Utica Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violation Felony
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Matthew Felitto, age 37, of Utica, New York, pled guilty today to violating the constitutionally protected right of an arrestee to be free from excessive force by a law enforcement officer. The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
As part of his guilty plea today, Felitto admitted that on September 4, 2020, while working as a police officer for the Utica Police Department, he arrived on the scene of an arrest to assist in transporting the arrested individual to the station. The arrestee was handcuffed behind his back and in leg shackles when Felitto arrived, because the arrestee had been refusing to comply with the commands of other officers already on-scene. Felitto helped those officers place the arrestee in the back of a police van. Once the arrestee was lying on the floor of the van face up and restrained, Felitto kicked him several times in the face and upper chest while wearing work boots. The kicks were without legal justification and were made with sufficient force to cause the arrestee pain and a bruised/swollen lip.
Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, Felitto was required to, and did, resign from the Utica Police Department effective immediately. Sentencing is scheduled for May 25, 2022. If the Court accepts the parties’ plea agreement, the defendant will receive a sentence of probation for a term and under conditions set by the Court, and a fine of $7,500. As a felon, Felitto will also be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.
“My office is committed to holding police officers accountable when they violate the constitutional rights of the citizens they are sworn to serve, even those under arrest,” said United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman. “Police officers routinely respond to high-stress and high-stakes situations, and they regularly handle those responsibilities with professionalism and poise, but when an officer uses excessive force and violates the civil rights of others, we will pursue those cases aggressively.”
“Law enforcement officers are given incredible power to enforce the law and ensure justice. The privilege of wearing a badge does not come with the authority to violate the Constitution or the rights of the very people they have taken an oath to protect. The FBI will continue to work with our partners to hold accountable law enforcement officers who break the law and tarnish the reputation of the many dedicated, honest, and hard-working officers who serve their communities every day,” said Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
This case was investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Gadarian and Michael F. Perry with the assistance of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.