Officer admits striking suspect in arrest caught on camera

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo police officer at the center of a caught on camera brutality investigation has accepted a plea deal. John Cirulli is now out of a job as well.

The video shows Cirulli smacking and kicking a drug suspect who was already hand-cuffed and on the ground.

Cirulli resigned from the Buffalo Police Department last week. He was released from court, Thursday, and will be sentenced in September.

Under this plea agreement, he may not spend any time in federal prison.

Former Buffalo police officer John Cirulli had nothing to say, walking into federal court.

His attorney, Rod Personius, did not want News 4 asking any question of his client, who hit and kicked John Willet, while in handcuffs.

It was all caught on cell phone video, recorded by a bystander in April.

“He’s a devoted father and a devoted husband,” Personius said of Cirulli. “…but for one hour on April 19 of this year, he was an excellent police officer,” Personius continued.

Cirulli was put on unpaid leave, after the cell phone recording was put on YouTube. He resigned from the department on Friday.

“John allowed his anger to get the best of him based on the behavior of that suspect, both before and after he was taken into custody. It doesn’t make what he did right, it was wrong,” Personius said.

Not seen in the cell phone video is Cirulli slapping Willet, while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. In court, Cirulli admitted that is in fact what happened.

“You cannot abuse a person once he’s in custody and the threat is over,” said US Attorney Bill Hochul.

Hochul said this case was prosecuted in potential record time, in part because of the cell phone recording.

Cirulli faces a maximum of one year in federal prison for each of the two counts he was convicted of.

Hochul said sentencing is up to the judge.

“The judge will be guided first and foremost by the advisory sentencing guidelines. The judge had discretion to sentence whatever he feels is appropriate,” Hochul said.

Hochul said it’s possible Cirulli won’t be sentenced to any jail time, but he said, it’s “also possible jail time will be imposed.”

Part of the sentence revolves around the possibility that Cirulli tried to get the witness’ cell phone, and thus the cell phone video, which could be considered obstruction of justice. That remains to be proven.

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