U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
June 23 , 2010
WOONSOCKET POLICE OFFICER PLEADS GUILTY TO CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
Providence, R.I. – Former Woonsocket Police Officer John H. Douglas pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence to a federal criminal civil rights charge for assaulting a juvenile who was in his custody.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha and the U.S. Justice Department, which was entered before U.S. District Court Chief Mary M. Lisi.
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, repeatedly punched the juvenile. As a consequence of this beating, the juvenile suffered blunt force trauma and bone fractures in the area of his face.
U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha 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.”
“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.”
Douglas faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 10, 2010.
Under the plea agreement, an additional count in the indictment of obstructing justice will be dismissed.
This case was investigated by Special Agent James Pitcavage of the FBI. The case is being jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence P. Donnelly and John P. McAdams and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro of the Civil Rights Division.