LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Los Angeles police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to an assault charge filed in the kicking of a handcuffed woman who later died.
Officer Mary O’Callaghan, 48, was allowed to go free without bail after her arraignment on the felony charge of assault under color of authority, district attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Alesia Thomas, 35, died July 22, 2012, following a struggle with O’Callaghan and several other officers who tried to arrest Thomas at her home after her children, ages 12 and 3, were left outside a police station at 2 a.m.
The 228-pound Thomas resisted arrest, according to a report by the Police Commission. A dashboard camera in a police cruiser captured O’Callaghan kicking the handcuffed Thomas in the backseat seven times in the groin, abdomen and upper thigh, prosecutors said.
Thomas lost consciousness and later died at a hospital.
Judge Shelly Torrealba signed off on a request by the district attorney’s office to keep the video from being released by prosecutors or defense attorneys to prevent tainting a potential jury, O’Callaghan’s attorney Robert Rico said.
An autopsy found Thomas, a bipolar drug abuser, had cocaine in her system, but the cause of death was listed as undetermined because the struggle couldn’t be excluded as a contributing factor. There were no internal injuries or bruising.
Rico said O’Callaghan never had a complaint against her upheld during her 19 years on the force and has an exemplary record. She’s been relieved of duty without pay pending an administrative hearing.
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