PROVIDENCE – The Lincoln police officer convicted of kicking a handcuffed woman in the head during a security detail at Twin River has escaped jail time for the offense.
Associate Superior Court Judge Edward C. Clifton Monday sentenced Officer Edward Krawetz to a 10-year suspended sentence, with probation, and ordered him to seek mental health counseling for “whatever issues” he is grappling with. Clifton rejected the prosecution’s recommendation that Krawetz be sentenced to seven years, with 18 months to serve at the ACI because Krawetz didn’t use a gun or a knife and the victim wasn’t injured.
Clifton said he might have considered home confinement for Krawetz, but state law presently does not allow it for defendants convicted of a violent crime. In balancing his options, the judge said he was particularly moved by psychologist’s report indicating that Krawetz was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in 2007 and should have received more counseling, but Krawetz didn’t want it.
“Individuals like this defendant, a sworn officer in Lincoln or anywhere else have available to them resources that many other people don’t,” Clifton said. “He had available to him the resources, the counseling that could have addressed whatever was going in his life on May 31, 2009, before he reported to Twin River.”
Krawetz, 47, a 12-year veteran of the Lincoln Police Department, had faced up to 20 years in prison for aggravated battery upon Donna Levesque, 44, of Uxbridge, Mass. In a widely distributed surveillance video of the event that led to the charges, Levesque is seen seated on the pavement with her hands cuffed behind her back, making a sweeping kick toward Krawetz’s leg as he stands beside her. Krawetz responds almost instantaneously with a sharp kick to her head.
Levesque, who was in the process of being charged with disorderly conduct, falls over and appears to be immobilized, though witnesses testified during Krawetz’s jury-waived trial that she was alert and sobbing.
Krawetz, testifying in his own behalf, called the response a “snap-kick” and claimed he used the martial-arts maneuver in self-defense because he felt threatened.
Wearing a dark suit and a striped, blue tie, Levesque sat with a stony but pained expression through most of yesterday’s hearing, his hands clasped in front of him, as his father and wife, Lori, watched from the spectator section.
Before the sentencing, he waived an opportunity to address the court.
“Your honor, at this time I’d rather not say anything,” Krawetz said, rising from his seat beside defense lawyer John Harwood at the defense table.
Even when it was apparent that Clifton was not going to send him to jail, Krawetz’s expression remained impassive and tense.
Levesque, too, was in the spectator section, choosing a seat in the far corner of the courtroom where she couldn’t be seen from the press box.
She informed prosecutors that she did not want to make a statement in open court about how the attack had affected her. But she did send a letter to the judge which, like the psychologist’s, was part of a package of information designed to help the judge shape a fitting punishment for Krawetz.
Court officials later declined to release the letter, saying it wasn’t a public record.
“Physical harm is not the only type of harm that can be imparted,” State Prosecutor Stephen Regine told the court at one point. “There was and continues to be to this day emotional harm.”
In support of his argument that Krawetz should get some jail time, Regine portrayed the policeman as a poor candidate for rehabilitation and attacked the defense’s proposition that, but for this one incident, Krawetz was a good cop with a clean record. On the contrary, Regine said that in March 2001, Krawetz was involved in a situation where he was accused of “roughing up” an individual named Joshua Harrison, resulting in a claim for damages that was settled out of court for $27,500.
Less than two months later, Krawetz was charged with simple assault, a criminal offense, after an altercation with a jogger on a bike path in Cumberland. He later pleaded no contest in court and was suspended from his job as a patrolman for 30 days. The record of the case was wiped clean in a process known as expungement in 2008.
Additionally, said Regine, Krawetz’s behavior in the current case had triggered a civil claim for damages which the Rhode Island Interlocal Trust, the town of Lincoln’s insurer, has shelled out $75,000 to settle.
“That’s over $100,000 that his actions as a member of the Lincoln Police Department have cost the trust,” said Regine. “After 2001...his colleagues must have been aware they were dealing with someone who had a problem.”
The bottom line, said Regine, was that police officers cannot break the law in the process of upholding it, or they risk losing the public’s trust. For that, he said, some jail time was warranted.
On rebuttal, defense counsel Harwood, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, reaffirmed Krawetz’s contention that his client had acted in self-defense. But he said Krawetz was extremely sorry for what had happened and he wished he’d never been at Twin River that day of the ill-fated encounter with Levesque.
On balance, however, Harwood said the court had to make some concessions for Krawetz’s good works as a police officer, the high pressure that comes with the job and the fact that he kicked Levesque in reaction to something she had done to him first.
“There was misconduct there that led up to this reaction,” said Harwood. “Sometimes people deserve what they get because they’re the ones that initiated it. They’re the ones that caused it.”
Moreover, Harwood said his client has already paid dearly for his mistake. Krawetz’s career is likely ruined, his pension is in jeopardy, and questions loom about how he will care for his family, including two teenage children. Since being placed on unpaid suspension from the force after the incident in 2009, he said Krawetz has been working as a trucker.
Before sentencing Krawetz, the judge spoke in some detail of the psychologist's assessment of Krawetz’s 2007 diagnosis of PTSD. Clifton said Krawetz asked to see the counselor of his own volition through an employee assistance program, a type of work benefit. The cause of Krawetz’s problem was not disclosed, but the psychologist noted that PTSD was not uncommon among workers in “high-risk occupations” such as law enforcement.
The therapist reported that Krawetz had been experiencing “bad nightmares,” “intrusive thoughts,” and also described Krawetz as “hypervigilant.”
Reading from the therapists report, the judge said that people suffering from hypervigilance are often prone to an “exaggerated, startled response” and they are “more irritable than usual.”
They are “always looking for dangers and threats” and they “tend to act quickly when they feel threatened,” the judge said.
Against medical advice, Krawetz broke off his relationship with the psychologist after two sessions, Clifton said.
After the hearing, Harwood did not seem very surprised that Krawetz had avoided jail time, but he said he was pleased. Despite the apparently leniency shown by the judge, Harwood said he had not yet decided whether to drop an appeal of his client’s conviction, which was filed immediately after Krawetz was found guilty on Jan. 23.
At the time, Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond said the police would continue to carry Krawetz on unpaid leave until his appeals are exhausted, though it is the department’s intention to terminate him under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, an internal disciplinary process. Police Chief Brian Sullivan said Monday Krawetz’s status hasn’t changed.
After the hearing, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, a former Pawtucket policeman, issued a statement chastizing Krawetz for his actions, but he said they shouldn’t color the public’s perception of police work.
“When a police officer or other public official engages in criminal conduct, dishonesty, or an abuse of power, the public trust is seriously undermined,” Kilmartin said. “The inexcusable actions by Edward Krawetz should not and must not reflect the actions by the thousands of police officers who perform their duties each day with pride, integrity, honesty and within the legal and ethical boundaries of the law.”