The old informant bugaboo rears its ugly head. This time we learn about it in a Boston Globe story by Maria Cramer.
A Somerville police detective Dante DiFronzo had this informant named Jonathan Machodo who apparently provided him with information on drug dealers in Somerville. We are not informed of the background of Machodo. This information would be nice to know. If Machodo is known to be a violent guy then that may be considered but it is not crucial.
DiFronzo is in trouble with his department. He allegedly was looking to talk to a guy who is not named so I’ll call him Mystery Man (MM). Detective DiFronzo wanted to see what MM knew about a home invasion.
Machodo was also looking for MM. He believed MM had stolen some marijuana from him.
DiFronzo apparently learned where MM was living. For some reason he doesn’t go to talk to him as he said he wanted to do. Instead, he allegedly tells Machado where MM is living.
He texts to him: “Do what you got to do. He’s with his girlfriend.” The following day after DiFronzo told Machado that, according to a police report, he and an accomplice allegedly stormed into the house at the address provided by DiFronzo on Alston Street. They were armed with machetes., Machado, held a knife to the head of a man and threatened to kill him if he moved. Machado’s accomplice turned to MM and screamed “Where’s everything at?” as he stabbed him in the torso and shoulder. He was stabbed eight times and left bleeding in his living room. In another room a 1-year-old girl and her father hid.
I guess Machodo followed the detectives advise and did what he had to do. DiFronzo’s lawyer tells us the day of the armed invasion back in 2015 (the case is apparently still pending) his client called Machodo and said don’t do anything violent of which there is no independent record.
DiFronzo did not disclosed that he provided Machodo aid in locating MM. That was discovered sometime later by the State Police.
The City of Somerville is trying to fire DiFronzo for this action. It is an affront to these official that a police detective would do what DiFronzo did. Police Chief David R. Fallon said, “It’s exactly what a police officer shouldn’t do. You don’t involve yourself in that type of situation where it could lead to putting a citizen of Somerville in danger.” Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said, “It was conduct that could shock the conscience of people. Someone almost died.”
It does seem that because Detective DiFronzo provided Machado the address of MM that a murder almost occurred. Also, you could rightly suggest DiFronzo put the life of a citizen of Somerville in danger. And, in my opinion, it is likely if DiFronzo is as skillful a street detective as we are led to believe knew that providing the address may result in MM having an unpleasant experience. I’m sure he knew Machodo was not going to have an afternoon tea with MM. However that is not to say he knew a stabbing would take place.
The big missing piece in this case, the same as the big missing piece in the FBI’s Top Echelon Informant program down to every police/informant issue, is that a police officer’s relationship with an informant does not exist in an ethereal environment. It is not a one way street.
Informants do not give information to the police out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect something in return be it money, putting competitors out of business, protection, help in their cases, or information. Many police officer informant relationships require the police officer developing a friendship with the informant and a trust in the person.
Detective DiFronzo’s relationship with Machodo seemed to revolve around an exchange of information. We don’t know about how long he had been dealing with him, to what extent their relationship had become more than arms length, or even whether Machodo gave DiFronzo information that may have saved other lives.
We do know DiFronzo has been decorated. He has been twice honored as the city’s police officer of the year. The idea that his job would be in jeopardy for having given his informant MM’s location is plainly wrong. If we are going accept the idea that police officers deal with informants then we must trust their discretion. They should not be second guessed unless there is outright and clear corruption. There is none here.
It is hoped the officials in Somerville and the chief of police see the errors of their way. They cannot put police officers in the position of using informants and if something goes wrong second guessing their decisions. They should either trust their officers or prohibit them from dealing with informants.