A Buffalo cop facing two years in prison for kicking a man in handcuffs in an incident captured on video was handed probation today on the condition that he will serve as a role model for other officers inclined to beat citizens.
John Cirulli also threatened to arrest the man who had video recorded the incident if he did not delete the footage, but that tidbit apparently wasn’t part of the charges the 31-year-old was facing.
Cirulli, who resigned from the force shortly after video of the April incident went viral, admitted he took the man’s phone, checked it for a recording and handed it back when he found nothing.
But that was only because the man who recorded the incident handed the cop a different phone that did not contain the recording, fooling the cop into thinking he had deleted the footage.
Thanks to that experience, Cirulli is now an authority on the “dangers of civil rights violations” and is working with the FBI in providing training sessions to other cops on what not to do.
Evidently, this is something that is not addressed in the police academy.
According to The Buffalo News:
Prosecutors asked Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to give Cirulli two years in prison, but the judge opted instead for a year of probation.
U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. stopped short of questioning the judge’s sentence but made it clear his office wanted a more severe punishment.
“We asked for two years in this case,” Hochul said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
When asked if the FBI’s relationship with Cirulli hurt his office’s push for a prison sentence, Hochul said no.
“I wouldn’t say the FBI worked against us,” he said.
And yet, Cirulli’s work with the FBI – he has appeared at two law enforcement training sessions – is one of the reasons Skretny gave for sparing Cirulli prison time.
The judge said Cirulli’s work with the feds could go a long way toward curbing what he calls a “culture” of excessive force that seems to exist in some police departments.
“There is a mentality, a culture, that is sometimes worrisome,” Skretny said.
The FBI says it’s relationship with Cirulli should be viewed as a pro-active attempt to reduce civil rights violations.
“The FBI remains committed to investigating allegations of federal civil rights violations as well as engaging in proactive measures to prevent them from occurring,” said Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Buffalo.
Cirulli’s attorney, Rodney O. Personius, tried to justify his client’s behavior by insisting the suspect had “disrespected” the officer by fleeing and for spitting at him, the latter which is a common claim by cops that can rarely ever be proven or disproven, which automatically gives the cops the benefit of the doubt in the legal system.
Furthermore, not only did Cirulli come running up on the scene after the suspect was already facedown and handcuffed, making it impossible for him to spit at him, he never mentioned the alleged spitting in his initial report, according to a Buffalo News article from April.
That Cirulli allegedly sought to have the recording deleted also flies in the face of an excuse he has offered about why he was forceful in subduing Willet on the night of April 19 at the Philadelphia and Ontario streets in the city’s Riverside section.
Cirulli reportedly has said Willet, 22, of Buffalo, spit in his face. But there is no mention of that in the extensive police report narrative that the officer wrote detailing charges that Willet possessed heroin, cocaine and marijuana, in addition to resisting arrest, following a car and foot chase.
While the other officers stopped using force after handcuffing Willet, Cirulli has been identified by police sources as the officer who punched and kicked Willet in the head as he was lying facedown on the ground handcuffed from behind.
In reacting to the latest developments, a second law enforcement source said it seems that Cirulli would have wanted the video preserved, if it is true that Willet spat at him.
“You would think the officer would have said to the man recording the incident, ‘Did you get him spitting at me?’ ” the source said.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda declined to comment on Cirulli’s alleged attempt to have the recording erased, explaining that the investigation remains active.
Personius also insisted his client was the “ultimate family man” whose lifelong dream of wanting to be a cop has come to a tragic end, but we already know Personius is full of shit.
The suspect, John Willet, was arrested on drug charges and has filed a notice of claim for $500,000 against the Buffalo Police Department.
His video was cut short because he put the phone in his pocket and pulled out the decoy, preserving the truth and putting an end to Cirulli’s career.