SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 5, 2013

Sideris loses bid to regain job as officer

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — George Sideris won’t be getting his job back.

The former Peabody police officer, who confessed to beating his elderly mother into unconsciousness on Thanksgiving Day 2004, was denied an appeal asking the state Civil Service Commission for reinstatement.

Sideris, 43, was never actually convicted of assaulting his mother, despite confessing that he was responsible. Melpomeni Sideris regained consciousness but remained impaired and was confined to a nursing home until her death in 2007. Sideris also admitted to abusing his mother during the months leading up to the final incident.

Nevertheless, because of questions regarding his sanity and, thus, his ability to stand trial, the case against him was dismissed in August 2012. The lack of a conviction prompted Sideris to ask to have his job back last March, citing an earlier commission decision to dismiss an appeal of his firing “without prejudice pending conclusion of the criminal matter.”

At the time, the commission wrote, “In the event that the appellant is successful in those criminal matters, the Commission will accept and allow a motion for reconsideration.”

But the commission does not view the dismissal of the charges against Sideris as “successful.” It was due, members observed, “to Mr. Sideris’ lengthy, involuntary commitment due to delusional disorder. ... This is not the type of ‘success’ that the Commission envisioned.” Additionally, it was noted, his confinement for mental illness raises questions on whether he could be legally allowed to carry a gun.

“Carrying a firearm is an integral part of a police officer’s job, and Mr. Sideris has not shown how he would be able to perform this essential duty,” the commission ruled. They also faulted him for not filing this appeal in a timely manner.

City officials applauded the decision.

“The allegations were very disturbing,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt, adding that he followed the case closely. “I talked to our legal team about fighting this every step of the way. I told them, ‘Under no condition are we going to allow this without a fight.’”

He pronounced himself “pleased with the decision of the Civil Service Commission.”

Sideris had been on the force for roughly four years when the incident happened. The commission noted that he was “harassed and bullied” by other officers during his tenure. They teased him about the fact that he was over 30 and still lived with his mother.

By the time his trial date neared in 2007, Sideris’ lawyer was complaining that he could not communicate with the accused. Meanwhile, his client faced charges that could have sent him to prison for 10 years. In dismissing these in 2012, Judge Timothy Feeley said that Sideris had been diagnosed with “persecutory type delusional disorder” and wasn’t likely to recover in time to meet a statutory deadline whereby an incompetent defendant can be tried.

The former law officer saw the charges, assault on a person over 60 years of age, as part of a conspiracy. Doctors believed the stress of his court date contributed to his ailment.

In 2008, a suicide attempt resulted in a civil commitment, with Sideris sent first to Bridgewater State Hospital and then to Taunton. He was seen as posing a danger to himself and to others.

When his mother was hospitalized, Sideris first claimed that she had fallen. Only after conferring with his Greek Orthodox priest did he confess to hitting her and to months of such abuse previously — including an incident that put her in the hospital for a week. Ironically, Sideris told investigators that he was not suited to the stress of police work, but his mother had insisted he stay on the job.

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.