A RUSH TO JUDG­MENT

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - JONATHAN JOSEY

In Philadel­phia, Aida Guz­man cra­dled a bot­tle of beer in one hand and clutched a can of Silly String in the other as she bounced along with the music play­ing af­ter the city’s an­nual Puerto Ri­can Day Pa­rade on Sept. 30, 2012.

A few feet away, Lt. Jonathan Josey of the Philadel­phia Po­lice Depart­ment’s high­way pa­trol unit was one of more than a dozen of­fi­cers deal­ing with a ve­hi­cle do­ing dough­nut turns nearby.

In the next few sec­onds, what tran­spired be­tween Josey and Guz­man would be­come a crim­i­nal mat­ter. One thing is undis­puted: Josey’s hand con­nected with Guz­man’s face.

A by­stander cap­tured the en­counter on video. Guz­man was walk­ing from the street to­ward the side­walk, and then Josey ap­proached. The of­fi­cer swung with an open hand — strik­ing Guz­man in the face and knock­ing her to the ground. Guz­man, bleed­ing from the mouth, was ar­rested and cited for dis­or­derly con­duct.

Josey would later tell in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he felt him­self get hit with liq­uid and Silly String, prompt­ing him to turn around, see Guz­man and ap­proach her.

The video of Josey smack­ing Guz­man quickly went vi­ral, and then-Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Charles H. Ram­sey acted quickly. He re­viewed the video and the use-of­force re­port filled out by Josey, in which the of­fi­cer said he had been try­ing to knock the beer out of Guz­man’s hand and ac­ci­den­tally hit her in the face, ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary of the case later com­piled by the city.

Four days later, on Oct. 4, Ram­sey sus­pended Josey, con­clud­ing that he had fal­si­fied his use-of- force re­port by claim­ing he had per­son­ally seen Guz­man throw beer on him and sev­eral other of­fi­cers. On Nov. 1, 2012, Ram­sey fired Josey for con­duct un­be­com­ing an of­fi­cer and for use of ex­ces­sive force.

Pros­e­cu­tors charged Josey with sim­ple as­sault, a sec­ond-de­gree mis­de­meanor.

The charges and Josey’s fir­ing out­raged the po­lice union and fel­low of­fi­cers, who packed the court­room dur­ing the 2013 trial, ac­cord ing to news re­ports at the time. The union ar­gued in the lo­cal news me­dia that depart­ment lead­er­ship and pros­e­cu­tors were bend­ing to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure.

Other of­fi­cers present that day told the judge that they heard Josey in­struct Guz­man to drop her beer. Josey tes­ti­fied at trial that he was try­ing to swat the beer bot­tle from Guz­man’s hand and that at that very mo­ment Guz­man slipped on a can on the ground, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal cov­er­age of the trial. As she stum­bled, the of­fi­cer said, the swat in­tended for her beer bot­tle in­stead struck her face.

“The video looks dis­turb­ing but, ob­vi­ously, it’s not what it ap­pears to be,” Josey said in court. “I was kind of shocked when I saw her go to the ground. I didn’t ex­pect to come into con­tact with her face.”

Judge Pa­trick F. Du­gan ul­ti­mately con­cluded that Josey was not guilty.

“It was a com­plete joke,” Guz­man at­tor­ney En­rique La­toi­son said in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post. “A mock­ery of a trial.”

Josey then ap­pealed his fir­ing. Ar­bi­tra­tor David J. Reilly held a two-day hear­ing in June 2013 and con­cluded that Josey should not have been fired.

His de­ci­sion let­ter is not sub­ject to public records laws, but The Post ob­tained a 2014 re­port on ar­bi­tra­tion from the city’s Po­lice Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion that sum­ma­rized Reilly’s ra­tio­nale.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Reilly wrote that af­ter view­ing the video frame by frame, he be­lieved Josey’s ac­count and con­cluded that his use of force was rea­son­able. Reilly also de­cided that al­though Josey in­cor­rectly claimed he had seen Guz­man throw beer on him, that was in­suf fi­cient grounds to fire him.

Reilly or­dered that Josey be rehired and that all ref­er­ences to his fir­ing be re­moved from his per­son­nel file.

Guz­man, a mother of three, sued over the in­ci­dent. In May 2013, the city paid her a $75,000 set­tle­ment. La­toi­son said he re­mains out­raged at Josey’s ac­quit­tal and re­in­state­ment.

“If you ac­ci­den­tally hit some­body, if you ac­ci­den­tally step on your puppy or ac­ci­den­tally swat your child, ev­ery­body, uni­ver­sally has the same re­ac­tion, ‘Oh, I’m sorry!’ ” La­toi­son said. “His im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was to rough her up, put her in hand­cuffs, throw her in a po­lice van and charge her with dis­or­derly con­duct.”

Josey and the union that rep­re­sents Philadel­phia of­fi­cers did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment. When Josey was re­in­stated, his crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney told lo­cal re­porters that “Jon didn’t do any­thing wrong that day other than do his job.”

“I’ve said be­fore, and I’ll say again,” For­tu­nato Perri, the at­tor­ney, added in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Post. “The peo­ple of Philadel­phia are very for­tu­nate to have some­one like Jon Josey work­ing for the Philadel­phia PD.”

MENSAH DEAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jonathan Josey out­side a Philadel­phia court on Feb. 26, 2013, af­ter he was ac­quit­ted of as­sault­ing a woman while polic­ing a pa­rade.

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