Trial begins for Cranston police officer charged with simple assault

CRANSTON, RI (WLNE) – The trial has begun for a Cranston police officer charged with one count of simple assault for his actions following an arrest last year.

Andrew Leonard pleaded not guilty to the charge last September.

The bench trial, before Magistrate Judge J. Patrick O’Neill, held at Kent County Superior Court, followed an investigation by the Rhode Island State Police into a use of force incident from March of 2020. Cranston Chief of Police Michael Winquist requested the investigation.

“Your honor, on March 5, 2020, a routine arrest became much, much more,” said Special Assistant Attorney General Robert Johnson during his opening statement Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege that Leonard beat up an unarmed suspect who was in police custody at the Cranston Police cell block.

“This was unacceptable behavior, unacceptable escalation, unacceptable violence and unacceptable breach of authority by Mr. Leonard,” said Johnson.

Leonard arrested 27-year-old Gian Mattiello following a domestic dispute where Mattiello got into a fight with his brother and father. Mattiello claims the officer broke two of his iPhone screens during the arrest, and that’s where things escalated.

“The officer grabbed me and slammed me on the ground, and he grabbed the phone out of my hand and threw it on the ground, and then he brought me over to the car, searched me, the only thing I had on me was another iPhone, he took the iPhone out of my pocket, took it off the roof of the car and slammed it,” Mattiello said on the stand.

When he was brought back to the station, Leonard went into the cell block when he wasn’t needed, prosecutors said, requested for another officer to remove the handcuffs from Mattiello, and picked a fight with him.

“He puts his hands up, starts swinging on me. Andrew Leonard put his hands up and starts swinging on me,” Mattiello said.

“Five punches from this defendant to Mr. Mattiello, two takedowns, one of which was a body slam, and one knee to the rib cage of Mr. Mattiello,” recounted Johnson.

Surveillance video of the incident was shown in court. It was the first time the video was publicly shown.

However, the defense claims it was all done to get Mattiello in handcuffs.

“He was reaching for his duty belt. On his duty belt was OC spray and a flashlight,” said defense attorney Joseph Monaghan. “When the cuffs were placed on him, the resisting stopped. The whole struggle there was to get the cuffs on him.”

The trial will continue Wednesday with additional witnesses from the Cranston Police Department.

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