Judge tosses video evidence, acquits ex-cop Josey.

PHOTOS: MENSAH M. DEAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr. (right), with client Jonathan Josey, outside the courthouse Tuesday.
PHOTOS: MENSAH M. DEAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr. (right), with client Jonathan Josey, outside the courthouse Tuesday.
Posted: February 28, 2013

THOUGH ex-cop Jonathan Josey was acquitted by a judge Tuesday of assaulting a woman he was filmed punching last September, the fight is still on and will only intensify, the woman's enraged attorney thundered after leaving court.

"What took place today was an injustice. It was injustice to Ms. Guzman, it was an injustice to the Puerto Rican-Hispanic community," said attorney Enrique Latoison, who said he is suing Josey.

His client, Aida Guzman, 40, fought back tears and declined to comment as Latoison told reporters that he also plans to ask officials at the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case and possibly file federal civil-rights charges against Josey, 41, who was fired after cellphone video went viral of him punching Guzman following the city's Sept. 30 Puerto Rican Day Parade.

"Understand, if this can take place on camera, ask yourself, what could take place off of camera?" Latoison said.

Josey, his attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., and the Fraternal Order of Police each said that the former Highway Patrol lieutenant acted properly and that he should get his job back.

"Being a cop in this city is something I've wanted to do since I was 5 years old," Josey told reporters. "I had nothing else that I wanted to do. So, getting back to doing what I do best . . . is what I'm looking forward to."

Josey even took to Facebook to celebrate. He posted a picture of himself striking a triumphant pose and changed his name on the page to "Jonathan ManofSteel Josey."

A phalanx of officers, who had packed the hearing far beyond the room's legal capacity, hugged and praised Josey the entire way as he walked from the fourth-floor courtroom to the sidewalk outside.

In finding Josey not guilty of simple assault, Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan said that the media "sensationalized" the incident, which, he added, was captured on an "infamous" 10-second video clip that did not capture the incident in its totality.

Despite being "shocked" by the video, Dugan said, he concluded that Josey had acted within reason when he took a swipe at Guzman.

During the one-day, nonjury trial on Feb. 12, Josey testified that he had been trying to knock a beer bottle from her hand and was surprised that he had instead punched her, causing her mouth to bleed.

Based on trial testimony, Dugan said, the post-parade street scene was chaotic, with scores of people drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and throwing bottles at police officers' feet as the cops tried to stop a man from driving his car in erratic circles.

"This is not a social-media contest; this is not a trial by video," a stern-faced Dugan said, drawing grunts of approval from many of the uniformed cops looking on.

"This was a violent, fast-paced, real-life situation," he said, that could not be rewound and played again and again like the video.

Members of the Puerto Rican community slammed Dugan's ruling. They said that he favored Josey and that his acquittal of the ex-cop was a disrespectful blow to Guzman, to all women and to their community.

"The officer didn't need a lawyer. The judge was his lawyer," said Oscar Rosario, of the group Puerto Rico, The 51st State.

Iris Violeta Colon Torres, past president of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, said she hoped that those who are upset by the ruling would channel their anger by voting offending judges off the bench.

"Judges are elected officials," Torres said after leaving the courtroom. "The community needs to start registering to vote; they need to go out and vote and know who they are voting for."

A Police Department spokeswoman said that Commissioner Charles Ramsey would not comment on whether he would rehire the 19-year department veteran. District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement that he disagreed with the decision but respected it.

Mayor Nutter, who had apologized to Guzman on behalf of the city, was bewildered by the ruling. "I've watched that video easily 20-some-odd times, and it is beyond my comprehension as to how that's not at least an assault, simple assault," Nutter said. "It is disturbing, it is certainly disappointing, and I don't understand it."


On Twitter: @MensahDean

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