Chainsaw plea falls apart

Police were told man was ‘extremely drunk’ and ‘waiting for you’ with a chainsaw. 

Oak Bluffs Police officers dealt with a man in Sept. who allegedly threatened them with a chainsaw. - Rich Saltzberg

A plea agreement stemming from allegations William Scott Sanfilippo revved and brandished a chainsaw, and threatened officers with it, failed in Edgartown District Court on Friday. Sanfilippo faces charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct from the Oak Bluffs Police Department. 

Following a summary of facts read into the record by Assistant District Attorney Martin Kelliher, Judge Benjamin Barnes asked Sanfilippo if he agreed with what he’d just heard. Sanfilippo replied, “Pretty much.”

On Sept. 5, an individual reported to Oak Bluffs Police that she wanted to take out a harassment order against a man named William Sanfilippo for trespassing. Sanfilippo had been warned in the past about trespassing, according to a report by Officer Samantha Barnes. The person seeking the order alleged Sanfillipo had recently been caught on a video camera trespassing. Officer Barnes telephoned Sanfilippo, and wound up speaking with his wife.

“Mrs. Sanfilippo stated that Mr. Sanfilippo could not come to the phone, and that he was ‘extremely drunk,’ and he’s outside with a chainsaw waiting for you,” the report states. 

Barnes and Officer Michael Maliff subsequently traveled to the Sanfilippo residence in Oak Bluffs, and could hear a chainsaw running as they approached the driveway.

“As we exited the cruiser at the end of the driveway, Mr. Sanfilippo raised the chainsaw in the air and revved the motor a few times before he started to approach us,” the report states. “Officer Maliff instructed Mr. Sanfilippo to put down the chainsaw before approaching us any further. Initially, Mr. Sanfilippo stated he would not drop the chainsaw, and stood about 15 feet away from us, holding it in front of him. We continued to try and speak with Mr. Sanfilippo, telling him that we were only there to speak with him about a trespassing issue, however Mr. Sanfilippo continued to be argumentative, and we were unable to de-escalate him due to his state of intoxication. He asked again what we were there about, and we stated we were there to talk about [a witness] and an incident from earlier today. Mr. Sanfilippo then put the chainsaw down in the middle of the driveway and closed the distance even further to about [seven] feet. As we spoke about him being on the property, Mr. Sanfilippo became progressively more verbally combative.”

According to the police report, Sanfilippo conversed with Barnes and Maliff by shouting, despite the officers’ “neutral-toned and lowered voices.” Sanfilippo allegedly denied, then admitted to trespassing, according to the report. 

Barnes noted in her report Sanfilippo leaned forward from time to time as he spoke, “occasionally balling his fists before releasing them again, staring at both me and Officer Malliff down the top of his brow. Mr. Sanfilippo would lock eyes with me, look back to the chainsaw, and then look at me again throughout the conversation.”

Barnes noted that the chainsaw became an issue once more. “Mr. Sanfilippo turned around and grabbed the chainsaw again,” the report states. “Mr. Sanfilippo stated that he was done talking to us, and told us to leave his property. Mr. Sanfilippo shouted, ‘I suggest you don’t follow me or you’re going to get some of this,’ and raised the running chainsaw up from his side to his chest level, with the blade up in a position that would allow him to slash the chainsaw in a forward motion. Mr. Sanfilippo was very clearly attempting to intimidate officers based off his overall behavior, tone, and volume of his voice. He then walked back towards the wood pile in his driveway. Mr. Sanfilippo stood over the wood and continued to rev the chainsaw’s engine as quickly as he could for about 30-45 seconds, not cutting any wood during this display.”

Sanfilippo’s wife exited their house and yelled at her husband to curb his behavior toward the officers, according to a report, and Sanfilippo yelled back not to talk to the police and also cursed at the officers and told them to leave. 

At this point Maliff spoke with Sanfilippo’s wife, and Barnes spoke with Sanfilippo, after, according to the report, he’d thrown the chainsaw to the ground.

Barnes attempted to be “compassionate and understanding” about issues Sanfilippo had with the complaining witness, but couldn’t get him to calm down. Barnes described him as “unsteady,” and noted he “smelled heavily of alcohol.”

Sgt. Jeffrey Labell arrived on the scene, and Sanfilippo, whom the report describes as uncooperative, was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace and assault with a dangerous weapon (chainsaw). 

Sanfilippo’s wife allegedly told police she believed her husband wasn’t well, according to the report. 

On Friday, defense attorney Ryan Searle told the court her client disagreed with the assertion the chainsaw was running.

Judge Barnes asked Sanfilippo if he raised the chainsaw near the officers and placed those officers in fear.

Sanfilippo’s response was difficult to discern via the Zoom feed. Judge Barnes found it unsatisfactory, and declined to move forward with the plea. He instead set another court date for Oct. 28.