Needham apologizes to Hillel Neuer, “an innocent victim caught up in the events of that day”

The Town of Needham today sent Hillel Neuer a full apology for an incident last November, saying he was “an innocent victim caught up in the events of that day.” See full text below. Click here for PDF.
















Background:  On November 1, 2007, Neuer was invited to Yale University to present the first-ever report on the United Nations and Anti-Semitism. The day after his presentation, Neuer stopped on the way to Boston for a meeting in Needham, Massachusetts, and visited a local restaurant to change clothes. Meanwhile, a murder had just taken place in Needham, the first in 20 years. The town’s school went into lockdown, and thousands were notified of the murder by automated calls by the authorities. Amid the manhunt hysteria, jittery employees at the restaurant called the police and falsely reported that Neuer was carrying a gun, leading the police to take him into custody.

On the next business day, the Norfolk County court fully cleared Neuer and ruled that the police had acted without probable cause. Initial media reports of a “stand-off” were found to be false, and police confirmed that Neuer himself had called 911 twice seeking to exit from the police action that he believed was in pursuit of criminals near the restaurant.

“Mr. Neuer was an innocent victim who went to a restaurant in Needham and was traumatized and almost killed,” said Neuer’s attorney David G. Eisenstadt. On March 31, 2008, the Town of Needham, on behalf of the police, sent Mr. Neuer a full apology, saying he was “an innocent victim caught up in the events of that day.” Following is the full text of the apology.

Text of Apology Letter from Town of Needham: 

March 31, 2008  

The Town of Needham apologizes to you for any emotional trauma, embarrassment or injury that you suffered as a result of being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct on November 2, 2007. You were an innocent victim caught up in the events of that day.

On that day our town was traumatized by a brutal murder and vicious assault upon two members of the Moore family. It was the first murder in out town in almost 20 years. Town officials immediately locked down the town while an intensive manhunt was conducted for the perpetrator.

News of the murder and manhunt spread throughout the community by word of mouth, and by radio and television. Word of the situation was also spread by locked-down students who used their cell-phones to call and text friends and relatives. This included a student with an after school job at Stone Hearth Pizza restaurant, who phoned managers at the restaurant to say that he would be late because of the lockdown.

During this time, town authorities used an automated telephone system to call approximately 12,000 residences and businesses to notify them of the situation. Recipients of the call were advised to secure their doors and windows and to report anything that might be suspicious.

We know that you entered the Stone Hearth Pizza restaurant and purchased some food. You asked for a taxi and then went to the restroom to change into a suit. The restaurant employees saw you come in with a black sports bag and change into different clothes. After you changed your clothing, they called the police to report you as a suspicious person. You had a small travel pack over your shoulder that they also considered suspicious. Also, it was reported that you left the restaurant and went next door to the CVS store. That call was followed by two agitated calls from the same location. In one of the calls, the caller was very excited. She reported that the same person now appeared to have a gun. We now know you were not in possession of a gun.

The police arrived at a highly emotionally charged, chaotic scene. It was reported that one of the restaurant’s employees was unaccounted for and could be in the restaurant with the suspicious person. The police were compelled to treat this as a possible situation where a suspected murderer was holding a hostage.

It now appears that you reacted to seeing a police car pull up in front of the restaurant and a police officer emerge from the car holding a weapon. You went to the floor and took cover to reduce the chance of being injured. You called 911 and requested guidance from the police as to what to do. You were ordered out of the restaurant, arrested, handcuffed and brought to the police station.

No innocent visitor to our town should ever have such a reception. We know that the fact the police were acting reasonably and as needed based on the information they had at that time is little or no consolation to you nor lessens your distress.

We understand that you entered Stone Hearth Pizza unaware of what had happened in Town. At the time all this was happening the only goal of the police and other town officials was to protect the civilians in the area, including you. So much was going on, if the police were to make a mistake, it was necessary to err on the side of public safety. Detaining you was done in that spirit.

The excitement has passed and the adrenalin has reduced. In retrospect, you should not have been charged with disorderly conduct and we apologize for the charge being brought. Your conduct was not disorderly. On a normal day your conduct would have passed without notice. The fact that on November 5, 2007 you were completely exonerated by the Clerk Magistrate and a Judge of the Dedham District Court, who found no probable cause to issue any complaint against you, cannot completely resolve the indignities you suffered. Nonetheless, we hope this letter of apology will soothe the emotional trauma that you experienced as an innocent victim caught up in the events of that day.


Very truly yours,

Kate Fitzpatrick
Town Manager
Town of Needham



See also:

Cuffed man ‘unfortunate victim’, Boston Herald, November 4, 2007

Too suspicious in suburbia, by Joan Vennochi, November 8, 2007

Could the irony get any deeper?

An international human rights activist stops for pizza and ends up under arrest for disorderly conduct.

The arrest of Hillel C. Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, is clearly a case of wrong place, wrong time. But it’s also a case of something more – a tendency toward hysteria and overkill that appears to be a product of the current mood.


Boston Herald, Tuesday, November 6, 2007:

The Boston Herald, under a photo of Neuer with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, reported that “Human rights activist Hillel C. Neuer is more used to chatting with former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, than being arrested at gunpoint.”




























UN Watch