Campus Police Officer Arrested, Charged with Drug Trafficking

1939 damelio police arrest
MIT Campus Police officer Joseph D’Amelio was arrested Saturday on drug trafficking charges after receiving a package containing hundreds of prescription painkiller tablets at an auto shop in East Boston.
Suffolk County District Attorney

Officer Joseph D’Amelio of the MIT Police was arrested in uniform in East Boston on Saturday night for trafficking in prescription painkillers. D’Amelio, of East Boston, and his cousin Anthony Cristallo, of Derry, NH, were caught trafficking 340 OxyContin pills and 500 Roxicodone tablets at an auto shop near Logan International Airport, the Boston Herald reported.

D’Amelio was arraigned and bail was set at $500,000 cash in the East Boston District Court yesterday. Both D’Amelio and Cristallo pleaded not guilty. If convicted of trafficking over 28 grams of oxycodone, D’Amelio and Cristallo face at least 7 years in prison, according to Massachusetts sentencing guidelines.

Cristallo, a convicted killer, spent 15 years in New Hampshire state prison for a murder he committed in 1986 at age 16, the Suffolk County assistant district attorney told WMUR-TV Channel 9 New Hampshire.

Federal Express opened a package in their custody containing the drugs and notified narcotics officers. D’Amelio, in uniform, drove his MIT Police cruiser to Advanced Automotive in East Boston, where he picked up the drugs from a trooper posing as a FedEx employee, the Boston Herald reported.

D’Amelio called Cristallo, who came to the auto shop with cash. Undercover police apprehended D’Amelio and Cristallo and recovered the drugs along with $12,000 in cash, according to a Suffolk County District Attorney’s office press release.

OxyContin and Roxicodone are brands of pills containing oxycodone. Oxycodone is a painkiller that is listed as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and “severe psychological or physical dependence,” but has valid medical uses.

Although oxycodone itself has been available for 30 years, abuse of the drug skyrocketed after 1996, when OxyContin’s formulation was released. OxyContin is a time-release version of the drug, which was widely viewed as safer and harder to abuse than previous drug formulations. However, addicts quickly discovered that crushing the pills would cause rapid absorption of all the oxycodone in a single OxyContin tablet.

According to a 2001 study from the Department of Justice, a bottle of 100 tablets (of 40 mg OxyContin) costs $400 when purchased legally, but may be worth up to $4,000 on the black market.

According to Massachusetts sentencing guidelines, trafficking in 28–100 grams of oxycodone carries a sentence of 7–20 years. (D’Amelio is estimated to have been carrying about 27 grams of oxycodone in OxyContin pills, and an unknown amount of oxycodone in Roxicodone pills. The precise amount of Roxicodone could affect his sentence.)

Trafficking in more than 100 grams carries a sentence of 10–20 years.

MIT has placed D’Amelio on administrative leave without pay, MIT spokeswoman Patti Richards said yesterday. Captain Albert F. Pierce Jr. of the MIT Police Patrol Division declined to comment on the arrest. MIT Police Chief John DiFava did not return repeated telephone calls. MIT has released no official statement regarding D’Amelio’s arrest.

You may have seen D’Amelio’s name before

In 2004, former campus activist Aimee L. Smith PhD ’02 filed a complaint against officer D’Amelio for unlawful arrest after D’Amelio arrested her twice in three months.

After the first arrest, at the 2004 Commencement, all charges against Smith were dismissed. President Charles M. Vest sent an unusual personal letter to the district attorney saying that MIT did not wish for Smith to be prosecuted. D’Amelio’s actions at Commencement were appropriate, Vest said in the letter.

Three months later, on an August afternoon in 2004, Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest outside the Student Center.

Smith was arrested after approaching police officers outside the Student Center and asking them whether they “know anything about [their] first amendment rights,” The Tech reported D’Amelio said. She then called the police “fucking pigs,” The Tech reported.

According to an e-mail Smith sent to the MIT Social Justice Cooperative, during the discussion D’Amelio began “taunting her about the fact that he had arrested her before” and allegedly said “‘I should arrest you again’.”

The altercation continued, and Smith was arrested. D’Amelio said Smith was “disturbing the peace of the people,” The Tech reported.

A Cambridge judge dismissed the criminal charge filed by Smith. In January, Smith was found not guilty of the criminal charges, with the judge saying that “the mere uttering of profanity in a public place” was not a crime.

In fall 2004, MIT hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to provide an independent report on the facts of Smith’s allegations against D’Amelio. That report was meant to collect facts and did not make any specific recommendations.