PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A judge has found Providence Police Sgt. Joseph Hanley guilty of assaulting a man on Tell Street last year, in an incident captured on body-camera video last year that has sparked outrage and conversations about policing in Providence.
Judge Brian Goldman announced the verdict from the bench in Providence District Court Thursday afternoon, also handing down a scathing rebuke of Hanley’s testimony during the trial.
“The defendant’s testimony about what occurred with Mr. Gore on April 19, 2020 is an utter fabrication of what actually occurred on that day,” Goldman said.
Goldman sentenced Hanley to one year of probation, ordered him to complete five anger management classes and issued a no-contact order between him and the victim, Rishod Gore.
The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor assault is one year in prison. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence him to 90 days behind bars, which Goldman said was “somewhat draconian” for a first-time offender.
Hanley’s attorney immediately gave notice that he plans to appeal to R.I. Superior Court, where he can still have a jury trial under Rhode Island court rules.
During the seven-day trial spread over the past five weeks, Hanley was accused by prosecutors – and his own police department – of using excessive force on Gore, a Black man whom Hanley was arresting.
Video of the incident showed Hanley kicking and punching Gore, kneeling on his neck area and standing on his calves. Gore also testified during the trial that Hanley kicked him in the head.
But Hanley and his defense team argued he was using acceptable force under police guidelines for suspects who are resisting arrest. He also denied kicking Gore in the face or head.
Hanley even re-enacted his version of the events on the courtroom floor, demonstrating what he did to Hanley on a lawyer from his defense team.
The judge didn’t buy it. In a point-by-point detailing of his verdict, Goldman said he found Hanley “not credible.”
And he pointed to Hanley’s own comments during the strikes — including calling Gore a “savage” and “animal,” and saying “you wanted this” — showed that his actions were done with malice and wantonness, a requirement for the assault charge.
Hanley was given an opportunity to address the court before his sentencing, which he declined. He and his attorney declined to comment on the verdict or the judge’s comments outside court.
Gore was not immediately able to be reached for comment about the verdict. (Charges against him were dropped following his arrest, and he’s received a $50,000 settlement from the city.)
Hanley is still employed by the Providence Police Department, but has been suspended since a few days after the April 19 incident. The department stopped paying him in October, after six months of paid suspension as required by the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said despite the conviction, the LEOBOR hearing on Hanley’s termination cannot take place until after his appeal. (Paré otherwise declined to comment on the verdict, citing LEOBOR, as did Col. Hugh Clements.)
In a statement after the verdict, Elorza reiterated the city’s desire to fire Hanley.
“Our approach to public safety relies on trust between the police and the community and we are appalled by what this officer did,” Elorza said. “Upon seeing the video, we immediately recommended termination and then worked with the Attorney General’s office to make sure the officer was prosecuted. We hope this verdict helps bring justice to the victim and, as we move forward, we will remain focused on continuing to build trust between the police and our residents.”