PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A former Philadelphia police lieutenant who was videotaped punching a woman after a Puerto Rican Day parade was acquitted of simple assault Tuesday, two weeks after a judge heard testimony from the officer in which he said he had been trying to knock a bottle from her hand.
Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan found Jonathan Josey not guilty of the second-degree misdemeanor, which was filed in November after prosecutors said they had carefully reviewed video of the altercation.
"We were confident all along that once we had the opportunity to present the facts and circumstances of the incident in a courtroom, as opposed to the court of social media, that Jonathan Josey would be vindicated," defense lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr. said.
The incident happened as police were responding to a raucous situation at a street party in north Philadelphia in September. Authorities said a driver had been causing a disruption, doing doughnuts with his vehicle, and some people were throwing water, shouting epithets and shooting "silly string" at police, trying to restore order.
Video shows 39-year-old Aida Guzman being struck in the face and falling to the ground, her face bloodied, and then being led away in handcuffs. Josey, a veteran supervisor, was later fired.
At a one-day, nonjury trial before Dugan earlier this month, Josey testified he thought Guzman had thrown beer on him. He said he told her to put down the bottle and then swung in an attempt to knock it from her hand. Guzman has said she didn't throw any liquid, but she did shoot aerosol string into the crowd.
An attorney for Guzman, Enrique Latoison, said he and his client were shocked by the ruling. "She feels like she got beat on again," Latoison said, adding that Josey's actions after hitting Guzman were not those of someone who did something by accident.
"His actions after the punch were shoving her in the back ... (and) immediately putting handcuffs on her like she's some sort of danger," Latoison said. He said he plans to file a civil lawsuit.
A disorderly conduct charge against Guzman was withdrawn. Mayor Michael Nutter later apologized to her, saying he was "appalled," "'sickened" and "ashamed" after seeing the video, which went viral on YouTube.
District Attorney Seth Williams said he was disappointed with Tuesday's ruling.
"I respect Judge Dugan's decision but I disagree with it," Williams said in a statement. "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."
Josey plans to seek immediate reinstatement, his lawyer said.
A message left for the Fraternal Order of Police was not immediately returned.