Does Philly Police Punch Constitute Cop Brutality?

Posted October 24, 2012 in Criminal Law by

Lt. Jonathan D. Josey, II

A Philadelphia Highway Patrol lieutenant has been suspended with intent to dismiss after he punched an unarmed woman in the face last month. Lt. Jonathan D. Josey, II, 39, hit Aida Guzman after he mistakenly thought she threw water on him at a party following the city’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade.

A bystander captured a video of the arrest, which quickly spread across the Internet and brought instant notoriety to the 19-year police veteran for what appears to be a vicious attack on a defenseless and innocent civilian.

In the video, Guzman walks by a group of officers while spraying silly string in the air. Another person standing nearby appears to throw some liquid which lands on the cops. Josey, wearing a white police shirt, turns and steps after Guzman and strikes her in the face, from behind, and she promptly falls to the ground.

With her face bloodied and lip split open, Guzman was cuffed and arrested for disorderly conduct.

The city’s parade this year was dedicated to the “Puerto Rican Woman.”

 

Degrees of Force

Brian J. Zeiger

So far Josey has not been charged criminally pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, and no civil suit has yet been filed. However, the Philadelphia police chief has denounced his actions and announced his intention to fire the lieutenant following a 30-day suspension.

Josey has had about 13 previous civilian complaints filed against him over his 19-year career. He’s also acted in a few movies and was named one of Philadelphia’s “sexy singles” in 2006 by a local newspaper.

The criminal charges against Guzman have already been dismissed, and she hasn’t indicated yet if she intends to sue the sexy single for excessive force.

“Excessive force, to me, in federal court in Philadelphia generally means that the amount of force that was used by the police is two levels higher than what they’re faced with,” says Brian J. Zeiger, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney with the Philadelphia firm Levin & Zeiger.

The specifics of what the cops can and can’t do vary on a case-by-case basis, but the general standard would be whether the officers responded in a reasonable way based on the threat they encountered. “If someone’s coming at you with their fists and you’re a police officer, it’s okay to use a metal baton to control the situation,” Zeiger explains. “Police have to be concerned for their own situation and others around them and that’s okay. If they took out a gun and shot the person, that’s a ridiculous answer, obviously that’s not okay. Now if a person is coming at them with a gun, obviously they can use a gun back.”

 

Hire a Lawyer

In the Guzman case, we don’t know all the details, but from the video it appears that the threat Josey faced was a much smaller woman, unarmed, walking away from him. Should the case come to court, it will be up to a jury to decide if he responded appropriately and reasonably given the situation.

For consumers who think they have been the victims of police brutality during an arrest, the best course of action is to do nothing and deal with their own charges, initially. “Wait until outcome of the case is over,” Zeiger says. “If you’ve been arrested and give a statement to internal affairs they will use it against you in your own trial.”

If someone is beaten or assaulted by the cops but not arrested, they can hire a civil rights attorney and/ or file a complaint with the police internal affairs or any civilian oversight body.

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