Two San Diego police officers who faced misdemeanor assault charges for their treatment of two handcuffed men were acquitted Tuesday.
Nicholas Morgan, 27, and Joshua Nahan, 31, would have faced jail time if they were convicted of assault without lawful necessity.
The incident the two sheriff deputies faced punishment from took place in May of 2018. They could potentially have faced jail time had they been convicted of assault without lawful necessity by an officer. The incident took place when the two arrested father-and-son Gerardo Martinez Sr., then 50 and Gerardo Martinez Jr., then 24.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Nahan Faced Two Charges, Morgan Faced Just One Charge
- According to KPBS, Joshua Nahan faced two charges for allegedly assaulting both men, while Nicholas Morgan faced one for assaulting Martinez Sr.
A 22-second video posted to Facebook showed deputies shoving Martinez Sr. into a wooden fence, while his son was pinned to the ground and struck in the head repeatedly.
Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh told jurors the footage, which has amassed over 200,000 views on Facebook, showed the officers using an “unreasonable and unnecessary” amount of force.
According to Fox 5, the prosecutor said Morgan was on the scene before Nahan. Morgan allegedly tackled Martinez Jr. to the ground and punched him. Morgan also took Matinez Sr. to the ground while he was walking away from the incident.
2. Martinez Jr. was Tased During the Arrest
According to prosecutor Leonard Trinh, Martinez Jr. was tased at some point during the arrest. Trinh said deputies ordered both men to put their arms behind their backs, but neither were able to do so because their arms were pinned underneath them as the officers were on top of both men.
Defense attorney, Michael Begovich said the officers were involved in a “chaotic, dangerous situation with two subjects actively resisting” trying to defend the two officers.
“Once a suspect is on the ground with his hands behind his back, they are no longer a threat,” Trinh told the jury, per NBC San Diego.
3. Martinez Jr. is a Convicted Felon
One of the key arguments from the defense was the criminal past of Martinez Jr.
“Had (Martinez Jr.) cooperated with law enforcement, had he followed the commands, we wouldn’t be here today, folks,” Begovich said in his opening statement. “This was the man who moments earlier beat a woman, earned a felony conviction for it and said ‘I’m not going to jail.”‘
Begovich also alleged that both Martinez Jr. and Martinez Sr. actively resisted arrest.
He claimed that after Martinez Sr. was handcuffed he moved away from the two officers holding him in contempt slipping out of the hands of one officer, therefore causing Nahan to shove him into the fence.
4. Nahan & Morgan Were Called Because of Reports of Domestic Violence
Nahan, Morgan and the rest of the officers seen in the viral Facebook video were called to the scene because of a reported domestic disturbance. Begovich said that is one of the most dangerous situations an officer can confront.
“An ongoing domestic violence call with escalating violence is the most serious call that law enforcement responds to,” Begovich said. “That’s where people get hurt. That’s where people die.”
Begovich also claimed that the force used by Nahan and Morgan was not out of line with protocol. He called the strikes Morgan gave to Martinez Jr. “open hand distraction blows,” deeming them as reasonable force.
5. Martinez Jr. Pleaded Guilty to the Domestic Violence Charge
Although the charges against both Martinez Jr. and Martinez Sr. for resisting arrest were dropped, Martinez Jr. plead guilty for the domestic violence-related charge last July, per KPBS.
He was sentenced to four years probation.