hope that I somehow just become just better than I already have.
Rachel de Leon: Before Nicole even worked at Nodine’s Restaurant, she’d been through some really tough experiences including teenage drug addiction and domestic violence. Then came that night at Nodine’s in 2017, which led to her arrest. She sought out the help of different lawyers and one of them posted about her case online. Lou sees the lawyer’s message and wants to know more.
Lewis Chimes: I looked at the arrest warrant for Nicole and I hadn’t met Nicole yet and then I read it and reread it two or three times and then I called the lawyer back and I says, am I missing something?
Rachel de Leon: Nicole’s criminal defense attorney is also astounded by the charge and tells prosecutors it’s outrageous. The prosecutor agrees to drop the case as long as Nicole doesn’t get into any other legal trouble before the next court date. The arrest is erased from her record, but Lou doesn’t think that should be the end of it. He also believes Nicole could have a strong civil case against the Canton Police Department, so he sets up a meeting with her.
Lewis Chimes: I was just astonished at what I was hearing.
Rachel de Leon: Lou specializes in employment and personal injury law, but he knows police culture. He has sued police, he’s represented police and was once a prosecutor for the Manhattan DA.
Lewis Chimes: I spent 15 minutes deciding whether I wanted to represent Nicole and the hour and 45 minutes of the rest of the two-hour meeting kind of seeing myself cross-examining the police officers in the case.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole says it was news to her that she could go after the officers and the town for turning her into a suspect.
Nicole Chase: But once they said it was something I could do, it was like, yeah, absolutely. They just arrested me for nothing.
Rachel de Leon: So Lou lets the town know he intends to file a civil suit and the town council decides to launch an internal affairs investigation at the police department. It’s an important moment because the police officers will have to explain their actions.
Christopher Arc…: Okay, today is May 31st. It’s approximately 8:08 in the morning. We’re here for the interview Of Detective John Colangelo.
Rachel de Leon: You’re hearing the voice of Canton’s, chief of Police, Christopher Arciero. It took a long time to get these recordings. We had to fight for them for well over a year. The men are sitting in a drab conference room inside the police station.
Christopher Arc…: I’m going to just show you some of your training records.
Rachel de Leon: The chief pulls out printed PowerPoint slides.
Christopher Arc…: And I’ll just read a couple of them. Talks about the victim’s might share information that is not consistent, not true or not complete, but that doesn’t mean it’s a false report. Does that ring a bell to your recollection or your general-
John Colangelo: Doesn’t mean it’s a true report either does it?
Rachel de Leon: It’s hard to hear, but Colangelo is defensive and says, “Doesn’t mean it’s a true report either, does it?”. The chief keeps going.
Christopher Arc…: And is it also true sometimes victims of sexual assault manifest certain behaviors? They’re in shock. They’re someone traumatized.
John Colangelo: I’m not a psychiatrist.
Christopher Arc…: What’s that?
John Colangelo: I’m not a psychiatrist. You’re asking me psychological questions.
Rachel de Leon: Soon the questioning turns to Colangelo’s interview with Calvin Nodine who Nicole has accused of a sex crime. He’s a suspect in a police investigation and the chief wants to know why Colangelo is giving him so much leeway.
Christopher Arc…: At the beginning of the interview you told him he was free to leave. Why’d you tell him he was free to leave?
John Colangelo: Because it was a criminal interview and he was a suspect at the time.
Christopher Arc…: So you give him that warning to someone who’s a suspect, they’re free to leave if you have him in for of you.
John Colangelo: Yes, I try to always do that.
Rachel de Leon: Then the chief asks Colangelo if he gave Nicole that same warning.
John Colangelo: She wasn’t a suspect.
Christopher Arc…: She was never a suspect at any point in time during your interview?
John Colangelo: I needed to bring her in to go over the things that he said to see what matched and didn’t match.
Christopher Arc…: Okay. Any point in time during your interview if she became a suspect, did you tell her she was free to leave?
John Colangelo: I don’t recall.
Christopher Arc…: Okay.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo giving Calvin seemingly preferential treatment is brought up several times in this three hour long interview. Another example is when Colangelo tells Calvin that he usually gives a suspect a base on balls for the first false statement. I’m not a baseball person, so I asked around, what he means is giving a pass for the first lie.
Christopher Arc…: So did you ever tell her that I typically would give a base on balls for the first false statement?
John Colangelo: No, because the problem with that is twofold.
Rachel de Leon: First Colangelo argues that he didn’t know Nicole’s statement was false.
John Colangelo: I didn’t know that she gave a false statement until she broke down, cried, and said, I got to tell you, I gave him oral sex.
Rachel de Leon: And then he argues something different, that no two people are like.
John Colangelo: They’re like fingerprints or snowflakes. No person gets interviewed the same. Should I, from now on every interview I do in there say, if you give a false statement, you get a base on balls? No, statements that I make are done to elicit the truth.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo relies on this a lot. The idea that he’s only being chummy with Calvin because he’s trying to get him to confess to what really happened.
Christopher Arc…: Within the first five or 10 minutes of the interview you say to Calvin Nodine that, you’re not sure you believe everything that she’s telling me. Why would you give him that statement? Doesn’t that lead him-
John Colangelo: You are picking out statements. You-
Christopher Arc…: Explain it.
John Colangelo: I’m going to explain it.
Rachel de Leon: Again, Colangelo leans on the idea that he’s bluffing to draw out the truth.
John Colangelo: And I’m going to tell you and I hate to do it on tape, but here’s my method. Who are you going to tell your darkest secret to? Someone you like or someone you hate? You’re going to tell it to someone you like, so you do your best to find a bond with them.
Rachel de Leon: It’s kind of an old law enforcement trope. The good cop that makes you feel safe. Colangelo is right, police experts say it’s one way to get people to talk, but then once they do start talking, you want them to keep talking. One experienced investigator told me you should listen closely for inconsistencies and for things that sound absurd or implausible and during that pivotal moment when Calvin changes his story and says there was consensual oral sex, Colangelo does little to follow up.
Christopher Arc…: What details did he give you about how the oral sex occurred?
John Colangelo: He said they were in the bathroom and she gave him oral sex.
Christopher Arc…: Do you know how he got into the bathroom?
John Colangelo: The two of them were closing or something. I don’t recall exactly.
Christopher Arc…: Do you know how his pants came down?
John Colangelo: I don’t recall exactly.
Christopher Arc…: Do you recall where he was positioned in the bathroom?
John Colangelo: No, I don’t recall.
Christopher Arc…: You don’t recall? You didn’t ask those questions?
John Colangelo: I don’t know. I don’t recall, so I don’t recall if I asked him or not.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo didn’t ask those questions during his hour long interview with Calvin and when Calvin later calls to say that he failed a private polygraph, there’s also no follow-up.
Christopher Arc…: Did you ever ask to get the results of that first polygraph?
John Colangelo: No, I didn’t.
Christopher Arc…: Why not?
John Colangelo: Because they’re not admissible in court. Because I know he’s going to say no and you’re not going to get it on a search warrant because it’s not evidence of a crime seeing that it’s not admissible in court.
Christopher Arc…: Well, again, does it necessarily have to be admissible in court for you to use it for impeachment purposes or evidentiary purposes or leads to follow-up on?
Rachel de Leon: I wanted to talk to Colangelo myself. I called, texted, emailed. Finally, his attorney responded. She’d advised that he not talk to me but said he acted appropriately at all times. I also tried to reach Officer Gompper, the first officer Nicole spoke with, but he never responded. In the internal affairs interview, Colangelo gets increasingly defiant with the chief.
John Colangelo: You see this investigation you’re doing, you’re trying to fit me into a theory that you have. I don’t. I sit back and I let people tell me what happened and that’s the truth. Is Calvin Nodine a crass individual? He is. There’s no question about it. He’s not very likable in my opinion, but I’m sure some people do like him. Certainly if there was a probable cause for an arrest for Calvin or I developed it, he would’ve been arrested. Calvin Nodine is not my friend and I’m not doing him any favors. I’m following what the truth is.
Rachel de Leon: The irony is that Colangelo’s quest for the truth is a win for Calvin, but it’s Nicole who thanks Colangelo during her interview with him at the police station.
Nicole Chase: Thank you for being here for me, but also thank you for making me be able to come out and say it to somebody what really happened.
Rachel de Leon: This was a breakthrough moment for Nicole. She felt like she had finally admitted the full extent of her sexual assault. Months would pass after that interview and there would be no further action by the police except to write up her arrest warrant. If I had only knew what he had been doing I would’ve never thanked him for that, I would’ve never told him. In a court deposition, Nicole shared that she will never report a crime to the Canton Police Department again and many others share her distrust of police. According to research, 70% of sexual assault crimes go unreported and the fear of not being believed is one of the many reasons why.
Al Letson: In the end, the internal affairs investigation found that Detective Colangelo should have told prosecutors Nicole tried to revise her statement. It also dinged him for letting Nicole believe she was a victim when a warrant was already out for her arrest. Colangelo was suspended for three days without pay. Then he turned around and sued the town claiming he’d been scapegoated in a “sham Internal Affairs investigation” to appease the Me Too movement for political gain, the judge dismissed the case. Still the Internal Affairs investigation did uphold Colangelo’s decision to arrest Nicole and it claims that the Connecticut State Police reviewed the case too and found Colangelo was also justified in not arresting Calvin.
Allen Bisan: That’s absolutely false.
Rachel de Leon: Wow. Okay.
Al Letson: We find out what one state investigator really thought about the case, next on Reveal. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. We’ve been talking about Nicole Chase who reported an alleged sex crime to the Canton Police Department, then she was arrested. The charges against Nicole were eventually dropped and the police department conducted an internal investigation and found Nicole’s arrest was justified, but officers did make some mistakes so the department made changes like a supervisor must now be alerted before a victim becomes a suspect. But what about Nicole’s accusations against Calvin Nodine? Should he have been arrested? That question got kicked to the state police to answer so Reveal’s Rachel de Leon followed up with them.
Rachel de Leon: Inside a report from Canton Police Chief Christopher Arciero’s Internal Affairs investigation is a line. It says, Connecticut State Police reviewed Nicole’s case and found no probable cause to arrest Calvin. I wanted to read this review to understand their logic, so I asked the state police for it and their legal department said they never conducted an investigation into the matter and didn’t make any official determinations, but I knew a state police sergeant was at least assigned to look at the case. I saw his name, Sergeant Allen Bisan in an email, so I called him.
Allen Bisan: I never said there was no finding of probable cause to pursue charges. I never said that. That’s absolutely false.
Rachel de Leon: Wow. Okay. Allen Bisan worked for the state police for about 25 years. He retired in good standing in 2022 and he remembers being given Nicole’s case to review it stuck with him all these years.
Allen Bisan: I felt that she had a case against that guy and why he didn’t get arrested is beyond me. I think this girl got victimized twice.
Rachel de Leon: This was Allen’s own personal view and he didn’t speak up at the time. Today, he regrets not bringing his concerns to the attention of state prosecutors. Instead, he says he recommended his department not get involved any further.
Allen Bisan: It just didn’t smell right for me and that’s not the way I would’ve handled it.
Rachel de Leon: But Chief Arciero maintains that the state police found there was no probable cause to arrest Calvin. That’s based on a voicemail from Allen’s boss who tells the Chief he’s supportive of the Canton Officer’s investigation, and some emails. In one email from April 2018, Chief Arciero summarizes a phone call between himself and Allen. It says, and I’m paraphrasing, “Your office found no probable cause to arrest Calvin, and had no issues with my detective’s investigation or interviews.” Then the chief writes, “If I missed or misconstrued anything let me know.” But Allen never writes back. He says he doesn’t remember getting this email. Nearly two months later, Arciero reaches out again to ask whether there will be a written summary of state police findings. This time Allen responds and says, “There shall be no written summary for findings on this case.” He’d been talking to his legal department about his concerns.
Allen Bisan: I told him that there was definitely some malfeasance on this investigation and that if we pursue this or write anything with this we’ll be involved in a lawsuit because the procedure that they utilized was definitely wrong. I didn’t see it as a correct way to do an investigation.
Rachel de Leon: Alan was afraid Nicole was going to sue and he was right. Nicole starts with her boss, Calvin Nodine. Her lawsuit against Calvin and Nodine’s Smokehouse alleges that Calvin sexually assaulted Nicole and caused her emotional distress. Calvin denies any wrongdoing. He and the business eventually settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. Next, Nicole sues the town of Canton and the police. Officer Gompper and Detective Colangelo are named in the suit.
Lewis Chimes: I think the police misconduct here was egregious.
Rachel de Leon: That’s Lew Chimes, Nicole’s lawyer. The lawsuit alleges there was no basis for her arrest and that the officers acted with malice and deliberate disregard for her rights.
Lewis Chimes: But there was a second claim that the treatment of Nicole was motivated by bias on the count of her gender.
Rachel de Leon: The town and the officers fight back in a legal battle that will drag on for years. They claim Nicole knew the story she told police wasn’t true but she signed a sworn written statement anyway. So, the officers could legally arrest her. Lawyers for the town also argue that police didn’t discriminate against Nicole and in fact showed compassion. They say Colangelo assured her that just because her story had changed didn’t mean he wasn’t listening. They asked the court to stop the case from going to trial. The town’s request lands on the desk of Judge Vanessa L. Bryant. She was appointed by President George W. Bush and had been active in Republican politics. Here she is at her confirmation hearing.
Judge Vanessa L…: I listen actively and attentively. I decide fairly and decisively and efficiently.
Rachel de Leon: Judge Bryant issues a meticulous 51-page decision. It points out the sloppy police work that led to Nicole’s arrest, including failing to update the arrest warrant with Nicole’s latest statement. Had a judge or prosecutor known she tried to reach Colangelo several times and amend her statement, she might never have been arrested. Then the judge addresses the gender bias claim. She says, “A reasonable jury might think that Colangelo believing Calvin’s story and then suggesting Nicole fabricated hers for financial gain is a sign that he was citing with the man in this case”. But to Lew, the most important thing the judge writes is this. “The alleged false statement was an omission of a completed sex act that plaintiff was not under any duty to disclose.”
Lewis Chimes: A victim has no duty to make an affirmative statement.
Rachel de Leon: In other words, a victim is not obligated to tell the police their full story and an omission is not a lie, contrary to what police claimed.
Lewis Chimes: That was a recognition that sexual assault survivors are often reluctant to come forward, if at all and may come forward in piecemeal and we don’t want to penalize them for that.
Rachel de Leon: All these issues the judge is pointing out weared down the town’s main argument that Colangelo and Gompper should be given qualified immunity. It’s a common defense in cases of police misconduct. The idea behind it is that police officers need some level of protection from lawsuits so that they can make difficult decisions in the line of duty without hesitating. It’s a thick protective shield and the only way to pierce it is to prove that a police officer is plainly incompetent or knowingly violated a law and in Nicole’s case, Judge Bryant writes that a jury could reasonably find both to be true. Judge Bryant is especially critical of the officer’s decision to switch the case on a sexual assault victim who is visibly upset. She says a jury could find the officer’s conduct beyond all possible bounds of decency. The judge decides the case should go to trial, but the town and officers keep trying to prevent that so they appeal to the next highest court their arguments before the judges stream online.
Speaker 16: The next case is Chase v. Town of Canton.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole tunes in.
Nicole Chase: I was listening to it the whole day and I was really sad. I was really scared.
Rachel de Leon: An attorney for the officers tells the judges that Nicole intentionally lied and misled them, but the judges pushed back and one of them says even if it was true, should she be arrested?
Speaker 17: Why would a reasonable police officer arrest her in these circumstances? Does it make any sense to arrest her?
Rachel de Leon: The lawyer responds and says, “Yes because it’s a crime”. Then the issue with a sloppy warrant comes up again. It’s hard to hear, but Lew tells the judges that the warrant contains a major lie.
Lewis Chimes: … A polygraph and then lie about the polygraph in the warrant.
Speaker 18: I’m sorry. They lied about the polygraph and the warrant?
Lewis Chimes: Yes.
Rachel de Leon: Nicole’s arrest warrant refers to the fact that Nodine took two polygraph tests, but that’s not true.
Speaker 18: Now that I think could quite reasonably be read to be misleading a judge, I can tell you if I were submitted an affidavit like this, I’d be pretty angry and I’d think, wait a minute, you led me to believe there were two polygraphs.
Rachel de Leon: Colangelo’s bluff has made it into Nicole’s arrest warrant and there’s more. That one polygraph Calvin took, he failed it and the warrant leaves that out.
Speaker 18: Well, if they thought that Nodine had failed a polygraph, they might think that there was a sexual assault and therefore she was telling the truth.
Rachel de Leon: The judges affirmed the lower court’s decision to go to trial. Nicole feels vindicated.
Nicole Chase: It just meant a lot because that’s a big court to just dismiss something and it meant the world to me that they were on my side and not their side.
Rachel de Leon: But the town and the officers won’t let it go and appeal all the way to the US Supreme Court. But before it’s time for the court to review the case, the town settles with Nicole for $800,000 and the appeal is withdrawn from the Supreme Court. By this time, both Colangelo and Gompper have left the Canton Police Department. Colangelo is a security director for a local organization and Gompper is a police dispatcher at a town nearby. To memorialize Nicole’s victory, Lew frames the letter he got from the Supreme Court dismissing the case and gives it to Nicole.
Nicole Chase: Thank you. Yeah, that means a lot.
Rachel de Leon: It’s framed in black and gold and the document is stamped with the US Supreme Court Seal and Eagle. Nicole reads it aloud.
Nicole Chase: The foregoing joint stipulation of dismissal of the petition for… I want to say right.
Lewis Chimes: Writ of [inaudible 00:48:00].
Nicole Chase: Writ of what?
Lewis Chimes: Certiorari.
Nicole Chase: Yep. That having been received-
Rachel de Leon: All sounds kind of administrative, but for Nicole, this document represents the end of a painful chapter in her life. Even after this happy ending, settling with Calvin and the town, Nicole is still divided about whether there was justice in her case.
Nicole Chase: I feel like at the end of the day that a person if they do it is somebody should end up behind bars, something that makes them not want to do it again or hurt somebody ever again. I don’t know.
Rachel de Leon: Calvin was never charged in this case. Nodine’s restaurant is long gone, but their meat processing plant is up and running. Calvin still works in the family business.
Al Letson: That was Reveal’s Rachel de Leon. Our story was produced by Katharine Mieszkowski. Rae’s been investigating cases like this one across the country. Don’t miss Rae’s reporting on and watch her documentary, Victim/Suspect now streaming on Netflix. Later this month, Connecticut legislators will screen our documentary at the state capitol. Lawmakers invited Nicole to come and share her experiences. Our lead producer for this week’s show is Katharine Mieszkowski. She had help from Kathryn Styer Martinez, Cynthia Rodriguez edited the show. Additional Editing by Reveal’s Kate Howard, and special thanks to Amanda Pike. Nikki Frick and Kim Freda are our fact checkers. Sarah Cohen was our data consultant.
We had research help from Betty Marquez, Skyler Glover, Vanessa Ochavillo and Elena Neale-Sacks. Victoria Baranetsky is our general counsel. Our production manager is Steven Rascon. Original score and sound designed by the dynamic duo, Jay Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs and Fernando, My man, Arruda. Our CEO is Robert Rosenthal. Our COO is Maria Feldman. Our interim executive producers are Brett Myers and Taki Telonidis. Our theme music is by by Kamarado, Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by the Ford Foundation, the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Park Foundation, and the Hellman Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson. And remember, there is always more to the story.