Press "Enter" to skip to content

Inside the cases around 3 fired Boston Police officers


(Last Updated On: March 18, 2023)

The city spent 60 pages laying out the case against the three officers it announced it had fired, according to documents, including 38 on anti-vaccine-mandate leader Shana Cottone.

In the end, the Boston Police Department sustained two of three allegations against Officer Joe Abasciano, one of two against Officer Michael Geary and 21 of 24 against Cottone, then a police sergeant. All three were fired, with Geary getting the ax following his October hearing and Cottone and Abasciano this past Monday.

The short version of the five dozen pages provided by the city upon records request is that Boston Police chief administrative hearing officer Deputy Superintendent Richard Dahill sustained complaints against Cottone over allegations related to actions she took as she opposed the city’s vaccine mandate, and Abasciano and Geary over tweets they made related to when supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Both Cottone and Abasciano plan to challenge the rulings, and say these are cases of political retribution, while Geary couldn’t be reached for comment. Cottone denies that many of the allegations the city laid out happened as they did. Abasciano says he wrote the posts in question, but that firing him for them is an inappropriate response.

Cottone and Abasciano, who were both involved with the Boston First Responders United group that sprung up December 2021 to object to Mayor Michelle Wu’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, were fired within a few hours of each other on Monday, a fact that the BFRU blasted in a statement then, saying, “The cases against both officers are both politically motivated and retaliation for speaking out in support of personal choice and freedom of speech.”

Upon request, the city turned over the allegations against each of the cops.

Cottone allegations

Cottone’s section, at 38 pages, is the combination of six internal-affairs cases comprising 24 counts against the most vocal and visible critic of the vaccine mandates.

In broad strokes, they involve allegations that Cottone, who was working as the duty supervisor in the district that encompassed Wu’s house, “failed to assign” officers to Wu’s security detail at her home on the day the mandates were announced, though higher-ups noticed and had the roles filled.

The Daily Reformer News:   Biden’s tick to the center risks alienating key voting blocs

“I find Sergeant Cottone allowed her personal grievances to impair the operation of the Department,” Dahill wrote, noting that she continued to “rail against” the mandate that day.

Other sets of allegations involve her disobeying an order not to record the mayor as she spoke at a roll call about the mandate. Cottone said she “zoned out” when the captain said that, which Dahill didn’t take as an appropriate excuse. This roll call wasn’t in her precinct, and Dahill ruled that she’d broken rules in how she left her designated area while on duty to go there and also to an electricians union meeting about the topic.

Other allegations involve two sets of interactions with other police offers while she was on leave, situations taking place at two different pizza parlors — Penguin Pizza in Mission Hill and Pizzeria Regina in the North End — as she protested the city’s COVID rules. Dahill wrote that she was “flagrantly discourteous, confrontational, and insulting toward both the restaurant manager and the restaurant worker” and that this “reflected very unfavorably” on the department. Also when she was on leave starting in early January, she’s accused of acting improperly while protesting outside of the mayor’s house.

Cottone said many of the comments the department ultimately took issue with were “gallows humor,” and that this, writ large, was a fait accompli from the moment she incurred the ire of the mayor.

“If I was outside the mayor’s house with a sign that said ‘Get the vaccine and Michelle Wu is the best,’ I wouldn’t be here right now,” she told the Herald this week.

She said that her firing should bother people no matter their political stripes.

“If you’re on a different political spectrum than people, they will cheer your demise,” she said she’s realized. “But it’s scary. People should be worried.”

Cottone said she wants to sue the city and Wu personally, but she’s have a hard time getting counsel.

“It’s easier for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to get attorneys right now than it is for me,” she said, referring to the death-row-dwelling Boston Marathon bomber.

Cottone’s past at the department is a bit of a mixed bag. At the aforementioned marathon bombing in 2013, she’s widely credited with saving a woman’s life, and she also received plaudits for rescuing North End residents from a fire a few years later. But she’s also faced discipline for several different issues, including allegations that she got into a drunken scrap.

The Daily Reformer News:   20 gallons of dye caused pink color in Clear Creek

Abasciano allegations

The Abasciano case played out more in the public eye, as he was one of the police officers who headed down to the Trump rally on Jan. 6 that preceded the riot. Both Abasciano and the city agree he never entered the Capitol.

Rather, the only charge actually related to him going to D.C. then was misuse of family medical leave, and Dahill dismissed it, saying people are allowed to travel or do other personal activities while they’re out on legitimate leave.

The two charges that were sustained are both related to tweets Abasciano sent around it, including, “Today there will be only two parties in America, traitor and patriot.” That’s a paraphrase of a quote from former President Ulysses S. Grant, and he tweeted several variations of it relating to then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence.

“I find the posts, taken at face value, indicate that Officer Abasciano is unable to impartially and without bias perform his duties as a sworn member of the Department,” Dahill wrote.

Dahill added, “Officer Abasciano noted that the political discourse today has been increasingly extreme and that Twitter is a cesspool. While I agree with that sentiment, I find it does not have any bearing on the case at hand.”

Abasciano, in an interview with the Herald, said his tweets from a pseudonymous account were a “lament” rather than a threat, and should have been protected by the First Amendment. He disagreed with Dahill’s characterization, saying, “It wasn’t hard for me to put my personal, political persuasions behind me” on the job.

“If you can terminate someone just because they have a political opinion, it’s a dangerous slippery slope,” he said.

He also provided a copy of a report from December 2021 in which the internal affairs division didn’t sustain a charge of “Neglect of Duty/Unreasonable Judgment” against him in this case, noting that the department doesn’t have a social-media policy.

“These tweets which might be categorized as political rhetoric hyperbole could be considered offensive by some but these rules did not rise to the level of criminality nor call into question his ability or judgment to act as a police officer and would not be considered a violation of BPD rules and regulations,” the internal-affairs investigator wrote at the time.

The Daily Reformer News:   San Francisco reparations idea: $5 million per Black person

Now more than a year later, that specific charge wasn’t brought, and the two he had sustained against him were for conduct and for violating “Canon Eight” of the ethics rules, which states “Employees shall conduct their private affairs so as not to reflect unfavorably on the Boston Police Department; or in such a manner as to affect their ability to perform their duties honestly, effectively, fairly, and without impairment.”

Geary allegations

Geary’s, the shortest determination at eight pages, largely centers around how he commented “rats get bats” on an FBI post seeking information about the Jan. 6 riot. He explained this to internal affairs as “I was taking a satirical jab at the FBI. I wanted to make fun of them a little bit.”

Dahill wasn’t amused, calling the comment “a warning of potential violence against people who assist the FBI in their investigation. I find that the comment has a chilling effect on cooperation between the community and law enforcement.” He also noted that Geary declined to show up to the hearing at all, with only his union’s lawyer presenting his case.

Dahill sustained a charge of “conduct unbecoming” against Geary, while not sustaining a charge of “neglect of duty/unreasonable judgment” against him.

Last year, as all three were on leave, Cottone — who technically was placed on leave one week in — made $148,582.37, Abasciano $133,434.12 and Geary $83,493.70.

Longtime civil-rights attorney Harvey Silverglate told the Herald that “a public official should not be and probably could not be fired for expressing a personal or political opinion unless its is directly related to his or hear ability to perform the task or job he or she has.”

That said, this case appears “fuzzy,” and to a large extent, “It’s a matter of judgment.”

As reported by Boston Herald