Transit Cops Plead Innocent in Homeless Beating
By Laurel J. Sweet
BOSTON -- A now retired transit police officer and his two former supervisors pleaded not guilty Tuesday to covering up what prosecutors said was the “unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified” beating of a homeless man who fell asleep on a subway car.
The alleged attack on 32-year-old Anthony Watson last summer at the MBTA’s Ashmont Station in Dorchester was captured by surveillance video.
“Anybody watching this video -- certainly any reasonable police officer -- would recognize the use of force to be absolutely unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified,” assistant Suffolk District Attorney Andrew Doherty told assistant Suffolk Superior Court Clerk Magistrate Lisa Medeiros.
Medeiros released former Patrolman Dorston Bartlett and Sgts. Kenny Orcel and David Finnerty pending an April 10 pretrial hearing and a strict order to stay away from Watson.
Bartlett, 65, of Lynn, who retired in the wake of the accusations, pleaded not guilty to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, misleading a police officer, a criminal civil rights violation and filing a false report as a public employee.
Finnerty, 43, of Rutland, pleaded not guilty to two counts of filing a false report and one count of being an accessory after the fact to assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.
Orcel, 55, of Chelmsford, pleaded not guilty to filing a false report and being an accessory after the fact to assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. He and Finnerty have been placed on leave by the T.
Attorney Douglas I. Louison, who’s representing Orcel, said his client has had a long and distinguished career both in the military and with the MBTA and is innocent of the charges.
“Officers on the Transit Department have a difficult situation because of the homeless population and the expectations of having safe trains and equipment,” Louison said outside the courthouse. “Unfortunately, the homeless situation has been dropped on the laps of the patrol division and it creates some problems for everyone involved. The trains are not supposed to be places to sleep.”
Doherty said the trouble began July 27 when Bartlett responded to a call at Ashmont Station “in order to eject a homeless man who was found sleeping on the train. It was the last train that evening.”
Bartlett, he said, grabbed Watson “by the arm, shoved him towards the door, and when Mr. Watson resisted, Officer Bartlett used his baton to strike Mr. Watson three times with full force in the right leg, causing Mr. Watson to collapse to the ground.”
Doherty said a T inspector then helped Bartlett push Watson up an escalator “and shoved him out the door, chasing him away from the T station.”
But Watson later collapsed on a sidewalk, where he asked a passer-by to call 911, “saying he had been beaten by a police officer,” Doherty said. It’s alleged that when Boston police answered that call, Bartlett showed up and told them he’d been looking to arrest Watson for assaulting him.
After watching videos of the alleged abuse at Ashmont, Doherty said Finnerty and Orcel helped Bartlett file a false report justifying the use of force and effectively “whitewashing the entire incident.”