ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — A Maryland police officer was convicted of assault five months after cellphone videos showed him driving his knee into the back of a handcuffed suspect who was face down on a sidewalk.
Kevin Moris, 32, will be sentenced at a later date on the misdemeanor count of second-degree assault, news outlets reported.
Moris, a Montgomery County police officer, was acquitted on a count of misconduct in office after jurors told a judge they were struggling to reach an agreement.
The jury returned its verdict about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Jurors began deliberations Wednesday afternoon and returned to Montgomery County Circuit Court on Thursday morning. At 11:30 a.m., the jury sent a note to Judge Nelson Rupp saying they were deadlocked.
Moris remains with the Montgomery force on paid leave as of Thursday.
Moris was arresting Arnaldo Pesoa, 19, on July 3 as the result of an undercover drug operation that drew officers to Pesoa at a fast-food restaurant.
Prosecutors had called Moris’s aggressive arrest of Pesoa unlawful and driven by frustration over Pesoa’s behavior after he did not comply with orders earlier in the encounter.
“It was violent. It was unreasonable,” Assistant State’s Attorney John Lalos told jurors. “And, ultimately, it was punitive. This was a tax, ladies and gentlemen. This was a tax for Arnaldo Pesoa’s misbehavior, noncompliance, language, disrespect — perceived or real.”
Morgan Leigh, the attorney for Moris, argued that his client was justified in using force because Pesoa had spit blood at him twice and threatened to do it again, raising worry in the officer about exposure to an infectious disease.
“Spitting blood is a vile, dangerous assault that Kevin was exposed to twice before dropping his body weight down on Arnaldo Pesoa to stop the threat,” Leigh said, while also acknowledging the cellphone videos were startling.
“A use of force is not pretty,” she said. “A use of force is violent. It is violence to prevent and stop further violence. And officers have a duty to use force when necessary to protect themselves or others.”
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