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NBC 10 I-Team: Video of alleged assault played at trial of Cranston police officer

WJAR Providence logo WJAR Providence 5/5/2021 PARKER GAVIGAN, NBC 10 NEWS
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The assault trial began Tuesday in the case of a Cranston police officer accused of punching and slamming down a suspect inside a cell at the police department.

The encounter involving Officer Andrew Leonard was recorded by the department, and the video was played publicly for the first time at trial.

Leonard responded to a domestic call on March 5 of last year on East Pine Drive. Prosecutors said it should have been an average, "mundane" arrest and booking. But it didn't go that way. The suspect and the officer shouted expletives back and forth at each other. Later, at headquarters, the tension escalated to a boiling point.

On the video, Gian Mattiello, the suspect, can be seen in his underwear and socks being booked. After a brief exchange of words, Leonard threw multiple punches, used his knee and slammed the uncuffed man down on the cell block floor. 

"This was unacceptable behavior, unacceptable escalation, unacceptable violence and unacceptable breach of authority," said Robert Johnson, special assistant attorney general.

Caption: Cranston Police Officer Andrew Leonard is on trial and charged with assaulting a suspect inside the police station. Video that prosecutors say shows the altercation was played in court publicly for the first time on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Mattiello, who is currently locked up for probation and bail violations, took the stand to explain his version of what happened. 

 A public defender sat next to him to guide him should specifics arise on separate multiple pending charges. Mattiello said Leonard arrested him after a domestic incident with his brother.

He claimed Leonard smashed two of his cell phones at the scene, called him a "coward" and taunted him in the booking room at the Cranston Police Department. At one point, Mattiello got up to demonstrate to Judge J. Patrick O'Neill how Leonard put his fists up like a boxer in a fighting stance.

"He was egging me on. 'Come on let's go!'" he said.

Assistant Attorney General Daniel Guglielo asked Mattiello what he said next.

"Why are you so mad? Calm down," said Mattiello.

Leonard's defense attorney argued the force was reasonable, after Mattiello got his arms around the officer's duty belt.

Attorney Joseph Monahan chipped away at Mattiello's character, drug abuse and lengthy criminal history.

Monahan said the taunts also worked in reverse and that Mattiello told the officer "wait until the cuffs come off" and repeatedly said, "Do you know who I am?", then later made a reference to being related somehow to former Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello. 

The taunts were confirmed on the stand by another Cranston officer, Zachary Burns, who was on the call and in the booking room.

"There's one common thread that we will present through our evidence and through the cross-examination of the witnesses, and that's one of violence and lack of respect for the law for Gian Mattiello," said Monahan.

Leonard is off the job on paid leave, pending the misdemeanor simple assault charges. But, for a police officer, if found guilty, that likely means his job is on the line.

The trial resumes on Wednesday in Kent County District Court.

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