By Jill Harmacinski
LAWRENCE — A federal jury yesterday cleared fired Lawrence police officer Kyle Wilcox, and several of his former colleagues, of using excessive force in an incident five years ago outside a Broadway social club.
The eight-member jury rejected claims by David Beaulieu of Limestone, Maine, and members of their family, who filed a police brutality suit in U.S. District Court after the June 22, 2006, incident outside the French Social Club.
Beaulieu claimed he was beaten, pepper-sprayed, hit and kicked in the face and that family members were also brutalized. They sought in excess of $300,000 damages from the officers.
Wilcox has been named in numerous brutality suits since his 2007 firing for use of excessive force and conviction a year later of beating two brothers in Lawrence police custody.
The brutality suit also named Lawrence officers Thadeus Czarnecki, Terence Pennington and Scott Peloquin, who has since transferred from Lawrence to the Billerica Police Department.
Attorney Marsha Kazarosian of Haverhill, who represented Beaulieu and family, said the verdict, handed down early yesterday afternoon, was disappointing.
"Police are allowed to use force. And there's a very high standard to show that force was excessive. Obviously, the jury felt it did not reach that level," Kazarosian said.
She said her clients were "very glad to have a chance to tell what happened to them five years ago."
Detective Alan Andrews, president of the Lawrence Patrolmen's Association, who attended the two-day trial described the verdict as "total vindication."
The officers were defended by the private firm Dwyer and Duddy. Attorney Matthew Dwyer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The social club event five years ago was held to raise money for medical and other expenses incurred after Beaulieu's youngest son died from a drug overdose. At 2 that morning, there was a verbal argument at the bar and Beaulieu and others were asked to leave the club.
Beaulieu, in his suit, alleged Wilcox handcuffed and then beat him in the parking lot outside. He said he "ended up at the bottom of a pig pile of multiple officers."
Police Chief John Romero was pleased with the verdict and reminded Lawrence officers respond to 40,000 calls for service annually.
"There are only a handful of incidents where people have elected to bring a suit. But the fact a suit is filed does not mean there is any evidence of wrongdoing by an officer," Romero said.
Last month, a federal jury did award a Lawrence man $130,000 in another federal brutality suit filed against Wilcox.
Eusebio Alicea said Wilcox beat him with "special metal-knuckled gloves" and that the officer, in a "malicious and sadistic" manner, used hot water to wash pepper spray out of Alicea's eyes after his Jan. 6, 2007 arrest.
Then, an eight-member jury awarded Alicea $30,000 for state and federal civil rights violations and $100,000 in damages to be paid by Wilcox.
While fired in 2007, Wilcox was criminally convicted a year later of assault and battery of Lawrence brothers Ruben and Moises Fernandez when they were in police custody. Wilcox was found guilty of two counts of assault and battery in a jury-waived trial in Worcester District Court.
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