Buffalo Police Officer Involved in Videotaped Beating Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Charges
BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that John Cirulli, of Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty to two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000.
“We must all recognize that police officers are confronted with difficult and occasionally perilous situations every day on the job,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Such instances include attempting to arrest one who is suspected of criminal activity. That being said, once a suspect no longer poses a danger and is in custody, an officer may not use excessive or unreasonable force, to include striking and kicking a prone, handcuffed suspect. In this case, the defendant not only engaged in such improper conduct, he attempted to seize potential evidence.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trini E. Ross and Jack Rogowski, who are handling the case, stated that on April 19, 2014, the defendant was employed as a police officer with the Buffalo Police Department. Between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. on April 19, 2014, the defendant and his partner pulled their unmarked police car up to a vehicle being driven by the victim and told him that he was speeding. The victim got out of his car and fled, and a foot chased ensued.
After catching up to the victim, the defendant and another officer took the victim to the ground. At one point while the victim was on the ground, Cirulli placed his knee on the victim’s upper back area.
Once the victim was handcuffed by officers and under control, the defendant struck the suspect in the head with his hand, struck the suspect in his body with his boot, and struck the suspect again in the head area with his hand. The suspect was then placed in the back seat of a Buffalo Police vehicle, where the defendant struck the suspect yet again in the face.
A person in the neighborhood happened to record on his cell phone some of the contact between the suspect and the police, including the portion of the contact where the defendant struck the victim while he was already secured and in handcuffs. After the defendant was told about the recording by another officer, Cirulli approached the witness and took what he thought was the witness’s cell phone. In fact, the phone the witness gave to the defendant actually belonged to a friend. After determining that the cell phone did not have any recording of the assault incident on it, the defendant returned the phone to the witness.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of special agents of Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
Sentencing is scheduled for September 24, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Skretny.