Five Springfield police officers were arraigned Wednesday on charges of assaulting four black men during an off-duty altercation outside a bar in 2015, the latest development in a legal saga that’s already cost the city $885,000 to settle lawsuits brought by the alleged victims.
In a statement, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office identified the five officers arraigned in Springfield District Court as Daniel Billingsley, 30, Anthony Cicero, 29, Christian Cicero, 28, Igor Basovskiy, 33, and Jameson Williams, 33.
Not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf.
In a statement, Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said that if “these allegations are true, this type of conduct by a Springfield Police Officer on or off-duty is unacceptable and appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination will be taken. The Springfield Police Department continues to stand by pending the completion of the criminal investigations to resume our internal investigation process.”
Healey’s office said the officers are each charged with four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, one count of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, three counts of assault and battery, and one count of conspiracy.
They were released on personal recognizance with orders to stay away from the alleged victims and turn over any personal weapons to State Police, according to a statement from Healey’s office. The officers’ next court date is scheduled for March 15.
Healey’s office, which is investigating the matter with the FBI, said the government “alleges that on April 8, 2015 these off-duty Springfield Police Department officers physically assaulted four victims after a confrontation at Nathan Bills Bar & Restaurant in Springfield. The victims were allegedly beaten and kicked and one or more of the defendants used weapons during the attack. The victims sustained significant injuries as a result of the attack, some permanent.”
Lawyers for three of the officers defended them when reached after the hearing.
“When all the facts of this case are revealed, which dates back four years, the image portrayed by the media will be completely dispelled and my client will be vindicated,” said Shawn P. Allyn, a lawyer for Billingsley, in an e-mail. “The alleged victim is a violent criminal who cracked my client’s skull open causing him to have surgery and extensive head injuries. Dan Billingsley looks forward to his day in Court to prove his innocence. A vigorous and aggressive defense is planned by my office.”
Allyn also said Billingsley “was kicked in the head and side of face repeatedly” and forwarded photos of his client’s facial and head injuries.
Kevin Murphy, a lawyer for Anthony Cicero, said that “at this point we’re defending it and plan to go to trial” and that his client “absolutely” denies the allegations.
Daniel Hagan, a lawyer for Williams, described his client as a “good cop” and “good man” who “looks forward to vindication.”
Basovskiy’s lawyer declined to comment, and an attorney for Christian Cicero couldn’t immediately be reached.
The officers’ court appearance Wednesday followed the November arraignment of another Springfield officer, Jose Diaz, 54, on the same charges.
A not-guilty plea was also entered on his behalf, and his lawyer said at the time that Diaz “maintains his innocence and looks forward to an aggressive defense in court.”
The city of Springfield in September 2018 agreed to pay $885,000 to settle federal civil rights lawsuits brought by the alleged victims. One of them, a sprinkler installer in his early 50s named Paul Cumby, broke his leg, dislocated his ankle, and had four teeth knocked loose during the confrontation, his lawyer has said.
At the time of the settlement, Springfield police spokesman Ryan Walsh said the agreement “is not an admission of liability and cannot be admissible in court.”
Walsh said Wednesday that the five officers arraigned earlier in the day will be suspended without pay for five days, then placed on paid administrative leave, “as per state law and contractual agreements.” Diaz is also paid administrative leave, Walsh said.
Michelle Cruz, a lawyer for Cumby, also reacted to the developments Wednesday.
“Mr. Paul Cumby is relieved to finally see forward movement in bringing those who are responsible for the attack on him and his cousins and their friend to justice,” Cruz said.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said Wednesday that he took immediate action when he learned of the 2015 incident.
“As soon as this was brought to my attention, I immediately ordered an outside independent Judge (retired Justice Bertha Josephson) and an outside independent Attorney (Atty. Tom Kokonowski) be brought in to work with Commissioner John Barbieri and our Community Police Hearing Board to review and pursue this situation,” Sarno said in a statement.
He said that on the “request of state agencies, led by the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey, we were told to stand down until their investigations came to conclusion. We abided by this request. Again, this is not reflective of the vast majority of our brave and dedicated ‘men and women in blue’ who put their lives on the line day in and day out to protect our citizens and business community. With that said, whether on duty or off, one must always wear their badge with honor, integrity and professionalism – ‘let the chips fall where they may.’”