WOONSOCKET – A former city police officer will serve a one-year and one-day sentence in federal prison for his beating of a city boy held in custody at the police station on Sept. 15, 2009.
Former Patrolman John H. Douglas was also given six months of home confinement by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi that he will serve as part of two years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.
Douglas was sentenced during an appearance before Judge Lisi Friday morning.
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, who prosecuted Douglas on the criminal charge of violating the youth’s civil rights, said in a statement that “most police officers strive to serve their community every day with dedication and distinction, often making split second decisions that put their lives on the line to protect others.
“But when an officer chooses to abuse his authority and violates the civil rights of a person he or she is supposed to protect, their conduct will not be tolerated and they will be justly punished,” Neronha said.
The assault on the boy, 16 at the time, occurred after he had been arrested following a car chase. The youth was believed to have injured another city police officer during a struggle following the car stop.
Douglas, a department member for five and a half years, pleaded guilty to assaulting the boy after directing another officer to remove his handcuffs as he was led through a small hallway at the station out of the view of department surveillance equipment.
The investigation found Douglas to have repeatedly punched and kneed the boy while he remained in leg shackles, according to Neronha.
The youth suffered blunt force trauma and bone fractures in his face. The assault came to light when the boy was arraigned before now-retired Family Court Chief Justice Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr. Jeremiah asked the youth about his apparent injuries during the appearance and subsequently requested that an investigation be opened.
Special Agent James Pitcavage of the FBI investigated the boy’s allegations that his injuries had occurred at the police station; members of the police department present at the time confirmed his story.
Douglas was arrested on federal charges related to boy’s assault in December of 2009 and resigned from the police force before pleading to the allegations in U.S. District Court, Providence in June.
While submitting his plea, Douglas, represented by Attorney Thomas Briody, apologized for his assault on the boy. Briody has attributed the outburst to an outburst of anger resulting mental health issues the officer was experiencing at the time.
Thomas E. Perez, assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said Monday that while police officers are entrusted with “a great deal of power so that they can carry out their critical public safety duties, those officers who abuse that power and violate the civil rights of individuals in their custody will be held accountable. Also prosecuting the case were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence P. Donnelly and John P. McAdams, and trial attorney Avner Shapiro of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Douglas was ordered to report to federal prison on Jan. 4 to begin serving his sentence.