A Rhode Island cop who was convicted of a felony after he was caught on video beating a handcuffed man into a coma with a flashlight ended up on probation this week.
Robert DeCarlo will eventually have his records sealed.
But his story will forever be archived on the internet.
The former Providence detective was sentenced Wednesday after a plea deal with the attorney general’s office.
It was a victory for DeCarlo who was initially facing up to 20 years behind bars after a 2011 conviction for felony assault stemming from a 2009 incident in which a surveillance video captured him walking up to a burglary suspect who had already been handcuffed by other officers.
DeCarlo began kicking, punching and bashing the suspect’s head with his flashlight until the man’s body went limp.
Luis Mendoca spent two days in a coma, requiring 12 staples to close the gash in his head.
DeCarlo was suspended without pay until last year when he was allowed to resign, which somehow, allowed him to collect severance pay, not to mention retain his pension.
A jury in 2011 convicted DeCarlo of the felony charge of assault with a dangerous weapon, his flashlight, on Mendonca.
A digital black-and-white video recording of the incident, taken from an infrared night vision camera attached to a nearby house, was the crucial evidence.
But Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. declared a mistrial and threw out the indictment and conviction of DeCarlo. The judge ruled that the prosecutor had engaged in serious misconduct by saying impermissible things in her closing argument, such as references to information not admitted as trial evidence.
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court. In an unannounced settlement negotiated with DeCarlo, on Nov. 7, 2014, Kilmartin withdrew the appeal in return for DeCarlo’s guilty plea to simple assault. Superior Court Judge Pamela Woodcock Pfeiffer sentenced DeCarlo to a one-year prison term, suspended with probation.
In the trial, DeCarlo had been acquitted of a second count — simple assault — that accused him of kicking the suspect.
“The goal always was to get him fully exonerated from a felony conviction,” said Peter A. DiBiase, DeCarlo’s lawyer.
DeCarlo quietly ended a 191/2 year career on the police force when he resigned from his $67,600-a-year job effective Nov. 30, 2013, in a separate agreement with the Police Department. At that time, he had been on an unpaid suspension from duty since Feb. 22, 2010.
He was given severance pay and the city agreed not to interfere with his drawing a pension when he reaches the necessary age. The department also agreed to indemnify him in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by Mendonca. The pending suit names DeCarlo and the city as defendants, among others.
Indemnification means that the city will defend DeCarlo as well as itself and that if a court awards financial damages against him, the city will pay them, according to Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré. The city’s labor contract with the police union provides for the indemnification of officers sued for misconduct.
Below is a news clip from 2011 explaining more about the judge’s decision to order a mistrial after his felony conviction. The video of the incident is also included in the clip.