Officer accused of beating handcuffed suspect intends to plead guilty - The Buffalo News
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Officer accused of beating handcuffed suspect intends to plead guilty

John A. Cirulli, the Buffalo police officer accused of beating a handcuffed suspect, is expected to take a plea deal that will force him to resign from the department.

Cirulli’s defense lawyer said his client will admit some responsibility for the beating during an appearance to be scheduled before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

“He will plead guilty to two misdemeanor civil rights charges,” Rodney O. Personius, Cirulli’s lawyer, said Thursday.

Cirulli’s plea was scheduled for today but was called off so attorneys could work out final details.

The development in the case comes just four weeks after a citizen cellphone videotape of the beating was made public.

The video shows Cirulli, on duty at the time, punching and kicking John T. Willet, 22, after Willet was handcuffed and placed on the ground following an April 19 chase.

A day after the video went viral, Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda placed the six officers at the scene on paid administrative leave. Cirulli was suspended without pay.

The You Tube video also prompted a federal investigation that, by all accounts, led to Cirulli’s decision to take a plea deal.

The video of Willet’s arrest at Philadelphia and Ontario streets in Riverside shows the officer pinning him to the ground. Recorded by a bystander, it also includes sound of Willet screaming, “Officer,” “Please stop” and “Let me go.”

Willet’s lawyer said his client suffered neck injuries in the attack and noted that Willet’s cries for help stopped when Cirulli pinned him to the ground. He said the pressure from Cirulli’s knee on Willet’s neck prevented him from continuing to plead for help.

Police charged Willet with drug possession and resisting arrest after a car and foot chase that night.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the possibility of a plea agreement with Cirulli. But if it happens, it would mark an end to one of the latest brutality cases involving a Buffalo police officer.

About a week ago, another Buffalo cop, Robert E. Eloff, was implicated in a separate incident involving a patron at Molly’s Pub in University Heights. Eloff has not been charged, but he was suspended without pay.

The patron, William C. Sager Jr., 28, suffered a severe brain injury when he was pushed down a flight of stairs in the bar in the early-morning hours of May 11. He is still in a coma.

Jeffrey J. Basil, Molly’s manager, has been charged with felony assault.


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