Two ACI guards guilty of assault

PROVIDENCE — A jury yesterday found two former correctional officers guilty on all counts of assaulting four inmates at the state’s minimum-security prison.

Kenneth J. Viveiros, left, and Gualter Botas, right, were found guilty of all charges yesterday.

The Providence Journal / Andrew Dickerman

Former Capt. Gualter Botas, 39, of Pawtucket, was convicted on seven counts of simple assault and battery involving four inmates, and former Lt. Kenneth Viveiros, 56, of North Providence, was convicted on four counts of simple assault and battery involving three of the same inmates.

The charges are misdemeanors, and each carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison. No sentencing date has been set for Botas and Viveiros, who have been fired by the Department of Corrections and remain free on personal recognizance.

Yesterday’s verdicts, which culminated an 18-day trial before Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Procaccini, came after jurors had deliberated for less than four hours over the course of two days.

Afterward, state corrections Director A.T. Wall issued a statement that began with a quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt: “No man is above the law and no man is beneath it.”

“These two former correctional officers have now been held accountable in a court of law for their abuse of inmates entrusted to their custody,” Wall said. “They do not represent the staff of this department. In fact, through their actions, they have dishonored the 1,500 men and women who perform their jobs with pride, professionalism and integrity every day. These men and women do a very difficult job, and they do it without breaking the law.”

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch issued a statement, saying, “Let me make myself abundantly clear: correctional officers work and walk the toughest beat in the state every day, seeing things and having to do things that most of us can only imagine, and don’t want to imagine at that.”

But Botas and Viveiros “grossly abused their positions of authority and, in the process, tarnished their badges,” Lynch said. “Such abuses of authority are an affront not only to the victims in these cases but also to the vast majority of correctional officers, who do a very difficult job very well.”

When asked if prosecutors will seek prison time for Botas and Viveiros, attorney general’s spokesman Michael J. Healey said, “That’s definitely under consideration.”

The lawyer representing Viveiros, Olin W. Thompson III, said, “We are very disappointed, obviously.” The lawyer representing Botas, John D. Lynch Jr., said the defense will file motions for a new trial, and the judge said he will hear those motions Sept. 5.

Richard Ferruccio, president of the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers, said, “Obviously, we are shocked and disappointed that the jury didn’t see it the way we saw it. Inmates have a right to due process, but when due process is used as a weapon against the staff, that’s a problem.”

Ferruccio was critical of the variety of allegations of abuse, saying, “It’s like the Buddy Cianci rule, where you throw a bunch of stuff up on the wall and hope something will stick.” He was referring to the case of former Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr., who was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and acquitted of 11 other charges at a trial in 2002.

Ferruccio noted that another former correctional officer, Ernest Spaziano Jr., was acquitted of assaulting one of the inmates in an earlier trial, and Spaziano testified in the trial of Botas and Viveiros, contradicting the allegations of inmate abuse. “The jury believed Ernie Spaziano in the first trial,” but this jury basically called Spaziano a liar, he said.

Ferruccio said managers wanted Botas, Viveiros and Spaziano to “clean up” the minimum-security prison because it was getting “out of control,” but now, “the administration is not supporting the staff.” He said, “They were doing their jobs. They were clamping down on inmate drug trafficking. They were not popular with the inmates.”

Corrections spokeswoman Tracey Z. Poole said Wall was surprised by Ferruccio’s comments. She quoted Wall as saying, “Surely, Officer Ferruccio doesn’t believe that our staff are ever allowed to break the law. It’s never acceptable for a sworn peace officer to break the law.”

As for the minimum-security prison being “out of control,” Wall said, “I have confidence in the administrators and fine staff at minimum security.”

Asked when a state correctional officer was last convicted of assaulting an inmate, Poole cited the 1999 trial of two officers who were convicted of beating an inmate in 1996 in the segregation unit of maximum security.

Botas was convicted on charges that he did the following:

•Punched inmate Matthew Gumkowski in the face on June 8, 2005.

•Struck inmate Robert Houghton with a phone book on Dec. 23, 2005.

•Struck inmate Anthony Romano in the head, grabbed him and pushed him into file cabinets on Jan. 30, 2006.

•Struck inmate Jose Gonzalez in the face and grabbed him by the testicles on Feb. 14, 2006.

Viveiros was convicted on charges that he did the following:

•Struck Houghton in the face on Dec. 23, 2005.

•Struck Romano on the head with a clipboard and a phone book on Jan. 30, 2006.

•Broke a package of soup on Gonzalez’s head on Feb. 14, 2006.

Botas and Viveiros displayed little emotion as the verdicts were read. At one point, Botas leaned back and shook his head slightly. Muffled sobs could be heard from relatives of the defendants. Afterward, the jury forewoman and another juror declined to comment on the record about the verdicts.

Special Assistant Attorney General Molly K. Cote, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment. Wall and Lynch said they appreciated her work.

Botas is expected to return to court this fall to be tried in another inmate-abuse case in which he is accused of forcing a prisoner to taste his own feces.


3 Responses

  1. Gross injustice. another instance where no real evidence is present but beleive a con they have more rights than line staff.

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