WASHINGTON – Former Woonsocket, R.I., Police Officer John H. Douglas pleaded guilty today in federal court in Providence, R.I., to a federal criminal civil rights charge for assaulting a juvenile who was in his custody, the Justice Department announced.
On Sept. 15, 2009, Douglas and two other Woonsocket Police Officers escorted a juvenile in police custody to a small hallway inside the Woonsocket Police Station. Once inside the hallway, Douglas, who was angry at the juvenile because he believed the juvenile had earlier injured a fellow Woonsocket Police Officer, repeatedly punched the juvenile. As a consequence of this beating, the juvenile suffered trauma and bone fractures in his facial area.
"Law enforcement officers who use their badges as an excuse to commit egregious acts of violence are an affront to the rule of law," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute officers who abuse their power in this manner."
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha for the District of Rhode Island commented, "Police officers serve the people of Rhode Island with dedication and distinction every day, often putting their lives on the line to protect others. This case serves as a reminder, however, that no one is above the law, and when a police officer abuses his authority and violates the civil rights of a person he or she is supposed to protect, such conduct will not be tolerated."
Douglas faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 10, 2010.
This case was investigated by Special Agent James Pitcavage of the FBI. The case is being jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence Donnelly and John McAdams, and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro of the Civil Rights Division.