Providence Officer Guilty of Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Coma Beating of Handcuffed Latino Man

From [HERE] PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A jury found a Providence police detective guilty Friday on charges that he struck a handcuffed suspect with a flashlight but acquitted him on a lesser assault charge.

Robert DeCarlo was convicted on one count of assault with a dangerous weapon but was found not guilty on a count of simple assault, said Craig Berke, a spokesman for the Rhode Island judiciary. The jury returned the verdict in Providence Superior Court hours after beginning deliberations Friday morning.

"Today's verdict sends a strong message," Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said. "Excessive force by a police officer against a detained suspect is a breach of the public's trust and will not be tolerated."

DeCarlo remains free on bond pending sentencing. A date has not yet been set. Assault with a dangerous weapon carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors argued that DeCarlo, 46, attacked Luis Mendonca deliberately and out of anger, knocking the 22-year-old unconscious with a flashlight blow to the head. Mendonca had run from police after he was stopped on the night of Oct. 20, 2009, on suspicion of theft and trespassing at the Rhode Island School of Design. He struggled with officers when they caught up to him in a nearby parking lot but was ultimately detained.

A grainy night-vision surveillance video shows DeCarlo walk up to Mendonca and start hitting and kicking him.

DeCarlo's defense attorneys argued that the detective believed, from what he could see and hear in the dark, that Mendonca was still struggling with police and couldn't tell that he was handcuffed. He tried to use approved police techniques to subdue resisting suspects, they said.

"Detective DeCarlo is devastated by the verdict," Peter DiBiase, an attorney for the detective, told The Associated Press. "He was extremely upset that he struck a man in handcuffs, and he's extremely apologetic for that."

He added that "there are many post-trial issues yet to be resolved" but declined to elaborate.

DeCarlo testified that he didn't know he had struck Mendonca in the head, saying he was aiming for his upper back. He also said that he didn't mean for the small flashlight he was holding in his hand to make any contact with Mendonca.

Mendonca's family and lawyer have said the gash left by the flashlight required multiple staples and left him in a coma for two days.

Defense attorneys polled the jurors individually after the foreman read the verdict, receiving confirmation that they each found the detective guilty of using unreasonable and unnecessary force, said Berke, the judiciary spokesman.