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Disabled firefighter accused in drug buy

Allegedly purchased OxyContin pills at T

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Megan Woolhouse
Globe Staff / April 28, 2008

A Boston firefighter on disability leave will face charges that he illegally bought $200 worth of OxyContin painkillers from a person police referred to as a known drug dealer.

William Boyle, 58, allegedly bought the pills Friday at the Broadway MBTA station, on the Red Line. Detectives handcuffed Boyle and questioned him at the police station, but they did not formally arrest him. They released him and issued a criminal summons for him to appear in court on possession charges.

Boyle has been a city firefighter for 10 years and has been out on disability since last April. Information about the cause of his disability leave was not available yesterday, said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. Boyle had submitted retirement papers prior to Friday's incident, MacDonald said.

Boyle's brother-in-law, Boston Police Superintendent Dan Linskey, issued a statement yesterday, saying he was "very disappointed" by the news.

"Billy is a great guy who served honorably in Vietnam and on the Boston Fire Department," Linskey wrote. "I hope this incident is the catalyst necessary to help him address his personal issues."

According to a police report of the incident, detectives spotted Boyle meeting Stephen Puglielli, 46, on Friday about 3 p.m. Detectives said they watched Puglielli hand Boyle a small cellophane packet during an exchange. As both men left, detectives confronted Boyle, and he ran. Police wrestled him to the ground.

Boyle tossed the packet containing the drugs before he was handcuffed, police said. When detectives found it, he accused them of planting it, according to the police report.

Boyle told police that he suffered from back pain due to a firefighting injury. He was read his rights, but later released so that he could see his doctor, officials said.

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll denied that Boyle received special treatment, and said that his family's ties to the police department did not factor in his release. She said Boyle will receive a criminal summons in the mail announcing the date and time of a hearing in South Boston District Court.

"It's routine procedure for officers to request a summons in certain situations, and in this particular situation the detective decided that was the best course of action," she said. "We issue hundreds of summons a year in similar circumstances."

MacDonald, the Fire Department spokesman, said department officials would let the case "work through the court system."

Puglielli, who Driscoll said was known to police, evaded detectives at the T station on Friday but was later arrested and is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges of drug distribution, she said.

Police said he has sold OxyContin illegally before and is a repeat offender, but did not have additional details about his record. His address was not provided.

Boyle was stopped as the firefighters union and Boston's mayor, Thomas M. Menino, engage in heated contract negotiations over mandatory drug testing for firefighters. The mayor stepped up demands for drug testing after two firefighters killed in a restaurant blaze in West Roxbury in August were found to have either alcohol or traces of cocaine in their systems.

Rich Paris, vice president of the International Association of Firefighters Union Local 718, said the union had no comment.

In January, the Globe reported that between 2005 and 2007, almost 75 percent of the Fire Department's retirements were due to disabilities from injuries, a status that lets those retirees collect their pensions tax-free. During the last six years, more than 100 Boston firefighters have reported career-ending injuries while filling in at higher-paid positions.

About 200 members of the 1,600-member department were out on injured sick leave in a typical week in 2007, costing the city millions in overtime to fill the vacant positions.

Federal authorities launched an investigation of some of those disability claims this year.

It was not clear whether Boyle was serving in a higher capacity when he was hurt.

Globe correspondent John M. Guilfoil contributed to this report.

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