Caught on Tape: Teen Cleared in Violent Confrontation with Fresno Police
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A violent incident led to criminal charges against a Fresno high school student, but part of the incident was caught on tape, and the charges didn't stick. The teenager is now celebrating a legal victory and preparing to sue Fresno Police at the same time.
Idalia Morgutia-Johnson was 15 years old and hanging out with friends after school when she says two officers manhandled her and arrested her for no reason in August 2010.
The showdown was caught on video and Thursday, a judge agreed she hadn't committed a crime. Cell phone video shows two Fresno Police officers grabbing Johnson and hauling her out to a patrol car.
The charge? Loitering at Big Mama's Grill after her school day was done at Hoover High School across the street.
Johnson told Action News she tried to explain to the first officer that she'd placed an order, but Sgt. Larry Hustedde wasn't listening.
"He responded though by grabbing my right arm and twisting my wrist into my back and slamming me on the table I was seated at," Johnson said, "and I kept asking him why he was doing this."
A friend started taking video a few minutes later, after Johnson says Hustedde had slammed her to the ground. At one point, you can see her flail and kick in the air, but she says she was only fighting to get breath as officer Jeffrey Kaiser choked her.
The officers arrested her on charges of resisting arrest, battery on an officer, and trespassing. Hoover High School also tried to expel her. But her mother successfully fought to keep her in school, and the Magill Law Firm convinced a judge to dismiss the criminal charges without even presenting a defense case.
"And I turned to Mr. Magill and he said 'We won,'" Johnson said, "and I just remember smiling. I didn't know what to say. I just put my head in my hands and started crying."
But the dismissal isn't the end of the road for Johnson. The former freshman basketball captain says she's had back pain since the arrest and doctors tell her it'll never go away. "It's really disappointing being this young and loving sports and loving to be active as I am and having to be in pain through it," she said.
Johnson still has some court time ahead of her because she and her family are planning to file a federal lawsuit against Fresno Police.
Fresno Police initially said they couldn't discuss the case because of the pending litigation, but late Friday, Chief Jerry Dyer issued this statement:
"The mere fact that criminal charges have been dismissed in this case does not mean wrongdoing occurred on the part of the officers. Criminal charges are frequently dismissed within the criminal justice system for a variety of reasons. The officers clearly had justification to arrest the juvenile based upon their account of the incident which has been supported by independent witnesses. Should a lawsuit be filed we are prepared to defend the actions of the officers involved."
caught on tape, fresno police department, fresno northwest, fresno, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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