Buffalo Police Officer Involved in Videotaped Beating Sentenced on Civil Right Charges
BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that John Cirulli, of Buffalo, N.Y., who was convicted of two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, was sentenced to 12 months’ probation by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.
“The law provides police officers with a substantial amount of power, including the right to deprive a person of his liberty when that person breaks the law,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “The law is also clear, however, that an officer may not punch and kick a suspect when he is handcuffed, or is seated in the back of a police car, and the suspect poses no danger to anyone. By engaging in that precise conduct in this case, former Officer Cirulli crossed the line from being a police officer to a criminal defendant.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trini E. Ross and Jack Rogowski, who handled 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, 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 cellular telephone 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 cellular telephone. In fact, the telephone the witness gave to the defendant actually belonged to a friend. After determining that the cellular telephone did not have any recording of the assault incident on it, the defendant returned the telephone to the witness.
U.S. Attorney Hochul further stated “This office will not hesitate to act when civil rights allegations are brought to our attention. The public should also understand, however, that the actions of Cirulli do not in any way reflect upon the fine men and women of the Buffalo Police Department or of any other police agency, who day in and out work within the Constitution and law to protect and serve all of us.”
The sentencing 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.