U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
December 3, 2010
FORMER WOONSOCKET POLICE OFFICER SENTENCED FOR CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Former Woonsocket Police Officer John H. Douglas was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Providence to twelve months and one day in federal prison followed by two years supervised release, the first six months to be served in home confinement, for assaulting a juvenile who was in his custody. Douglas pleaded guilty in June to a federal criminal civil rights charge.
The sentence, which was imposed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi, was announced by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha and the U.S. Justice Department.
On September 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, directed another officer to remove the juvenile’s handcuffs, then repeatedly punched and kneed the juvenile, who remained in leg shackles. As a consequence of this beating, the juvenile suffered blunt force trauma and bone fractures in his facial area.
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “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.”
“Police officers in our nation 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,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
This matter was investigated by Special Agent James Pitcavage of the FBI. The case was jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence P. Donnelly and John P. McAdams and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.