NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An NYPD officer was convicted of assault Friday for stomping on the head of a suspect as he was being handcuffed by other officers in Brooklyn nearly two years ago.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Alan Marrus found 38-year-old Joel Edouard guilty of one count of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after a three-day bench trial – in which a judge, rather than a jury, decides the verdict.
As CBS2’s Steve Langford reported, the question remained Friday night as to what would happen to the officer now that he has been convicted.
The incident occurred in Bedford-Stuyvesant on July 23, 2014 and was caught on video.
According to prosecutors, Edouard and his partner saw 32-year-old Jahmiel Cuffee drinking on the sidewalk and had what appeared to be marijuana. The video showed Edouard point his gun at Cuffee and then stomp on his head while the suspect was face down on the ground being subdued by other officers, prosecutors said.
“He kicked me in the head, my head hit the concrete,” Cuffee previously told CBS2. “That officer just had something… something was wrong with him that day.”
Prosecutors said Cuffee was the victim of “blind and uncontrolled anger.”
“This police officer, in broad daylight and in front of a crowd of people, stomped on the head of a suspect while he lay on the ground, subdued and surrounded by other officers,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement. “That’s why he was indicted, put on trial and convicted. His conduct was simply outrageous.”
Edouard’s defense claimed that the officer brought his boot down on the man’s hand. A photo of apparent injuries to the suspect’s head taken the day after the arrest were disputed by the police officer’s defense team, who say Cuffee’s public appearances in the days after the arrest show no such wounds.
“Admittedly it was a difficult situation, but he gratuitously stomped on the head of a man being restrained by other police,” Marrus said before announcing the verdict.
Marrus said prosecutors had “proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the kick was to Mr. Cuffee’s head.”
The kick, Marrus concluded, was unnecessary and gratuitous and caused injuries to the suspect’s head.
“My verdict is, therefore, that the defendant is guilty of assault in the third degree,” Marrus said.
Defense attorney Anthony Ricco said he and his client were “very disappointed with the verdict.”
Officer Edouard is currently suspended, and is now facing an uncertain future with the NYPD.
“My hope is that the commissioner looks at the file, but most importantly at the character of a person like Joel Edouard,” Ricco said, adding that Edouard “of course” regrets his actions.
The conviction, on a misdemeanor charge, means police Commissioner Bill Bratton may decide whether Edouard can keep his job. Cuffee had certain ideas about the subject.
“Jail time, loss of job, whatever’s a possibility,” he said.
Sentencing is June 10. Edouard will face anything from conditional discharge to a year in jail.