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Press Release

Patient Convicted of Assaulting VA Medical Center Police Officer

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE – A patient of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Providence was convicted by a federal court jury on Monday of assaulting a VA Medical Center police officer.

Don J. Civitarese, 58, of, North Attleboro, MA, was arrested by VA Medical Center police on March 2, 2018, after assaulting one officer and falling on another during an altercation at the VA Medical Center’s Primary Care Clinic. The jury convicted Civitarese of assaulting and resisting a federal officer.

Civitarese’s conviction is announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman and Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center Police Chief John M. Thibodeau.

According to the government’s evidence presented at trial, Civitarese became extremely angry and verbally abusive, yelling obscenities at the medical center staff, after being told that medication he was requesting would not be dispensed until the completion of protocols for the dispensing of medication. Civitarese continued his loud, obscene ranting in a patient waiting area with other patients present as a doctor attempted to explain the reason for the delay.

A VA Medical Center police officer responded to the clinic and heard the defendant angrily yelling obscenities. Civitarese was stopped by the officer as he stormed out of the clinic into the hallway. While attempting to calm Civitarese, the officer requested that Civitarese show an ID. Civitarese refused and continued to be verbally abusive and disruptive. The officer then announced to Civitarese that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct and directed him to place his hands behind his back. Civitarese ignored the officer’s commands.

After ignoring further commands to get on the ground and to place his hands behind his back, Civitarese then struck the officer in the chest, partially sending the officer back through the exit doors. After ignoring additional warnings, the officer pulled his “pepper spray” canister and commanded the defendant, “Stop resisting and get on the ground or I will spray OC!” Civitarese continued to ignore the officer who discharged a burst of pepper spray across Civitarese’s nose and eyes. A second officer placed Civitarese in an “arm lock” as Civitarese continue to fight to remain on his feet. Civitarese was finally brought down with repeated baton strikes to the thigh and calf areas. When he fell, Civitarese landed on top of the second officer. Two additional officers who responded to the incident were able to gain control of Civitarese’s arm and place handcuffs on the defendant.

Civitarese is scheduled to be sentenced on August 8, 2019, by U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith, who presided over the one-day trial.

Assaulting and resisting a federal officer is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 8 years in federal prison, 3 years supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

The case is bieng prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zechariah Chafee.



Jim Martin
(401) 709-5357

Updated May 21, 2019

Press Release Number: 19-65