BURLINGTON — The city council gave its approval on Tuesday for Mayor Miro Weinberger to enter into a settlement agreement that would resolve a lawsuit alleging police used excessive force against a man in 2018.
Filed in 2019 by Jeremie Meli and his two brothers, the lawsuit alleges that Sgt. Jason Bellavance shoved Meli so hard that he lost consciousness after his head smashed into a wall.
Bellavance was initially suspended. He left the department in 2020 following a council-authorized buyout in which they gave him $300,000 in exchange for resigning.
During a special meeting of the Burlington City Council on Tuesday, Assistant City Attorney Jared Pellerin said details of the pending settlement could not be made public because a judge still had to approve the agreement. Once that happens, “we will be able to provide the public with a copy of the finalized agreement, which we intend to do,” Pellerin told the council.
Ahead of the vote, Weinberger told the council that the agreement calls for a joint statement between the Meli brothers and Weinberger.
The council approved the settlement unanimously with one absence.
Around midnight on Sept. 9, 2018, Bellavance was one of the officers to respond to the area around What Ale’s You, a downtown bar, after receiving reports of a verbal altercation. The incident was captured on body camera footage that was released by the police department after the suit was filed.
After Meli was identified by the bar’s owner, the video shows Bellavance approach and shove him. Meli then falls over and hits his head against a wall, appearing to temporarily lose consciousness.
Jeremie Meli and his brothers, Albin and Charlie Meli, were arrested as a result of the late-night incident. Those charges were later dropped.
In addition to Bellavance, the brothers’ federal lawsuit named then-chief Brandon Del Pozo and Officer Cory Cambell, who in 2019 was accused of punching a man who later died from the injury. In 2021, the city settled a lawsuit related to that incident, giving the man’s family $45,000.
The Melis filed their lawsuit alongside a similar action brought by Mabior Jok, who accused Officer Joseph Corrow of using excessive force against him one night before the Meli incident. Jok’s lawsuit is still pending and is scheduled to be argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday.
The Meli lawsuit had been scheduled to be argued on the same date and venue, but the attorney representing the city in the lawsuit, Pietro Lynn, informed the court of the pending settlement in a May 22 filing. Lynn cited a pending settlement and noted that “the parties anticipate that they will soon file a signed agreement for dismissal.” He noted that Evan Chadwick, who is representing the Meli brothers, did not oppose the motion.
Chadwick could not be reached regarding the settlement on Tuesday.