By Tony Hanson, John McDevitt, and Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A former Philadelphia police lieutenant accused of slapping a woman to the ground after last summer’s Puerto Rican Day parade (see previous story) was acquitted today in a Philadelphia courtroom.
In a non-jury trial, Judge Patrick Dugan today ruled that Jonathan Josey was not guilty of simple assault when he struck Aida Guzman, 39, in the face.
Guzman, who speaks Spanish, had testified through a translator that she had been struck by Josey with a closed fist to her mouth.
Josey had testified that the woman refused to drop a bottle of beer she had been holding. He said that he went to knock the bottle from her hand and was “shocked” to see her go down when his hand hit her face. She was originally charged with disorderly conduct but the charges were later dropped.
Judge Dugan admitted he was “troubled” by the video that caught part of the incident and went viral shortly afterward, but says there was more going on than revealed in the video — describing the scene as “chaos” and “volatile.”
All things considered, Dugan said, he had to rule Josey not guilty.
There was immediate cheering in the courtroom, where the gallery was packed with police officers. The judge demanded order, and the celebration by Josey’s supporters moved outside the courtroom.
Josey was terminated by the Philadelphia Police Department in the wake of the uproar over the incident that was videotaped by a bystander. After today’s verdict, he said he wants his job back.
Outside the courtroom, Josey said he had never intended to hit Guzman and said he thought the judge’s decision was fair.
John McGrody, a vice president in the Philadelphia police officers’ union, says they would like Josey to get his job back today but are confident that Josey will ultimately be back on the job.
Speaking in Spanish, Guzman — the woman seen being struck in the video — said today she expected the not-guilty verdict but is angry and frustrated that the officers testifying, in her view, were lying and covering up for themselves.
An attorney for Guzman said the verdict should have been guilty given Lt. Josey’s actions immediately following the slap: Guzman was subdued and arrested, the attorney notes, rather than being consoled and offered medical attention. He said he intends to file a civil suit against Josey and contact the US Justice Department.
A short time later, Philadelphia DA Seth Williams issued a statement that said in part, “I respect Judge Dugan’s decision but I disagree with it. Let’s be clear there were no winners on that day in September. While I believe Jonathan Josey was guilty of simple assault this is not the time to dwell on that and I hope as a community we can move past this. As I said three months ago when Jonathan Josey was arrested, my job as district attorney is to ensure that we only charge the right people with only the correct charges. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, monsignor of a church, police officer, or bus driver, justice demands that we apply our laws fairly. Ultimately the final decision was in Judge Dugan’s hands and I respect his ruling.”
And this afternoon, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said he finds the verdict “disturbing and beyond comprehension” that the judge did not at least convict Josey of simple assault.
Nutter says he’s watched the video at least 20 times, and while he respects the law and the court, Nutter believes it was the wrong decision.
In his words, “Anyone can see the officer punched the lady in the face in a purposeful fashion.”