Mass. cop pleads not guilty to charges of assault, violating suspect’s civil rights

BOSTON — A Boston-area police officer pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of repeatedly punching a handcuffed suspect he had taken into custody and then lying about it, according to local prosecutors and police.

Felix Rivera, 34, has been suspended from his position with the Chelsea police department following the September 2014 incident, which led to charges of assault and battery, filing a false police report and violating the suspect’s civil rights.

Rivera and several other Chelsea police officers were called to a home on reports of a man with a gun and they found a 20-year-old suspect who was intoxicated, police said. Rivera took the man, whose identity was not released, into custody and while he was in handcuffs, Rivera hit him in the face four times, police said on Tuesday.

At the time, Rivera filed a report that the man had become violent, and the suspect was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, police said. A video of the incident showed those charges to be unfounded, police said.

“There is no room in law enforcement for anyone who would beat a handcuffed prisoner or lie in a report,” Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said in a statement. “The evidence suggests this officer engaged in criminal conduct, not police work.”

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes called the charges “extremely troubling and concerning.”

Rivera’s attorney, Keith Nicholson, said the incident occurred at a building in Chelsea to which police were frequently called to respond to violence.

“They went in there with the indication that there was a man with a gun,” he said. “It’s not something that happened in a vacuum.”

Rivera is a 10-year-veteran of the Chelsea police department and had served in the U.S. Army before joining the police force, Nicholson said.

Rivera was released on his own recognizance as he awaits trial. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of the most serious count, that of violating the suspect’s civil rights.

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