BAYONNE — Police officer Domenico Lillo was charged today with beating a city man during an arrest and then falsifying records to conceal the beating, federal authorities said.
Lillo, 44, was arrested at his home this morning in connection with the arrest of Brandon Walsh, who later sued Lillo and the Bayonne Police Department. Lillo was arraigned earlier this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III in Newark federal court and released on a $100,000 unsecured bond, authorities said.
Officially, Lillo was charged with the deprivation of civil rights under color of law and falsification of records. The use of excessive force count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, while the charge of falsifying records carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, a former police officer, said Lillo was immediately suspended without pay as soon as city officials were notified that he had been charged.
Davis said Lillo’s arrest didn’t come as a surprise.
“This was something that you knew sooner or later was coming. And when you’re going to do something like that, this is what gives all police officers a black eye,” he said.
City spokesman Jeff Meyer said the city would be fully cooperating with the FBI “in every way possible to assist in their efforts.”
Walsh was arrested on Dec. 27, 2013 by Lillo and other Bayonne police officers on a warrant out of Sussex County.
Police said that Walsh resisted arrest and struggled with officers. In his lawsuit, Walsh said that Lillo repeatedly struck him in the face with his flashlight while he was handcuffed, causing permanent disfigurement. Walsh also said in the lawsuit that other Bayonne police officers at the scene did nothing to stop the beating.
Federal authorities said Lillo falsified a Bayonne Police Department Use of Force Report related to the arrest with the intent to impede an investigation into the case.
Lillo “knowingly concealed, covered up, falsified, and made false entries on a Bayonne Police Department Use of Force Report about the arrest … by not checking the box marked ‘Strike/Use of Baton or other object,'” according to the indictment.
One of the lawyers representing Walsh in his lawsuit against the Bayonne Police Department, Joel Silberman, commended the agencies who arrested Lillo on behalf of himself and co-counsel Aymen Aboushi.
“Officer Lillo’s assault of Mr. Walsh can only be categorized as vicious and cowardly,” he said. “His arrest sends a clear message that this type of abuse will not be tolerated.”
Lillo was one of several Bayonne police officers named in a police brutality lawsuit that resulted in a $100,000 settlement for the two men who brought the lawsuit, The Jersey Journal reported in 2011.
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the continuing investigation leading to today’s arrest.
Managing Editor Ron Zeitlinger contributed to this report.