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A Chelsea police officer was arraigned earlier today on criminal charges after a video surfaced that allegedly shows him beating a handcuffed man during a Sept. 26, 2014, incident. Police officer Felix Rivera, Jr., 34, is facing charges of assault and battery, filing a false police report, and violating a man's civil rights.
According to a joint press release issued by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office and Chelsea Police Department:
Based on Rivera’s report, the victim – then 20 and a resident of Chelsea – was arraigned in Chelsea District Court on charges of assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. In March of this year, however, the victim’s attorney provided Suffolk prosecutors with a video clip filmed by an unknown witness showing the incident and argued that the charges against the victim were unfounded.
The ensuing investigation by Assistant District Attorney Michele Granda of the DA’s Special Prosecutions Unit and Chelsea Police Internal Affairs detectives developed significant evidence, including the statements of other officers, that corroborated the victim’s claims. As a result, prosecutors terminated the pending case against the victim and began presenting evidence and testimony to the Suffolk County Grand Jury.
The investigation revealed that multiple Chelsea Police units responded to the rear of 155 Chestnut St. that night for a report of a man with a gun. Among those present at the scene was the victim, whom a supervising officer found to be intoxicated and interfering with the investigation. This supervisor directed other officers to place him into protective custody and remove him from the area.
As the handcuffed victim was being escorted away, Rivera allegedly struck him four times in the face, knocking him to the ground. Another officer reached out to stop him. This officer denied the allegation in Rivera’s report that the victim had pushed him while being led from the scene.
Rivera has been suspended without pay from his job and is currently being represented by attorney Keith Nicholson.
The district attorney's office has not released the video yet, but we have filed a public records request for it.
While it's good news that this officer was charged if the allegations are true, this case still raises a number of troubling questions.
If other officers had witnessed this beating and saw that it was unjustified, as the press release claims, then Rivera should have been arrested on the spot and no charges should have been filed against the victim.
Instead, the victim was charged and the district attorney's office seems to have had every intention of prosecuting him based solely on the word of Rivera. Charges against the victim were not dropped until about five months after the incident occurred and not until a video contradicting the officer's statements was released.
Perhaps instead of blindly trusting police officers who claim to be victims of assault, prosecutors should begin insisting on being provided with actual evidence before filing criminal charges.
Rivera was previously awarded a Medal of Valor for his role in stopping an armed home invasion, showing that faith alone isn't enough even for seemingly heroic police officers.
It remains to be seen whether the district attorney's office will re-open every other case this Rivera has been involved in, given that they have established that he is a liar.
It's not clear if any of the other officers who were involved in the incident are facing any potential consequences for not immediately reporting the beating or arresting the perpetrator.
A man survived a harrowing experience with an off-duty, plainclothes Medford police detective on Sunday after driving the wrong way through a rotary, then being threatened with death during a subsequent traffic stop.
In a dashcam video recorded by the motorist, who Boston.com has identified only as "Mike," Medford police detective Stephen Lebert is seen stepping out of an unmarked, red pickup truck while wearing a white, sleeveless shirt and shorts. Lebert begins reaching behind his back while approaching the car menacingly.
Mike puts his car in reverse and begins driving away, but stops as it becomes clear that Lebert was reaching for a police badge, not a weapon.
"I'll put a hole right through your fucking head," Lebert screams as he approaches the vehicle.
“I didn't know you were a cop,” Mike replies.
“I'll put a hole right through your head,” Lebert again threatens.
Mike pulls into a parking space and Lebert approaches him again and begins yelling and swearing at him.
"You're lucky I'm a cop 'cause I'd be beating the fucking piss out of you right now," Lebert threatens.
Mike mentions that he was recording the traffic stop with a dashcam and Lebert responds by threatening to take the camera, which is generally illegal for police to do without a warrant, although he didn't end up following through with the threat.
Mike explains that he told Lebert he was recording because he's required to do so by Massachusetts state law. Boston.com further explains that "Massachusetts is a 'two-party consent' state, which means it’s illegal to record audio without the knowledge and permission of the person being recorded." However, this information is false. According to the 2001 Hyde ruling, it's only necessary to keep an audio recording device in "plain sight" to avoid violating the wiretapping law and no consent is required. Furthermore, the 2011 Glik ruling, which found that records police and other public officials is protected by the First Amendment, has left it ambiguous as to whether the Massachusetts law is constitutional.
Later, another police officer shows up. Mike tried to explain how Lebert threatened him, but the officer shows no concern at all and instead begins grilling the driver about allegedly not having the correct address on his license.
After Mike was issued a citation, the police officer begins to walk away until the driver asks to speak with him again. Mike again explains how Lebert had threatened him, but the officer continues to show no concern at all. Rather than advising the driver of how to make a complaint against Lebert, he instead suggests appealing the ticket. He then said, “The longer you stay here, the more trouble you're just gonna get into.”
Lebert was placed on paid administrative leave Monday morning after Mike uploaded his dashcam video to YouTube.
“He’s a 30-year member of the department and works in our detective division,” Medford Police Chief Leo Sacco Medford Police Chief Leo Sacco told Boston.com. “He’s a very effective police officer but last night’s incident that’s on video, at least that portion of the video that I saw, is troubling to say the least.”
Here is the full description of the video that Mike posted on YouTube:
Driving home today I got lost and made a wrong turn. In an unfamiliar area I drove slowly but made the mistake of not seeing a poorly marked rotary. I stopped midway through it when I realized I screwed up and fortunately there were no close calls or potential accidents. Only a single oncoming car (not the medford cop/detective in the video, he was on the other side) that had fully stopped before the rotary seeing my stupid mistake. After I stopped and realized it was too late I just continued out of the way and back onto the correct road in front of me. This man starts tailgating me and puts his high beams on in his Red Chevy Silverado pick up truck. He then yells how I'm an asshole and that he is going to hurt me, and well the rest is in the video.
The date is incorrect as my dashcam apparently was set wrong. I very rarely ever need to pull videos off of it over the period of time I've owned it and just didn't notice the date mistake. The time however is right.
I also never gave my address to him, he found it by running my plates/license so him saying I'm not registered is false. I have had that info updated since I moved.
Mike has not yet responded to a request for comment.