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Worcester officer faces assault charges

Prisoner beaten while shackled in cell, police say

Veteran police officer Michael Motyka was in Worcester District Court for arraignment Friday on assault and battery charges involving a handcuffed prisoner in December.
Veteran police officer Michael Motyka was in Worcester District Court for arraignment Friday on assault and battery charges involving a handcuffed prisoner in December.Paul Kapteyn/Telegram & Gazette/AP

WORCESTER— Sworn to uphold the law, Michael J. Motyka found himself standing before a judge on Friday accused of breaking it.

The 50-year-old Worcester police officer, a 17-year veteran of the department, was arrested Thursday and charged with assaulting a handcuffed prisoner in the cell room at police headquarters on Dec. 1 after making a racist comment to the victim, who is black.

Motyka, of Leicester, was arraigned Friday in Worcester District Court on charges of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot), and assault and battery to intimidate because of a person’s race. Judge Paul F. LoConto had not-guilty pleas entered on the officer’s behalf, released him on personal recognizance, and continued his case to June 2.

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As conditions of his release, Motyka was ordered to have no contact with the victim, who is identified in court records as Gerald Jones, and to surrender his firearm identification card and firearms to law enforcement authorities. He has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a termination hearing, according to police officials.

Police said that Jones and a witness reported Motyka had assaulted Jones while Jones was awaiting transfer to District Court for arraignment.

According to a statement of facts filed by police in court, Motyka said to Jones, “Get your black [expletive] in the cell.” He is accused of then entering the cell while Jones was handcuffed and shackled, forcing him against a wall, punching him, throwing him to the floor, and kicking him in the abdomen.

In a written citizen’s complaint, Jones states that the incident was witnessed by several police officers, including a ranking official standing behind a desk, as well as other prisoners. He said the police officers, including a black officer, were all laughing afterward.

Jones was arraigned on Dec. 1 on charges of larceny from a person and assault with a dangerous weapon (snow brush), according to court records. He pleaded guilty to the charges on Jan. 20 and was sentenced to 60 days in the Worcester County House of Correction, the records said.

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Motyka’s lawyer, James Walckner, said his client has a military background and served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Based on his military and police service, Walckner said, Motyka may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A peer specialist with the Department of Veterans Services accompanied the police officer in court. Motyka wore a Disabled American Veteran pin in the lapel of his suit jacket during the court proceeding.

The defense lawyer asked that Motyka’s arraignment be postponed for 30 days so he could seek treatment and possibly enter the court’s pretrial diversion program for veterans. Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Travers, who asked that bail be set at $1,000, objected to the postponement.

LoConto denied the request, saying he did not believe Motyka is eligible for the diversion program.


Gary V. Murray can be reached at gmurray@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @GaryMurrayTG.