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Man beaten by Buffalo officer in April faces new drug-possession charges

John T. Willet, whose April beating by a Buffalo police officer was recorded on a bystander’s cellphone camera, has been arrested again on drug-possession charges.

Willet, 22, and a companion were found to be in possession of crack cocaine at a residence on West Lane in the Shaffer Village apartment complex off the 400 block of Ontario Street in Riverside last Thursday, according to police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge.

Damien Hicks-Bailey, 21, also had a crack cocaine pipe on him when he and Willet were taken to Buffalo Police Central Booking for processing, according to Northwest District police.

They also were charged with criminal trespass at the public housing project.

The arrests occurred without incident, police said.

On the night of April 19, then-Officer John A. Cirulli of the Northwest District was recorded on a cellphone video striking the already handcuffed Willet while he was lying facedown on the sidewalk at Philadelphia and Ontario streets.

Cirulli later resigned from the police force and pleaded guilty to two federal misdemeanor charges in connection with the assault. Last month, he was spared a possible prison term up to two years and was sentenced to one year of probation by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

Attorney Phillip Dabney Jr., who is representing Willet, said the new charges are unfounded.

“They were at a person’s apartment playing video games, and the woman who lives there was unhappy to see so many individuals were at her home when she’d only given permission for one to be there,” Dabney said. “So she left and called the police, and, it is my understanding, one of the individuals had some paraphernalia.”

Although his client ended up being arrested, the lawyer said, the drug paraphernalia did not belong to Willet.

“Nor was he aware of it. It was found in a separate part of the apartment, and everyone was arrested because the individual who owned it would not admit to ownership,” Dabney said.

Willet, who was released on bail, is scheduled to return to City Court in the near future when Dabney says he will request that the charges be dropped.

“We will accept nothing less than a disposition resulting in no guilt,” the lawyer said.

Hicks-Bailey remained in custody in the Erie County Holding Center.

There were other legal ramifications from the April incident.

Willet was sentenced last summer to up to six months in jail after pleading to a reduced charge of misdemeanor drug possession and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

He also is suing the city and the Police Department for $500,000 in the police-brutality incident. Dabney is representing him in the civil suit.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com