Ex-officer acquitted of assault in 2020 encounter with racial injustice protester in Philadelphia

Feb 14, 2024, 12:34 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A former Philadelphia police inspector has been acquitted of assault in the use of a baton during an encounter with a protester in a 2020 racial injustice demonstration.

Jurors acquitted 57-year-old Joseph Bologna on Wednesday of charges of simple assault and possessing an instrument of crime in the incident recorded on video during June 2020 protests on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway following the death of George Floyd, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. told jurors during closing arguments that his client’s life over the past 3 1/2 years since his arrest had been a “nightmare.” He cited the city police code section saying use of force is justified when a person resists arrest or appears to threaten bodily harm. He also said Bologna’s choice to strike as the then-21-year-old Temple University student tried to intervene in another arrest was a “quick decision” in a “rapidly evolving” situation.

Perri said a medical examination found that the protester was never struck directly on the head with the baton. He said an internal affairs investigation found no evidence of departmental violations on the part of the officer.

Bologna was fired after video of the encounter circulated widely on social media and other reports surfaced about his actions during the unrest.

The Inquirer reported that before deliberations began, prosecution and defense had agreed that testimony by the city medical examiner would have told jurors the person was struck with the baton on the upper back, not the head, and his bloody laceration came from the officer’s bike helmet.

Prosecutors argued that the use of force was not typical, pointing to testimony from a former Utah officer turned researcher and teacher who said the protester wasn’t in a position to harm the officer when he was struck.

Bologna was originally charged with multiple counts including aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, but a judge in 2021 dismissed the charges. Another judge later reinstated the two counts on which Bologna was tried.

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Ex-officer acquitted of assault in 2020 encounter with racial injustice protester in Philadelphia