FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (WPRI) — A former Fairhaven police officer has been awarded $830,000 after a jury found he was wrongfully terminated by the town in 2016.

The town may be on the hook for more than $1 million if the former officer — Jonathan Alves — is successful in convincing the judge to award him up to $300,000 in legal fees.

“He was elated,” said Alves’ attorney Philip Beauregard. “He’s been fighting this battle for six years.”

The jury came down with their decision on Friday.

Alves filed suit in Bristol County Superior Court in 2019 claiming he was wrongfully terminated after he showed up to work late on March 18, 2016.

According to Beauregard, Alves admitted he had been out the night before drinking and then confided in Sgt. Matthew Botelho that he had a drinking problem and was seeking help.

“At that point he got very emotional, and the sergeant said, ‘don’t worry, we’ll help, We’ll see you through this,'” Beauregard said.

Beauregard said Alves was distraught and talked to a family member who recommended he go home. At that point, Alves went back to the station and said he was not fit to finish his shift and asked to leave. He said Botelho, who was also a family friend, told him he could go home.

Beauregard said Botelho testified that he asked Alves if he was still intoxicated and claimed Alves said yes. But Beauregard said his client denies that and points to the fact that the department allowed his client to drive home with his service weapon, something they would not have allowed if they thought he was drunk.

Alves entered a substance abuse treatment program (Beauregard said his client has been sober for six years now), and while he was receiving treatment, the police department fired him from the force.

In a statement and at trial, the town also pointed to other incidents they said that lead to their decision to terminate Alves.

“During his short tenure with the Fairhaven Police Department, he was stopped for speeding in Fairhaven, and argued with the officer that stopped him, apparently believing that as a member of the police department, he wasn’t subject to speeding laws,” attorney John Clifford wrote. “The town made the difficult decision to terminate Mr. Alves because he had shown a pattern of poor judgment and immaturity.”

Clifford also alleged that Alves admitted to driving drunk after the night in question, and earlier had posted a picture on Instagram of him holding a knife and a handgun with an inappropriate caption using an expletive.

But Beauregard said the phrase was a comment posted by another user, and called the other allegations a pretext to cover for the wrongful termination.

Clifford’s statement also drew a line to the recent killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, writing “the video from that case is shocking and disturbing. It is, however, a direct and foreseeable outcome if we fail to properly hire, train and supervise police officers.”

“While we do not allege that the misconduct in the Tennessee case is analogous to this matter, both involve holding police officers accountable,” he added.

Beauregard called the statement “shocking.”

“That the town and the attorney would make such a comment in the wake of a strong statement by the jury is shocking,” Beauregard said. “We’re reviewing our options now about what to do about the statement. We’ll make some decision on that in several days.”

Clifford, too, said the town is weighing the option to appeal the jury’s decision.

Beauregard said Alves will be seeking compensation for attorney’s fees in the coming weeks.

The New Bedford Standard Times first reported the jury’s verdict.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.