PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence police captain has pleaded no contest to an assault charge after being captured on video slamming a man’s face into the pavement during the city’s Fourth of July celebration last year.
Captain Stephen Gencarella entered the new plea at a court hearing Thursday morning, and was sentenced to one year of probation, along with a no contact order regarding Armando Rivas, the victim in the case.
The change-of-plea and sentencing hearing was not disclosed in advance by the attorney general’s office or the court. (Gencarella was scheduled for a pre-trial conference on the court docket, a routine monthly event.)
Brian Hodge, a spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Neronha, said Rivas was present in the court as the sentence was imposed.
Gencarella was charged with assault last year after a bystander captured video of the captain slamming Rivas’ head into the ground while arresting him near India Point Park.
According to police, Rivas was double-parked while watching the city’s fireworks on July 3, and a lieutenant called a tow truck.
Police claimed Rivas became “irate” when he returned to his car and saw it was being towed. The 51-second video shows Lt. Matthew Jennette and Gencarella taking Rivas down to the ground and handcuffing him.
After he was cuffed, Gencarella is seen on the video grabbing the 21-year-old’s hair and slamming his face into the pavement.
Former Police Chief Hugh Clements moved to fire Gencarella for the incident last year, but his potential termination has been on hold because of the criminal case, as required in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
Reached by phone, Gencarella’s attorney Michael Colucci declined to comment beyond confirming that his client pleaded no contest. He would not say whether Gencarella plans to resign from the force. (With more than 25 years under his belt, Gencarella is eligible for retirement.)
Gencarella could not immediately be reached for comment. Colucci had previously said the captain used the force on Rivas because he thought the young man was reaching for a weapon.
Shortly after the July 3 incident, Gencarella went on injured-on-duty status, meaning he was receiving his full $105,730 salary tax-free.
Through a spokesperson, Col. Oscar Perez said Gencarella remains on IOD, adding “as a result of the legal proceedings, the department will move forward with any administrative proceedings.”
Patricia Socarras, a spokesperson for Mayor Brett Smiley said Gencarella’s actions “do not reflect the values and expectations of the Providence Police Department.”