A grand jury has indicted a suspended Buffalo Police officer on assault charges connected to an altercation inside the city lockup.
Joseph Hassett, 32, is charged with two counts of third-degree assault, official misconduct, offering a false instrument for filing and making a punishable false written statement.
According to investigators, Hassett was recorded on camera assaulting a drug suspect on March 18th. The suspect was taken to ECMC for a head injury and a cut on his forehead that required stitches.
The Erie County District Attorney's Office and the Buffalo Police Department both said they didn't learn about the incident until video of the confrontation was requested by the victim's attorney during the course of his criminal case stemming from the March arrest.
D.A. John Flynn said he viewed the video in May and was "disturbed." He then provided it to the Buffalo Police Department and asked them to investigate.
BPD Internal Affairs opened an investigation on May 26th and officially suspended Officer Hassett on May 30th, according to Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
Hassett was suspended for 30 days without pay. He will remain suspended with pay until the criminal case is resolved.
Prosecutors will not release the video, or discuss what it shows, because they expect the case will go to trial. But police and the district attorney say Hassett provided inaccurate information in his reports related to that arrest.
Timothy W. Hoover, attorney for Buffalo Police Officer Joseph Hassett, issued this statement:
“Joe Hassett is a decorated Buffalo Police Officer who serves the City of Buffalo and its citizens proudly and with honor. He is innocent, because he did nothing wrong, his limited use of force was entirely justified, and he did not falsify anything. We firmly and respectfully believe that wherever and whenever his trial takes place, he will be acquitted of all charges.”
“We asked for a speedy trial, which was set to begin in Buffalo City Court on November 30. There had been months of litigation, the expenditure of extensive judicial resources on the case, and extensive preparation by Officer Hassett for trial. Forty-eight hours before the trial started, without any advance notice to Judge Fiorella or Officer Hassett, and without providing Officer Hassett the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, the District Attorney’s Office obtained an indictment on the same exact misdemeanor charges.”
“The same charges were filed three months ago. We are not aware of any instance where a misdemeanor indictment mechanism was used two days before trial, to prevent the trial from going forward. It is unusual if not unprecedented.”
“The District Attorney’s Office had the option to re-file the official misconduct charge before Judge Fiorella, so that the trial could promptly proceed before him on Thursday. It declined to do so.”