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Judge Tears Into Cops For Beating A Man Who Dared To Question Their Words And Actions

It doesn’t happen often enough, but it is so very refreshing to watch a bunch of assholes get torn new assholes. (h/t Peter Bonilla)

A man who was violently “arrested” (read: beaten) by several Allentown (PA) police officers was cleared of all charges last November by a jury. The judge had plenty of harsh words for the officers who participated in this brutal farce. John Perez tried voicing his opinion to some cops who were apparently using a bunch of foul language while “investigating” (read: standing around) reports of an armed man in the neighborhood.

The cops didn’t like Perez’s questions and decided to punish him for his inquiries. A video that went viral showed the violent response from the Allentown cops, who first pushed Perez to the ground before deciding he needed to be punched into submission. Perez ended up being charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was found not guilty after a jury trial and that’s when Judge Maria L. Dantos decided the involved officers needed to be told some things they’d probably never been told before.

The full transcript [PDF] has been released and it’s a hell of a read. Dantos briefly recaps her career as a former prosecutor, working hand-in-hand with the DA’s office and the PD to carry out raids, search warrants, and investigations. Then she comes to the point: what happened here was inexcusable and shameful and she makes sure the officers know it.

I was very proud of my years of service. I tried to provide to my community. I do protect and serve. But then you come in here with this case and proudly display to this community how you talk to people.

There were at least nine Allentown Police officers there that night. That is likely 90 percent of the evening’s platoon. That is a lot for a 200 man department. You came into that scene like angry, hostile bullies from your first contact with those citizens, and especially officer Battoni.

Dantos lights into the DA’s office as well for choosing to pursue these charges, despite the actions of the officers captured on video that night. She points out beating someone for talking to cops does nothing to help community relations and bringing charges against a person who was beaten by cops makes that divide even larger. She quotes one officer’s own testimony, where he stated “no crime” had been committed at the point he decided to shove John Perez to the ground.

Instead of being community leaders, the cops chose to be thugs with badges and power. And the DA’s decision to pursue this particular case highlighted everything that is wrong with that office and the police officers involved in the arrest.

I have seen murder cases, shootings, robberies, burglaries, pled to all manner of offers. In this case nothing? You chose to, instead, put on display police officers calling people pussies, bitches, threatening to shoot a dog, forming your disgusting blue line of four officers who turned their backs and said they saw nothing.

You perjured yourselves. You escalated a situation without cause. Cops smirking on the stand at this jury, laughing at the defense attorney, high-fiving in the hallway after testimony as if there were something, anything, to be proud of here.

What cop thinks this is something that should go unpunished, if not actually celebrated? Far too many, it seems.

You, officer Lebron, shoved Mr. Perez because you were mad, period. And then you got up on the stand and told that jury that you were just trying to make some space. That is not what happened.

[…]

Nine officers, most of the night shift, pulling cars from other areas of the city because you lost it. That’s what happened. You lost it. Over nothing. Because someone was talking to you in a manner you didn’t like? No crime. You serve them.

Judge Dantos closes this reaming by pointing out this isn’t her problem to fix. She can only do so much. But those that need to mend relationships with the community apparently have no willingness to do so. All she can do is point out where the blame lays and who should be holding their own officers accountable so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

Choices were made. I warned the Commonwealth and yet you displayed this conduct for the world to see. It’s shameful. I’d really like to be a healer. I would really like to unite this community between law enforcement and the citizens. But the blame for this lays with you and it is for you to fix.

Will this be the flashpoint for reform? It seems doubtful. The DA took a case stemming from a very dubious deployment of force all the way to a jury and came out with a loss and a judicial dressing down. The Allentown PD has a history of excessive force deployment which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements. But that money hasn’t bought them a better police force. While it’s good to hear a judge has finally had it with bad cops, it’s up to the PD to fix the problem. And it won’t because it clearly hasn’t done it yet, despite having ample reason to do so.

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