Clout: Why did Josey punch her & why was she charged?

Posted: March 01, 2013

HAVE YOU EVER lost your temper?

I sure have.

Have you ever done something truly stupid while angry?

Me too.

Have you ever used power given to you by the city of Philadelphia to have someone charged with a crime as a way of explaining your angry reaction?

That's a much smaller club.

And that's why I think we're missing the point about former Philadelphia Police Lt. Jonathan Josey and his now-notorious post-Puerto Rican Day Parade punch in the face to Aida Guzman.

Josey's claim that he was trying to defuse a dangerous situation by slapping a beer bottle from Guzman's hand would be laughable if Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan hadn't performed the judicial gymnastics necessary to declare that nonsense as credible.

Guzman was walking away from police when Josey gave her a wrap-around punch to the face.

She had been splashed with the same beer that Josey thought she had thrown at him and other officers. His jab knocked her to the ground, bloodying her face. He yanked her arms behind her and pulled out his handcuffs.

Someone was shooting video of the Sept. 30 incident. So we can see how Josey reacted amid what looks like increasing chaos.

But it seems most people stop at the punch. There's so much more, which makes this so much worse, between the punch and a few days later, when the video became another YouTube vignette about Philly and its troubles.

One momentary abuse of power, clearly born of anger, was about to be followed by a second and more worrisome abuse, apparently born of Josey's sense of self-preservation for his 19-year career.

Guzman was charged with disorderly conduct. Josey was a police supervisor at the scene. His name doesn't appear on the charges, since two other officers led Guzman away in cuffs.

Still, those charges don't happen without Josey punching Guzman and then handcuffing her.

What if there were no video?

Disorderly conduct can be considered by the courts as a summary offense or the lowest grade of misdemeanor. That's not a big deal in the court system. But it adds to the injustice after a cop's flagrantly wrong use of physical force in a moment of anger.

The District Attorney's Office quickly dropped the charges against Guzman.

Josey was charged with simple assault, a second-degree misdemeanor, 16 days after the punch.

Now that case is over, too. Judge Dugan acquitted Josey of that charge Tuesday.

Many Philadelphians wear a practiced cynicism about our city the way people wear raincoats in a storm. We expect the worst. And so that's what we get.

What if Josey, who by many accounts is a decent guy who had a promising future in the Police Department, had gone a different way after punching Guzman?

What if he had listened to her? What if he had taken the time to see he was in the wrong? What if he had apologized?

The punch was terrible. But people get angry. We all get that.

Charging Guzman with a crime shifts this from a hot-headed, blow-up moment to a days-long troublesome coverup.

And here's why we're likely to need our raincoats again when it comes to Josey.

Take a look at his Facebook page and the aspiring actor (and onetime Daily News sexy single) presents himself now as the "man of steel," as if he has overcome some injustice in the 102 days from when he was charged with simple assault to when Dugan declared him not guilty.

Count Josey's "man of steel" persona as his second coverup. He created the injustice. He just wasn't held accountable for it.

The Police Department has a long history of being forced by arbitrators to rehire officers after misconduct. So we'll be seeing Josey again in uniform, no doubt.

Guzman, bloody on the sidewalk at 5th Street and Lehigh Avenue on Sept. 30, asked Josey why he had punched her, why she was being arrested.

Two good questions. We should keep asking. And we should think as much about the second question as we have about the first.


Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: philly.com/phillyclout

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