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12 Springfield police officers indicted in assault on black men

A statewide grand jury Wednesday indicted 12 Springfield police officers, one retired officer, and one former officer who is now a state trooper on charges stemming from the assault of four black men following an altercation at a local bar in 2015, officials said. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File 2018/Globe Staff

A statewide grand jury Wednesday indicted 12 Springfield police officers, one retired officer, and one former officer who is now a state trooper on charges stemming from the assault of four black men following an altercation at a local bar in 2015 and an alleged coverup that followed, officials said.

The assault was allegedly committed by six off-duty Springfield officers and John Sullivan, 34, owner of Nathan Bills Bar & Restaurant, following a confrontation at the bar in April 2015, according to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

Sullivan and those six officers are each charged with four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, shod foot; assault and battery causing serious bodily injury; three counts of assault and battery; and conspiracy, Healey’s office said. The grand jury met in Worcester.


Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said he was disappointed and angry, calling the allegations, “very serious charges.”

“Needless to say, this is not a good day for our Springfield Police Department,” Sarno said in a statement.

The indicted officers will be suspended without pay, said Ryan Walsh, a spokesman for Springfield police, in an e-mail. Acting Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood will consider any additional discipline once details emerge from grand jury proceedings, Walsh said.

The indictments are the latest controversy to engulf police in the largest city in Western Massachusetts.

For years, claims of police misconduct — including false reports, brutal beatings, and wrongful convictions — have been lodged against Springfield officers in courtrooms, in the community, and even from within the ranks. In October, a federal grand jury indicted two other Springfield police officers, one of whom resigned in 2016, on charges of using unreasonable force while arresting two Latino boys in February 2016. They pleaded not guilty.

The US Department of Justice is also probing whether the police department’s narcotics unit routinely used excessive force and violated people’s civil rights.


In the bar assault, Healey’s office alleges that off-duty Springfield officers and the bar owner beat and kicked the victims after a confrontation at Nathan Bills Bar & Restaurant on April 8, 2015. The victims, authorities said, “sustained significant injuries as a result of the assault, some permanent.’’

Prosecutors allege that nine Springfield officers as well as the bar owner and bar manager “were part of a long-standing and ongoing cover up of the assault.”

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 the victims, a sprinkler installer in his 50s named Paul Cumby, had a broken leg and dislocated ankle, and had four teeth knocked loose during the confrontation, his lawyer has said.

Cumby’s ordeal began while he was drinking with two cousins and their friend at the bar.

One of the cousins whistled to the bartender to get her attention. But Daniel Billingsley, an off-duty Springfield police officer at the bar with colleagues, thought the man was cat-calling Billingsley’s girlfriend, another off-duty officer, according to Cumby’s lawsuit. Later, words were exchanged outside. Cumby said he tried to defuse the situation, but when he turned his back to Billingsley, he was struck from behind and knocked out.

Reached by phone, Cumby’s attorney, Michelle S. Cruz, said Wednesday’s announcement that detailed the indictments spoke for itself.


At the time of the lawsuit settlement, Walsh, the police spokesman, said the agreement “is not an admission of liability and cannot be admissible in court.”

On Wednesday, prosecutors identified the six officers charged with assault as Daniel Billingsley, 30, of Springfield; Anthony Cicero, 29, of Hampden; Christian Cicero, 28, of Longmeadow; Igor Basovskiy, 34, of Springfield; Jameson Williams, 33, of East Longmeadow; and Jose Diaz, 54, of Springfield.

Healey’s office said 11 defendants were also indicted on various charges for “attempting to cover up details of the assault afterwards.”

Prosecutors identified those defendants as Diaz and fellow Springfield officers Darren Nguyen, 40, of Holland; Shavonne Lewis, 29, of Springfield; Derrick Gentry-Mitchell, 29, of Springfield; James D’Amour, 42, of Springfield; John Wajdula, 34, of Springfield; Melissa Rodriguez, 32, of Springfield; Sergeant Louis Bortolussi, 57, of East Longmeadow; former officer Nathaniel Perez, 27, of West Springfield; bar owner Sullivan; and bar manager Joseph Sullivan, 42, of Hampden. The Sullivans are not related.

Bortolussi recently retired, according to the attorney general’s office. The former officer, Perez, is now a trooper with the State Police. That agency relieved him of duty and has scheduled a hearing for Friday to “determine his duty status,’’ an agency spokesman said.

The six officers charged with carrying out the alleged assault were arraigned previously in district court. Not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf.

Shawn P. Allyn, an attorney representing Billingsley said Wednesday that the indictments “do nothing but change the forum,” and do not alter the facts of the case.


The facts of this case, he said, “will show that the alleged victims were angry after being thrown out of the bar and waited for over an hour for the patrons to exit the bar.”

“They waited as they wanted to fight,” he said. “The evidence will show that they aggressively attacked my client, cracking his skull and causing him to have surgery.”

Daniel Hagan, an attorney representing Williams, an officer also charged with assault in the case, said Wednesday his client “absolutely” denies the allegations.

In a Wednesday statement, Walsh, the Springfield police spokesman, said, “This incident has done damage to the Department’s reputation over the course of the last four years.”

Springfield has about 480 officers on its force, according to Walsh.

Sarno, the mayor, said he and Clapprood vow to “root out these negative actions by a few, in order to not take away from all the good work the vast majority of our officers do day in and day out for our Springfield community.”

Shelley Murphy and Laura Crimaldi of the Globe staff contributed to this report.