An officer from New York has been indicted by a grand jury on assault charges in connection with a scuffle inside the city lockup. Buffalo Police Officer Joseph Hassett, 32, is facing charges of third-degree assault, official misconduct, offering a false instrument for filing and making a punishable false written statement.
Authorities are alleging that Hassett beat up a drug suspect on March 18. According to investigators, the beat down was captured on camera. The suspect suffered a head injury and a cut to the forehead that required stitches. He was taken to the Erie County Medical Center for treatment.
Both the Buffalo Police Department (BPD) and the DA’s office claimed no knowledge of the beating until video of the surfaced. The victim’s attorney requested the video footage of the March 18th confrontation putting the incident on the police department and DA’s office’s radar.
BPD opened an internal investigation into the video after being notified by the DA’s office. District Attorney John Flynn viewed the tape and then asked the BPD to investigate. Hassett was officially suspended March 30th pending the outcome of the investigation. Hassett is on a 30-day suspension without pay and will remain on suspension pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. He can not leave the state of New York while the investigation is ongoing.
The prosecution has declined to release the video claiming that the release would taint the investigation. They also declined to comment on what is shown in the video. According to the DA’s office and BPD however, Hassett lied in his arrest report.
Hassett’s attorney, Timothy W. Hoover, said in a statement:
“Joe Hassett is a decorated Buffalo Police Officer who serves the City of Buffalo and its citizens proudly and with honor. He is innocent, because he did nothing wrong, his limited use of force was entirely justified, and he did not falsify anything. We firmly and respectfully believe that wherever and whenever his trial takes place, he will be acquitted of all charges.”
“We asked for a speedy trial, which was set to begin in Buffalo City Court on November 30. There had been months of litigation, the expenditure of extensive judicial resources on the case, and extensive preparation by Officer Hassett for trial. Forty-eight hours before the trial started, without any advance notice to Judge Fiorella or Officer Hassett, and without providing Officer Hassett the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, the District Attorney’s Office obtained an indictment on the same exact misdemeanor charges.”
“The same charges were filed three months ago. We are not aware of any instance where a misdemeanor indictment mechanism was used two days before trial, to prevent the trial from going forward. It is unusual if not unprecedented.”
“The District Attorney’s Office had the option to re-file the official misconduct charge before Judge Fiorella, so that the trial could promptly proceed before him on Thursday. It declined to do so.”
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