Philadelphia man whose beating by police went viral is acquitted

Askia Sabur faced a charge of assaulting police. He suffered a broken arm, head gashes, and bruises, his lawyer said.
Askia Sabur faced a charge of assaulting police. He suffered a broken arm, head gashes, and bruises, his lawyer said.
Posted: February 21, 2013

A West Philadelphia man whose 2010 arrest and beating by police was recorded on video by bystanders and went viral on YouTube was acquitted Tuesday of charges that he assaulted and tried to disarm a city police officer.

The eight men and four women on the Common Pleas Court jury deliberated just under 60 minutes while they ate lunch before returning the verdict for Askia Sabur, 31.

Sabur, a local artist and clothes designer, grinned widely and shook the hands of defense attorneys Evan Hughes and Lawrence S. Krasner. He turned and waved at a courtroom packed with supporters before being taken back into custody by deputy sheriffs.

Krasner said Sabur had an old, open detainer on him from Montgomery County that must be lifted before he can be released.

Sabur, who did not testify at his trial, had been charged with aggravated and simple assault, disarming a law-enforcement officer, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest.

Sabur was arrested Sept. 3, 2010, outside an Asian takeout at Lansdowne Avenue and Allison Street after several police officers told him and other men to clear the corner.

When Sabur objected, saying he was waiting for food, officers moved in. Videos recorded by two people with smartphones showed a developing brawl with Sabur on the ground being hit by police.

At a Municipal Court preliminary hearing in 2010, Officer Donyule Williams, an 11-year police veteran, testified that as he tried to intervene, Sabur punched him, bit him, and grabbed for the officer's pistol as they fell to the ground.

Williams' partner, Jimmy Leocal, an officer since 2000, is seen on the video hitting Sabur with an "Asp" - a telescoping baton with a ball on the end - landing several blows on Sabur's head and back.

At one point, as the crowd begins gathering and yelling at the officers to stop, Leocal is seen drawing his pistol and pointing it in the air, ordering the crowd to get back. Leocal is also seen grabbing at the cellphones of several bystanders as if to stop them from recording.

Sabur, who was originally cited by the officers for disorderly conduct, sustained a broken arm, two gashes on the back of his head, and bruises, Krasner said.

The District Attorney's Office in 2010 cleared Williams of wrongdoing but was still looking at Leocal's actions. Officials in the prosecutor's office were not immediately available to say how or if the Leocal investigation ended.

Hughes said Sabur had filed a civil lawsuit against the two officers and others that was pending in Common Pleas Court.

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

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