Rhode Island police officer convicted of assaulting detainee

Cranston Police Headquarters. File photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island police officer has been convicted of punching and kneeing a man in custody.

Cranston Officer Andrew Leonard, 40, was found guilty Thursday after a three-day bench trial of misdemeanor simple assault, and received a one-year suspended sentence with probation.

Leonard scuffled with a Gian Mattiello, who had been charged in connection with a domestic incident, in the booking area on March 5, 2020, authorities said. The altercation was caught on surveillance video and witnessed by two other officers.

Although Mattiello clearly goaded Leonard, the officer missed opportunities to de-escalate the situation, the judge said at sentencing.

Leonard took the stand in his own defense and said Mattiello displayed “pre-indicators of a pending assault,” such as flared nostrils. Leonard also said he thought Mattiello had reached for a flashlight or pepper spray on his duty belt.

Prosecutors asked for a one-year sentence with 90 days to serve.

“I am grateful for the court’s guilty verdict today, which was plainly warranted based on the evidence presented at trial” Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement. “Police may use force in exercising their duty to protect the public, but that use of force must be reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. As the court found, there was no need to use force here.”