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Alleged sexual assault victim wants to sue town of Bristol

David Barboza left Providence District Court in October.
David Barboza left Providence District Court in October. Amanda Milkovits/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

BRISTOL, R.I. — A local man who says he was raped by a onetime Bristol police officer when he was a child now wants to sue the town for negligence.

David E. Barboza, 65, formerly a prominent elected official, volunteer firefighter, and administrator at St. Mary’s Church, only lasted a few years on the police force in the 1970s.

Robert Powers said that’s when Barboza sexually assaulted him — starting when Barboza offered him a ride in a police cruiser, when Powers was 9 or 10 years old.

Powers, 54, said the abuse continued for several years and left him traumatized.


After filing a civil lawsuit against Barboza in December, Powers’s lawyer, Andrew Tine of Barrington, filed a motion this week to also sue the town of Bristol.

The complaint alleges that the town was negligent in supervising, hiring, training, and employing Barboza “who was known to the town of Bristol to have an aggressive temperament and demeanor not fitting for a police officer.”

Making Barboza a permanent police officer “allowed him to use his office and position to solicit, influence and take advantage of Robert Powers,” the complaint said.

A hearing on a motion to amend the complaint is scheduled for Dec. 12. Town Administrator Steven Contente and Town Solicitor Michael A. Ursillo did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

While Powers is the only person suing Barboza, he is one of several men accusing the former town official of sexual abuse.

Investigations by the Globe found that Barboza has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault of boys in Bristol during the 1970s and 1980s while he was a firefighter, an investigator for the state fire marshal’s office, and a police officer. The only time Barboza was arrested was in 1982, when he was charged with soliciting a 14-year-old boy from his fire marshal’s vehicle. The case was dismissed and never refiled.


More recently, a 45-year-old man on the autism spectrum said that when he sought clothing from St. Mary’s Church over the last several years, Barboza opened his pants and looked at his genitals.

A judge granted the man a restraining order against Barboza last month, after the man testified that Barboza came to his house and threatened him for speaking to the police.

Barboza resigned from his job at St. Mary’s on July 31, the day of the first Globe article about the accusations.

Since then, the Diocese of Providence acknowledged that it knew about Barboza’s arrest and had investigated complaints from other alleged victims. The Rev. Barry Gamache, who hired Barboza in 1997, told the Globe this fall that he believed Barboza’s explanation over the findings of the diocese’s investigator.

Powers’s amended complaint accuses the town of being responsible for Barboza’s actions while he was a police officer.

Barboza was accused of brutality in his first two months as a 19-year-old probationary officer in the summer of 1974, the lawsuit noted.

One man sued the police in 1975, alleging that Barboza split his forehead with a nightstick. The lawsuit was still pending when Barboza was made a permanent police officer in December 1975 — over the objections of the town administrator, according to public records.

The lawsuit was settled out of court for $5,000, according to news reports at the time. And there were other complaints about Barboza’s judgment and disrespect, according to the lawsuit.


Barboza resigned in January 1978, after the brutality lawsuit and questions involving sick leave and unpaid tickets, according to news articles.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com