Former Woburn Cop Decertified for Alleged Role in Charlottesville Rally

At left, white nationalists holding tiki torches rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 as part of the "Unite the Right" demonstration. Woburn Police Officer John Donnelly, seen at left, is on leave while he's investigated for allegedly taking part in and helping to plan the rally.
File image | Handout

A former Massachusetts police officer who reportedly participated in the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been decertified by the state's police standards board, meaning he can no longer work in law enforcement, according to state records.

Documents made public Monday by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission indicate that former Woburn Officer John Donnelly entered into a voluntary decertification agreement on April 13, which was signed by the commission's chair on April 21.



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His name will also be included in a national database of decertified officers, according to the records. It's the first time the commission has decertified an officer.

The Woburn Police Department opened an internal investigation into Donnelly in October after HuffPost.com reported his participation in the deadly Unite the Right rally. Heather Heyer died after a car driven by white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters. Fields is serving a life sentence for murder and malicious wounding convictions.

Woburn’s police chief in a statement in October said Donnelly’s alleged role at the rally was “in direct opposition to the core values of the Woburn Police Department, to serve all members of our community equally and treat them with dignity and respect.”

Donnelly, a reserve officer at the time of the Charlottesville rally, resigned before the internal investigation was completed.

A listed cellphone number for Donnelly, who was also a real estate agent, was not in service. His attorney, Leigh Panettiere, said she had no comment when reached by telephone on Tuesday.

According to state law, once decertified, no “law enforcement agency, nor a sheriff, nor the executive office of public safety nor any entity thereunder shall employ him in any capacity, including but not limited to, as a consultant or independent contractor."

Under the voluntary decertification, there is no admission that the allegations he faced were true.

The panel, known as the POST Commission, was created in 2020 partially in response to nationwide calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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