A Massachusetts prosecutor has promised to review all cases handled by police Officer John Donnelly after a HuffPost report exposed Donnelly’s role in planning the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Middlesex County District Attorney Marina Ryan announced Friday that her office is now “thoroughly reviewing any pending or closed cases” in which Donnelly, a patrolman in Woburn, Massachusetts, was involved.
“We will be issuing a discovering notice disclosing this matter to defense counsel on those cases,” Ryan said in a statement. “That notice has already been added to our publicly available list of officers subject to exculpatory evidence disclosure.”
On Thursday, HuffPost published a report detailing how Donnelly, 33, was among hundreds of white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville in August 2017 for a “Unite the Right” rally, terrorizing the town while chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” and violently attacking counterprotesters. The bloody weekend culminated with a neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Donnelly attended the rally as a bodyguard for Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist. Leaked chat logs from a neo-Nazi Discord server show Donnelly played an integral part in planning the weekend’s events.
The messages Donnelly posted on Discord show he may have belonged to the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. His messages were also full of racist and antisemitic slurs, and at times they advocated violence against leftists and minorities.
After attending the Charlottesville rally, Donnelly returned to Woburn, where he continued to be a police officer for the next five years.
HuffPost’s report was based on research by a collective of antifascist researchers called Ignite the Right.
“We are acutely aware of the way in which these allegations tear at the fabric of trust which exists between communities and the police departments which serve them,” District Attorney Ryan said in her statement.
The New England Innocence Project, a civil rights group dedicated to preventing and correcting wrongful convictions, called on the district attorney to go further than just reviewing Donnelly’s cases.
“Every case this officer touched should be dismissed, every conviction vacated,” the group said in a statement on Twitter. “There is no integrity in a system that relies on his credibility, judgment, or fairness. Nothing he has said or done in the job can be sufficient to bring criminal consequences to someone else.”
Donnelly, the New England Innocence Project added, is likely a sign of a more systemic problem in the Woburn Police Department.
“This white supremacist officer had partners, supervisors, & trainers,” the group said. “If he made arrests, prosecutors and judges relied on his reports and testimony. Yet, NONE of these people recognized and exposed him; they enabled him to be in a position of power over our community.”
In anticipation of HuffPost’s report on Thursday, the Woburn Police Department suspended Donnelly pending an investigation.
“The Charlottesville rally is a dark moment in our history, and deeply disturbing,” Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin said in a statement. “The City of Woburn is taking these allegations seriously by investigating the incident thoroughly, and I will move to terminate Officer Donnelly if the investigation concludes that the allegations are accurate.”
Donnelly was not only a cop; he was also the president of a “back the blue” nonprofit called Irish Angel, which raised money for law enforcement causes. He was an award-winning real estate agent in the Boston area.
Irish Angel told HuffPost on Thursday that Donnelly had been removed as president of the organization.
Century 21, the real estate agency for which Donnelly worked, confirmed on Friday that Donnelly had been fired.