FALL RIVER, Mass. — A jury Wednesday convicted former Fall River police officer Michael Pessoa of multiple criminal charges that he beat a man in 2019 and then lied about it in a report.
The jury delivered the verdict after a five day trial examining whether the former police officer assaulted city resident David Lafrance before writing in an arrest report that he’d instead taken Lafrance down using an “arm bar.”
As Target 12 first reported in 2021, video surveillance showed Pessoa punching and wrestling Lafrance to the ground after officers removed one of his hands from handcuffs.
“Former Fall River Police officer Michael Pessoa convicted by a jury of all charges connected to a Feb. 12, 2019 incident where he assaulted a member of the public, violated his civil rights, intimidated a witness & filed false police reports,” Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III tweeted following the verdict.
Frank Camera and Katheryn Blythe, who represents Pessoa, issued a joint statement following the verdict, saying Pessoa served and protected the city “honorably for 19 years.”
“Every citizen wants to be safe and Mr. Pessoa ensured that safety throughout that time,” the attorneys said. “It is unfortunate that there has been such a negative seismic shift in our society as to the views of police officers and their inherently dangerous job. As a result of the criminal actions of the person the prosecutors believe to be a ‘victim,’ police officers responded appropriately and now police officers everywhere are and should be concerned about their inability to carry out their duties appropriately in order to ensure all of our safety.”
A grand jury in 2019 indicted Pessoa of 15 criminal charges tied to allegations of him beating four people, including Lafrance. Bristol County Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire Jr. later dismissed four of the charges, and then the cases were separated and one was tossed out.
Quinn told The Herald News he plans to pursue the remaining two cases. Pessoa, who wasn’t fired from the city police department until 18 months after his indictment, will be sentenced in the Lafrance case at 2 p.m. on June 7, according to Quinn.
“Despite Mr. Pessoa’s years of service, training and dedication, his career has been destroyed by a drunk and disorderly person with a minor cut to his lip,” Pessoa’s attorneys said.
“Mr. Pessoa has suffered the tremendous loss of his career, pension and ability to serve his community, which he held above all other things,” they added. “He now faces the possibility of incarceration as a result of this verdict. We truly hope that despite this decision, there will still be those, like Mr. Pessoa, who will choose to serve their communities as police officers in order to make them safer.”
Pessoa was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs following the verdict, according to the Herald News.