Grad Student Receives Pretrial Probation After Assault Charge

A graduate student has received pretrial probation, effectively halting the four charges filed against him in connection with an incident at the List Visual Arts Center in October 2007.

If Leonardo Bonanni G stays out of trouble for nine months, the charges of assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and marijuana possession will be dropped.

As a condition of Bonanni’s probation, he was required to write letters to The Tech and to the officer who arrested him.

“Despite recent articles in The Tech regarding the MIT Police Department,” Bonanni wrote in his Nov. 17 letter to The Tech, “I want to assure the student body that the officers I dealt with were courteous throughout the court proceedings. I was able to resolve my case earlier this week and I would not have been able to do so were it not for the professional approach taken by the police officers in question.”

Bonanni was arrested at a film screening at the List Center in the Media Lab, after a police officer’s request to examine a marijuana cigarette behind his ear turned into a physical altercation involving multiple police officers.

MIT Police officer Joseph West was later treated at Cambridge City Health and Alliance Hospital for an injury to his left hand that resulted from the arrest. The police report can be found among records filed with the police’s criminal complaint, available at

The Tech could contact only one witness to the arrest, Cambridge resident Andrew Richardson, who said that the police’s “efforts to subdue the kid seemed uncalled-for, an overreaction.”

But MIT’s de facto police chief, John DiFava, said in October 2008 that he stood by his officers’ training and that they had responded with appropriate force to subdue a belligerent suspect.

Bonanni’s attorney, Viktor Theiss, said he was pleased by the outcome. “The system did what it was supposed to do,” he said. They “took a time out, and if nothing further happens, then the case is dismissed,” he said. “Here’s a guy who has a tremendous future ahead, and who wants to gamble on a trial?”