For Immediate Release
December 10, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
District of Rhode Island
Contact: (401) 709-5000
Woonsocket Police Officer Charged with Civil Rights Abuse in Alleged Beating of Juvenile
A federal grand jury in Providence has returned an indictment charging John H. Douglas, a Woonsocket Police officer, with violating the civil rights of a juvenile in his custody by assaulting him, and with obstructing justice. United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s regional field office, jointly announced a two-count indictment, which the grand jury returned yesterday, but which was placed under seal until Douglas’ arrest today. The indictment charges Douglas, 34, of Blackstone, Massachusetts, with depriving the 16-year-old victim of his right under the Constitution to be free from the use of unreasonable force by someone acting “under color of law.” It alleges that, on September 15, Douglas did “punch, strike, and otherwise assault” the victim, resulting in bodily injury.
The second count of the indictment alleges that Douglas obstructed justice when he allegedly tried to persuade other Woonsocket officers to provide false information to FBI agents who were investigating the matter. FBI agents, assisted by Woonsocket Police, arrested Douglas today. He was arraigned before Magistrate Judge David L. Martin in U.S. District Court, Providence, pleaded not guilty, and was released on bond pending further proceedings. An indictment is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. In the event of a conviction, the maximum penalty for the civil rights allegation would be ten years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for obstruction of justice would be 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Special Agent in Charge Bamford thanked Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Carey for his department’s cooperation in the investigation. The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. McAdams and Terrence P. Donnelly, and Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro of Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.