Ex-Lt. Josey’s acquittal a ‘true smack in the face’

City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones Sanc­hez (D-7th dist.) (right) speaks at a rally Fri­day to protest the ac­quit­tal of Jonath­an Jo­sey, who hit Aida Guz­man (cen­ter, with at­tor­ney En­rique Latois­on) in Septem­ber. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF RO­S­AURA TORRES

May­or, D.A., po­lice com­mish and coun­cil­wo­man all dis­agree with last Tues­day’s ‘not guilty’ ver­dict.

City of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the Pu­erto Ric­an com­munity and bey­ond said they were out­raged and dis­ap­poin­ted by the Feb. 26 ac­quit­tal of the former Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer charged with simple as­sault. Ex-po­lice Lt. Jonath­an Jo­sey had been caught on video strik­ing a wo­man in the face in Kens­ing­ton dur­ing Septem­ber’s Pu­erto Ric­an Day cel­eb­ra­tion, at 5th Street and Le­high Av­en­ue.

“I’m really baffled. This is a true smack in the face,” said Ro­s­aura Torres, a writer and anti-do­mest­ic vi­ol­ence act­iv­ist from Fox Chase, of the ac­quit­tal of Jo­sey, which was an­nounced after a bench tri­al be­fore Judge Patrick F. Dugan.

On Fri­day, Torres and oth­er mem­bers of the Pu­erto Ric­an com­munity held a rally in front of City Hall protest­ing Jo­sey’s ac­quit­tal. Vir­al video of the in­cid­ent showed Jo­sey strik­ing then 39-year-old Aida Guz­man, of Chester, in the face, caus­ing her to fall to the ground. Her face was left bloody from the strike.

“This is in sup­port of Aida Guz­man and oth­ers like her,” Torres said of the rally. “This is not only an Aida Guz­man prob­lem, but a people prob­lem, all throughout Phil­adelphia.”

Jo­sey now seeks to be re­in­stated to the po­lice force, ac­cord­ing to his crim­in­al de­fense at­tor­ney, For­tu­nato Perri Jr.

“He’s look­ing for­ward to get­ting back to work do­ing what he does best — pro­tect­ing the cit­izens of Phil­adelphia,” Perri said.

Perri ar­gued at tri­al that Jo­sey was ap­proach­ing Guz­man to place her un­der ar­rest for throw­ing beer on po­lice of­ficers, and was try­ing to take a bottle of beer out of her hand when he ac­ci­dent­ally struck her in the face.

Some ob­serv­ers see the video dif­fer­ently.

“I re­watched it [the video] last night. It didn’t look like he was aim­ing for a beer. It looked like he was aim­ing to hit her in the face,” said Vashti Bled­soe, dir­ect­or of the Bi­lin­gual Do­mest­ic Vi­ol­ence Pro­gram at Luther­an Set­tle­ment House in Fishtown.

Dugan ac­quit­ted Jo­sey after a bench tri­al. But top city lead­ers think Dugan made the wrong de­cision.

“Any­one could see that the of­ficer punched the lady in the face in a cer­tainly pur­pose­ful fash­ion,” May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter said, ac­cord­ing to Nut­ter’s spokes­man Mark Mc­Don­ald. Mc­Don­ald ad­ded that the may­or said he thinks Judge Dugan made the wrong de­cision, and said he be­lieves at least a simple as­sault oc­curred, based on his mul­tiple view­ings of the video.

“There’s no ex­cuse for a po­lice of­ficer who’s about 6’1” and in very good shape to strike a wo­man who’s barely a hun­dred pounds soak­ing wet,” said Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles H. Ram­sey. “He’s there to mon­it­or and as­sist, not lose con­trol.”

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams also re­leased a state­ment on the ver­dict, say­ing “I re­spect Judge Dugan’s de­cision, but I dis­agree with it.”

Out­rage over the ver­dict mul­ti­plied last week after The Phil­adelphia In­quirer re­por­ted that Dugan’s wife is a long-time po­lice of­ficer, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that Dugan should have re­cused him­self from hear­ing the case.

“It’s wrong for a judge whose wife is a po­lice of­ficer to have heard the case. That is flat-out wrong,” Ram­sey said. “With all the judges in the mu­ni­cip­al crim­in­al courts sys­tem, you can’t find a judge who’s not mar­ried to a po­lice of­ficer?”

Com­mis­sion­er Ram­sey ter­min­ated Jo­sey, a 19-year vet­er­an and high­way patrol of­ficer at the time of the in­cid­ent, after he saw the video and pri­or to crim­in­al charges be­ing filed against Jo­sey. He said the ac­quit­tal does not af­fect his opin­ion at all re­gard­ing Jo­sey’s con­duct.

Ram­sey and Nut­ter said they will op­pose Jo­sey’s at­tempt to be re­in­stated as a po­lice of­ficer.

But po­lice uni­on of­fi­cials said that Jo­sey didn’t do any­thing wrong.

“Lt. Jo­sey does not be­lieve he did any­thing in­cor­rect. He ac­ted with­in the use of force guidelines,” said John Mc­Grody, vice pres­id­ent of the Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge #5, which rep­res­ents Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficers. “To have 20 years of a very good and de­cent repu­ta­tion ec­lipsed by a 10-second video is very troub­ling to him and us.”

The uni­on has filed a griev­ance with the city, seek­ing Jo­sey’s full re­in­state­ment, back pay, re­as­sign­ment to his po­s­i­tion in high­way patrol and that his per­son­nel re­cord be ex­punged. That griev­ance was held in abey­ance pending the crim­in­al tri­al and will now move for­ward through an ar­bit­ra­tion pro­cess.

Guz­man’s at­tor­ney, En­rique Latois­on, did not re­spond to re­peated calls for com­ment.

Latois­on re­portedly in­tends to file a com­plaint with the U.S. De­part­ment of Justice and to file a civil law­suit seek­ing dam­ages for the in­cid­ent.

“I worry about the mes­sage they’re send­ing not only to wo­men, but to the black and Latino com­munit­ies,” Luther­an Set­tle­ment House’s Bled­soe said.

“If someone in au­thor­ity can get away with treat­ing a wo­man like that, I do think it will in­flu­ence the way that oth­er people in our com­munity handle these situ­ations. What we’re say­ing is, ‘This was ap­pro­pri­ate,’” she said.

Sev­enth Dis­trict City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones-Sanc­hez told News­works Tues­day that she was “not sur­prised, but ex­tremely dis­ap­poin­ted” with the ver­dict. She also said she shared the com­munity’s frus­tra­tion that justice was not served.

“As someone who works every­day with po­lice de­part­ment, to build re­la­tion­ships between the po­lice and the com­munity, this sets me back tre­mend­ously,” she said.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­house@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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