On Friday, a Providence County Superior Court jury found a Barrington police officer with 15 years of experience guilty of domestic cyberstalking and obstruction of the judicial system.
Veteran Barrington police officer Joe Andreozzi faces a maximum penalty of five years for the obstruction charge, which is a felony, and one year on the cyberstalking charge, which is a misdemeanor.
Attorneys for Mr. Andreozzi have already filed a motion for a new trial. That motion will be heard on Friday, Aug. 2. A date for sentencing has not been set for Mr. Andreozzi, a former Barrington resident who now lives in Pawtucket.
In Aug. 2012, Barrington Police Chief John LaCross requested an investigation by Rhode Island State Police into Mr. Andreozzi after someone filed a domestic violence complaint against the police officer. The state police charged Mr. Andreozzi with domestic disorderly conduct and Chief LaCross placed Mr. Andreozzi on administrative leave.
In mid-November, the State Police also charged Mr. Andreozzi with obstruction of the judicial system, a felony. It has been reported that Mr. Andreozzi used a computer program to remotely delete text messages from his cellphone while the phone was impounded in a state police evidence box.
Superior Court Justice Susan E. McGuirl presided over the case; Assistant Attorney General Stephen Regine prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of Attorney General along with Special Assistant Attorney General Kate Brody.
Judge McGuirl placed special conditions on Mr. Andreozzi’s bail. She increased his bail amount to $10,000 with surety (it was previously personal recognizance); he cannot have any contact with the victim, his former wife; he is not allowed to travel outside the state; and he is not allowed access to firearms.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued a statement regarding the guilty verdict in the case: “As a police officer, sworn to uphold the law at all times, the defendant has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to conduct himself with the highest standard of integrity, which he clearly failed to do. Moreover, it is abhorrent that the defendant would obstruct his fellow officers from doing their jobs in conducting this investigation.
“I commend the efforts of the Barrington Police Department, who received the initial complaint about one of their own, as well as the Rhode Island State Police, who conducted the investigation.”
Deborah DeBare, the executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, previously issued a statement in support of the Barrington Police Department for its handling of the case.
“We commend the Barrington Police Department and its Police Chief John LaCross for responsibly handling the Sergeant Joseph Andreozzi domestic violence case. In August 2012, they asked State Police to investigate the complaints lodged against Andreozzi by his ex-wife that led to an initial charge of domestic disorderly conduct.
“Through their actions, Barrington Police sent the message to domestic violence victims in Rhode Island that these crimes are serious and will be investigated — even if the abuser is one of their own,” she wrote.
“We also commend the Rhode Island State Police, its Computer Crimes Unit, and the Attorney General’s office, for conducting a thorough investigation of the case that on November 16, 2012, led to an upgraded felony charge for obstruction of the judicial system and a misdemeanor charge for cyberstalking against Andreozzi. He allegedly sent threatening phone and text messages to his ex-wife before going to her home. This kind of abuse often escalates to physical violence; the actions taken in the Andreozzi case further served to protect his ex-wife from potential harm.”
Ms. DeBare further wrote that the case holds special significance since it involves a police officer.
“A victim of domestic violence whose abuser is a police officer often faces unique barriers to leaving the relationship and obtaining safety. Victims often fear calling the police because they know the case will be handled by officers who are colleagues and possibly friends of their abuser. … In the Andreozzi case this did not occur. Additionally, victims in this situation are particularly vulnerable because the abuser has a gun, knows the confidential locations of domestic violence shelters, and knows the legal system well.”
Ms. DeBare said there are six local domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island that provide a wide array of services, including 24 hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups and assistance with the legal system.
“We urge all Rhode Islanders to remember that if they hear or see someone being hurt to call 911 immediately. And, if they or someone they know needs support to call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100.”