Metro

Boston officer gets probation for racially motivated attack of Uber driver

(Boston, MA) - Boston Police officer Michael Doherty speaks with his attorney on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 during his sentencing inside Suffolk Superior Court. (Patrick Whittemore/Pool)
Patrick Whittemore/Pool
Michael Doherty spoke with his attorney during his sentencing.

A veteran Boston police officer who assaulted an Uber driver in 2015 during a drunken, racially motivated attack avoided prison time Tuesday after the victim said he doesn’t “want the worst” for the suspended officer and urged him to seek treatment.

Michael Colin Doherty, 43, of South Boston, was sentenced in Suffolk Superior Court to three years of probation for the assault, which occurred in his neighborhood during the predawn hours of Jan. 4, 2015, while Doherty was off-duty.

He was convicted April 2 on two counts of assault and battery for striking the driver, as well as assault and battery for purposes of intimidation, in light of his remarks during the attack about the driver’s race.

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Jurors acquitted Doherty of violating the civil rights of another man who tried to help the driver.

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The Uber driver, Luis Blanco, gave a victim-impact statement Tuesday to Superior Court Judge Linda Giles before she sentenced Doherty.

Blanco, wearing a light pink collared shirt and dark slacks, at times struggled to maintain his composure, telling Giles his primary concern was for Doherty to receive “some type of treatment.”

(Boston, MA) - Luis Blanco makes a victim's impact statement on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 inside Suffolk Superior Court during the sentencing of Boston Police officer Michael Doherty. (Patrick Whittemore/Pool)
Patrick Whittemore/Pool
(Luis Blanco made a victim's impact statement.

“Mr. Doherty, I believe, definitely needs some help in terms of adjusting certain things in his life,” said Blanco, the father of a young child, adding that he has wondered “if this person was armed, would he have killed me that night?”

He said he doesn’t “want the worst for Mr. Doherty. I truly don’t. . . . An apology would be great.”

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Doherty, clad in a dark pinstripe suit and black sneakers, did not address the court, since he plans to appeal, his lawyer said.

Giles sentenced him to three years of probation and ordered him to stay away from Blanco, remain alcohol-free, complete anger-management and alcohol treatment, and perform 100 hours of community service at the Greater Boston Food Bank.

She said she selected the food bank because it serves a racially diverse population.

“I’m hoping that that experience will raise Mr. Doherty’s consciousness,” Giles said.

The judge excoriated Doherty for his conduct during the assault but noted he had no prior criminal record and until his arrest had dedicated himself to public service, first as a correctional officer and then on the police force, where he “received many commendations and awards.”

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Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office has said Doherty was a customer of Blanco when he assaulted him around 2:45 a.m., after shouting that he had driven to the wrong location.

“What, you think I’m stupid, you [expletive],” Doherty said, using a racial slur against Hispanics, according to prosecutors.

When Blanco stopped at East Second and M streets, Doherty began hitting him, forcing him out of the car and chasing him around the vehicle, according to the authorities.

Blanco waved down traffic for help, and when another man stopped, Doherty jumped in the Uber vehicle and drove off, prosecutors said. Jurors acquitted Doherty at trial of using a motor vehicle without authority.

When he stopped the vehicle on East First Street, he got out and said to the passerby, “What do you want, you [expletive]?” using a racial slur against black people, officials have said.

He then began swinging at both men, knocking the driver to the ground, according to court filings.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Doherty, no relation to the officer, on Tuesday sought a 2½-year prison term with six months to serve, and the balance suspended during a five-year period of probation.

The prosecutor said the assault “certainly does involve alcohol, it certainly did involve anger, but it also involved race. And race matters in Boston, it matters in 2018, and it matters for this case.”

Andrew Doherty said the attack speaks to “a larger discussion about race and violence in Boston” and that the sentence should demonstrate that a racially motivated assault is “a punishable offense that is intolerable.”

Peter Schworm of the Globe staff contributed to this report.