Coldcock cop: I thought I was swiping a Corona

A video made during the Puerto Rican Day celebration in September showed Lt. Jonathan Josey striking Aida Guzman.
A video made during the Puerto Rican Day celebration in September showed Lt. Jonathan Josey striking Aida Guzman.
Posted: February 13, 2013

Even former Philadelphia Police Lt. Jonathan Josey called the video "disturbing."

The video of him swinging at and decking a woman at a Fairhill street party after last year's Puerto Rican Day parade was enough to end his decorated 19-year police career and get him charged with simple assault.

But after a three-hour nonjury trial Tuesday, in which Josey testified that he accidentally hit Aida Guzman while trying to knock a beer bottle from her hand, a troubled-looking Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan seemed uncertain.

Saying he "needed more time to digest this," Dugan said he would announce his verdict from the bench on Feb. 26.

Dugan, 52, a judge since 2007 and a decorated Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, acknowledged the groans his delay triggered.

The courtroom was packed way beyond its 109-person capacity. Most appeared to be police officers or officials of the city's police union, and many wore the distinctive black leather uniform of the Highway Patrol, to which Josey was assigned.

As clear-cut as the seconds-long video appears, both Josey and Guzman may have muddled its impact in their testimony.

The Sept. 30 video shows Josey striding after Guzman during a chaotic incident at Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue.

About 6 p.m. that day, witnesses testified, a crowd of about 1,000 was reveling at the intersection when a gray Honda S2000 began "doing doughnuts."

Josey testified that the car nearly hit a police barricade and pedestrians, and that he ordered police to arrest the driver.

As up to 20 officers moved toward the car, the crowd began booing, Josey said, and beer bottles shattered on the sidewalk around them.

Josey and several other officers said they were doused with beer from the crowd.

On the video, Guzman, with Josey approaching from behind, moves from right to left. When Josey reaches Guzman, the white-shirted lieutenant swings at her, but his right hand disappears from view behind the right side of Guzman's face.

Guzman, 40, a mother of three from Chester, falls to the ground, and Josey handcuffs her.

Josey testified that he believed Guzman had thrown beer at him, although he acknowledged he did not see her do so.

Josey said he turned and saw Guzman jumping with a bottle of Corona in her right hand: "I was putting two and two together."

Josey testified he only tried to "swipe" the bottle from Guzman's hand.

"The video looks disturbing. But, obviously, it's not what it appears to be," Josey said. "I was kind of shocked when I saw her go to the ground. I didn't expect to come into contact with her face."

Guzman, who got a cut lip and elbow, watched the video in court and maintained that she never threw beer, though she admitted shooting a can of Silly String over the crowd.

Guzman, testifying through a Spanish interpreter, said she began walking away after she was splashed with beer and feared how police might react.

As she walked away, Guzman said, she was knocked to the ground and heard a voice say, "That's what you get for throwing liquid, water, at police."

Josey cited Guzman for disorderly conduct, but the District Attorney's Office, after viewing the video, dismissed the count and instead charged Josey.

Defense attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr. urged Dugan to acquit Josey and condemned the impact of videos gone viral on the Internet.

"You don't convict a man on a seven-second clip on YouTube," he said.

Assistant District Attorney Sybil Scott-Murphy argued that for simple assault, she did not have to prove that Josey hit Guzman to hurt her. Scott-Murphy said she only needed to prove Josey's acts were "reckless given the circumstances."


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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