Former Buffalo cop pleads guilty to beating handcuffed suspect

May 29, 2014

After quitting his job as a Buffalo cop earlier in the day, John Cirulli pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of misdemeanor civil rights violations for attacking a handcuffed man who had been arrested April 19.

Cirulli admitted kicking John Willet after he and other officers caught Willet after a foot chase and then hitting him again when he was handcuffed and sitting in the back seat of a patrol car. When he is sentenced September 24, Cirulli faces jail time from Chief Federal District Judge William Skretny.

Cirulli's behavior was caught on a cell phone at the scene, as well as on a city surveillance camera and on a nearby store surveillance camera.

The cameras showed various parts of the beatings and the former officer approaching an eyewitness and threatening him unless he erased the images on the cell phone. The eyewitness later told police he had switched cell phones with a friend and told Cirulli he had erased the images from the camera.

“We must all recognize that police officers are confronted with difficult, and occasionally perilous situations every day on the job,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul.

“Such instances include attempting to arrest one who is suspected of criminal activity. That being said, once a suspect no longer poses a danger and is in custody, an officer may not use excessive or unreasonable force –to include striking and kicking a prone, handcuffed suspect. In this case, the defendant not only engaged in such improper conduct, he attempted to seize potential evidence.”        

Each charge against Cirulli carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000.